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Need to Know: Numbers the 2015 Redskins must improve

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Need to Know: Numbers the 2015 Redskins must improve

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, June 25, 35 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

Nickel coverage

Earlier this week I looked at some reasons why the Redskins might be better than many think they will be this year. Here are five numbers that will need to improve if that is going to happen.

Rushing attempts—There is some cause and effect here that might be hard to sort out. Just calling more than the 25 runs a game they did last year won’t get it done. They need to be able to run effectively and the defense and special teams will have to do their part and keep games close. If the Redskins are running the ball 30 times per game, that will be a sign that things are going well.

Net passing yards per attempt—This is yards per attempt minus yards lost to sacks. When the quarterbacks could stay upright, the Redskins were pretty efficient passing the ball. They average 8.2 yards per attempt, fourth in the NFL and better than renowned passing teams like the Broncos, Colts, and Saints. But when you factor in sacks the Redskins averaged just 6.7 yards, 12th in the NFL. An improved offensive line will certainly help but backs and tight ends need to do their part in pass protection and the quarterbacks need to get rid of the ball.

Opponent passer rating—Passer rating is far from a perfect way to gauge a pass defense but when it’s as bad as the Redskins’ was last year it means something. Quarterbacks had a field day against the Redskins last year. They compiled a passer rating of 108.3, the worst in the NFL by a healthy margin. To put it in perspective, the average QB that faced the Redskins had a better rating than Ben Roethlisberger 103.3 passer rating) or Peyton Manning (101.5). You can blame the defensive backs if you want and they deserve their share of it but it takes a total team effort to put up numbers that bad.

Third down conversions—This is not any secret to Redskins fans but it’s important to point out that they aren’t that far away from being decent in this category. They would need about one more third-down conversion per game to be average and just a few more per month on top of that to be in the top 10. The best offenses in the NFL fail to convert on third down over half of the time. It's really a matter of timing and converting that third down when you really need it.

Defensive yards per play—They gave up 5.85 yards per play, 27th in the NFL. Washington actually did pretty well on first down, giving up 4.96 yards per play, fourth best in the NFL. But on second down they were 31st yielding 6.47 yards per play and they were 29th on third down, giving up 6.77. To compare, the Seahawks had the best third-down defense, giving up just 4.19 yards per play.

Timeline

—It’s been 179 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 80 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 35; Preseason opener @ Browns 49; final cuts 72

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.