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Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Need to Know: Redskins' running game caught in a bad cycle

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 23, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Read and react

Some quotes from around Redskins Park on Thursday and my comments on them.

Jay Gruden on the Redskins’ approach to the third quarter, where they have been outscored 78-3 (counting points scored on drives that started in the third):
I think the big thing is awareness. I think awareness is letting them know that this is what the last six games have been like in the third quarter. We have had the lead five of six times and here are stats and we have to do something about it . . . then we get to halftime against Tampa Bay, hopefully it’ll be with a lead and we’ll make some, hopefully, some positive adjustments and the guys will come out ready to play.
Reaction: There is no magic wand to wave to fix the team’s third-down problems. Part of the fix would be to hold on to the ball; five of their 15 turnovers have come during the third quarter. And the defense stiffening up after a turnover would help, too; All five of the times the offense has given the ball away, the other team has turned the possession into a touchdown.

Joe Barry on one concrete step that has been taken to try to improve the third-quarter performance:
It’s been addressed, it’s been talked about. It’s been kind of a theme on the practice field. Halfway through practice, kind of cranking it up so I think it’s just one of those things. I think the worst think you can ever do anytime something is not going right is to ignore it and not talk about it. We’ve talked about it. We’ve addressed it. Now, we’ve got to play better. We’ve got to coach better.
Reaction: Cranking up the intensity halfway through practice is a good thought. It may not be a stroke of genius and it may or may not have an effect. But since there is no one thing that will cure all of the ills, it’s worth trying. I think that at some point the odds will catch up to the Redskins, they will outscore their opponents in the third quarter over the course of a few games, and everyone will declare that the problem was solved.

Gruden on the team’s running game over the last few weeks:
Yeah, it’s hard. I think the big thing in the running game, it’s OK to get one or two years every now and then. We’re not going to hit all our runs, but it’s important for us to get some hits – some 15-yarders, some 20-yarders – which we haven’t had. We haven’t had any long runs. I don’t know what our longest run is the last couple of weeks but it hasn’t been very long. It’d be nice to get a couple of those which opens up your play-action.
Reaction: For Gruden’s information, the Redskins’ longest run in the last two weeks has been nine yards, by Chris Thompson early in the third quarter of the Atlanta. Their longest run against the Jets was an eight-yard gain by Thompson just before halftime. So not only have they not broken 15 or 20 yards, they haven’t even hit double digits. The Redskins are stuck in the vicious cycle where they can’t run the ball because they can’t run the ball. An inability to gain more than a couple of yards on first down means that running on second down is not a viable option.

Barry evaluating Perry Riley’s performance since missing two games due to a calf injury:
“The thing that was a bummer was when he got hurt, he played lights out against the St. Louis Rams. He really did. I think that’s a little —  when a guy misses some time, especially with a lower extremity injury, he comes back, you’ve got to knock a little bit of rust off, so I don’t think Perry has played poorly. And we’ve had the conversation, ‘Get back to how you played against the St. Louis Rams.’ I think he had a great week of practice this week. So, I think it’s part of the deal sometimes when a guy misses time and then comes back, it takes him a little bit of time to knock some rust off… Perry has played physical. I don’t think by any means — don’t pinpoint anything on Perry Riley. We’ve all got to play better, we’ve all got to coach better, bottom line.”
Reaction: That’s kind of a long passage to plough through so let me shorten it for you—Riley has not been playing well. OK, there might be some “rust” after the injury (he missed the Giants game and the Eagles game) but he’s been back for two games and there is no reason for a guy who has been starting for coming up on four years should not be able to come back without missing a beat. In answer to a follow up question, Barry said that they were not considering moving Will Compton into the starting job. But if accountability means anything, they can’t go for too much longer without considering making a move if Riley continues to play as poorly has he has the last two games.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:55; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Bucs @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Patriots 16; Saints @ Redskins 22

In case you missed it

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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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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