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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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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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.

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