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Need to Know: Redskins couldn't take advantage of fumble recoveries

Need to Know: Redskins couldn't take advantage of fumble recoveries

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 29, 60 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 140 days ago. It will be 106 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 60; Preseason opener @ Falcons 74; Final roster cut to 53 97

I’m enjoying a vacation week in the Outer Banks. While I’m gone I’m presenting a few of the most popular posts from earlier this offseason (Note: A few details may not be updated) as well as some posts looking back at some of the team’s best performances of 2016. Thanks for reading, see you again on Monday, June 6.

Tale of the turnovers

Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.

Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.

Today we’ll look at the takeaway side of the equation, specifically fumbles recovered, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later this week we’ll look at interceptions by the defense the giveaway side of the equation.

The Redskins’ 16 fumble recoveries were tied for the most in the NFL. Here is their record broken down by how many fumbles they recovered during the games.

So they were 5-5 in games where the recovered at least one fumble. That’s not what one might expect but you don’t have to look real deep to find out why they didn’t do better when recovering fumbles.

They drove for just two touchdowns after recovering fumbles all year. That doesn’t count DeAngelo Hall’s fumble returned for a TD against the Eagles in the division-clinching game but it’s still a pretty meager output. A total of 20 teams that recovered fewer fumbles than the Redskins drove at least as many touchdowns off of them as did Washington and nine scored more.

The alarming aspect of the Redskins’ takeaway total is that so many of them came on fumbles They led the league in both forced fumbles with 36 and fumble recoveries with 16. If you asked Joe Barry about that he would say that it was because they worked so hard in training camp and in practice during the season at stripping the ball and fighting for it when it came loose.

Certainly they did practice forcing and recovering fumbles but so does every other NFL team. Generally speaking, fumble recoveries have a great deal of luck attached to them. As they say in the sports stats business, fumble recovery totals aren’t “sticky” meaning they don’t tend to hold up from year to year. Teams that are good in fumble recoveries one year are often bad at it the next and vice versa.

An example to illustrate the non-sticky aspect: In 2014, five teams recovered 13 or more opponents’ fumbles. Last year seven teams recovered at least 13 fumbles and none of them were on the list of the five from the year before. Similar results year after year show indicate a strong element of luck was involved in averaging one fumble recovery per game. If it was skill the same teams would be good at picking up fumbles year after year.

In short, the Redskins can’t rely on being able to get as many takeaways via the fumble in 2016 as they did last year.

The league average for fumble recoveries for the season is 9.7 per team so the Redskins can expect to see their fumble recover total gravitate towards that number. If they are going to maintain their takeaway total they will have to get more interceptions. We’ll take a look at that next.

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A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

A Redskin fan's guide to the NFL Draft Combine

This week in Indianapolis the NFL world will converge at the Scouting Combine to watch college football players work out, sprint and lift weights in anticipation of the upcoming draft. For the Redskins front office, this draft needs to be a win.

The 2016 Draft could still yield strong results for Washington, but overall the class did not play particularly well as rookies. This year, Scot McCloughan has nine picks at his disposal, with the extra picks late in the draft in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.

It's no secret that the 'Skins need help along the defensive line, a lot of help. That should be a major area of focus for the Redskins scouts and coaches, and that will make next Sunday arguably the most important of the week in Indianapolis. 

The combine divides players into 11 position groups, but Groups 7, 8 and 9 will matter most. Groups 7 and 8 represent defensive linemen and 9 are the linebackers. That group officially arrives on Thursday but won't work out on the field until Sunday. The days in between include interviews, psychological testing and the bench press.

Obviously the Redskins won't spend all nine picks on only defensive linemen. The team will likely invest in the offensive line as well, and that group will arrive earlier in the week and work out on Friday. Cornerbacks and safeties are the last to work out on Monday, March 6. 

With the likely departure of at least one of DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garçon, and the possible departure of both, it would make sense for the 'Skins to bring in another receiver via the draft. They work out on Saturday, and should the Redskins decide to take a quarterback in the draft, the passers will work out that day too. 

Running back could be another spot the 'Skins invest. Jay Gruden said that Robert Kelley is locked into the RB1 role, but still the team might want increased competition at the position. The backs will work out Friday.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

Why won’t Redskins brass talk to the media at the NFL Combine?

The NFL has released the official schedule of when NFL coaches and executives will take the podium and address the media at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. You can find it right here but I’ll save you a click—nobody from the Redskins is scheduled to talk.

NFL teams are not required to have a representative speak at the combine but most do. This year only the Saints and Patriots are joining the Redskins in avoiding the media.

Bill Belichick never talks at the combine and I believe that the Saints have bypassed the opportunity to do so in the past. However, the Redskins head coach traditionally has gone to the podium in the past. Joe Gibbs spoke when he was in his second stint as the head coach. Mike Shanahan, as tight lipped as anyone, met with the press in Indy each of his four years as head coach. Jay Gruden has spoken during each of the three years that he has been head coach.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 3.0

And last year Scot McCloughan held a small media gaggle with local reporters in his hotel in Indianapolis.

This year the Redskins are going somewhat dark. McCloughan did not speak to reporters at the Senior Bowl (Gruden held a brief availability in Mobile), a departure from his first two years with the team. And now no Redskins representatives at the combine.

One of the problems with changing what has been a longstanding practice and going into radio silence is that it leaves people speculating. If the team doesn’t want to put any information out there that is the organization’s option. But if you choose not to fill in the blanks, the fans and media will.

So why aren’t they talking? The best bet is that they are in a delicate stage when it comes to dealing with the future of quarterback Kirk Cousins. He is a pending free agent who is likely to be hit with the franchise tag on Wednesday, the day before the combine starts. At that point, the clock will be ticking on Cousins either signing a long-term contract or getting traded to a team that is willing to meet his asking price. It’s my guess that Jay Gruden does not want to face questions about Cousins’ future.

More Redskins: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice for his own good?

Gruden is not a very good liar; his poker face needs a lot of work. Perhaps that is a good quality for a human being but not a very good attribute for someone who would need to go out and talk about Cousins as the long-term quarterback for the team, or at least the QB for the coming season, when his status may be very much in doubt.

This is not to say that there is definitely going to be a trade of Cousins worked out at the combine. But it is very possible that a deal will be discussed with Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers and any number of other quarterback-needy teams. And perhaps there is concern that Gruden will let something slip or, more likely, say a lot on the subject of Cousins by not saying anything.

Again, this is just reading the tea leaves on my part. But by going silent the Redskins are sending an invitation for people to fill in the blanks. I am just taking them up on 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.