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Need to Know: One stat that shows the Redskins badly need help stopping the run

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Need to Know: One stat that shows the Redskins badly need help stopping the run

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 20, 8 days before the NFL Draft.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 101 days ago. It will be 145 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: 2016 NFL draft 8; Rookie minicamp 23; Redskins training camp starts 99

Hot topic

I thought a lot about the wisdom of taking Alabama LB Reggie Ragland with the Redskins’ first-round pick in the mock draft I did on CSN Mid Atlantic yesterday. He is a classic run stuffer and the Redskins need all the help they can get when it comes to stopping the run.

But the knock on Ragland is that he isn’t very good against the pass. Many analysts believe that he will be at best a liability in coverage and at worst a major issue against passes that a defense would have to work around. In a passing league, can they afford a one-dimensional player when that dimension does not involve defending against the pass?

But then I remembered a number I ran across while doing some research a couple of months ago. I wanted to see how many yards the Redskins gave up on first-down runs against them. So I went to the handy Game Play Finder on www.Pro-Football-Reference.com and pulled up the numbers. I didn’t think that the Redskins would rate very well but I was surprised to find out that they were the worst in the league in that stat.

The Redskins gave up 5.03 yards per rushing attempt on first down, the only team to give up over five yards a pop. The Saints’ historically bad defense was the second worst here, giving up 4.84 per attempt. For comparison, the best team in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt was the Seahawks at 2.98 yards.

While no one number indicates a huge problem, this stat is particularly alarming. It means that when the Redskins had their base defense on the field, which should be at least competent at stopping the run, they were the worst in the league at run stopping.

Given this, I think it’s easy to justify leaning towards stopping the run when picking new talent for the defense. If Scot McCloughan believes that Ragland can help them stop the run, especially on first down, and can drop into coverage and hold his own when the other team passes, I’d say grab him if he’s there.

Stat of the day

The other side of the coin of the first-down rushing stat discussed above also was bad for the Redskins last year. They averaged 3.28 yards per rushing attempt on first down, the worst in the league.

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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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