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Need to Know: Shanahan defends play calling

Need to Know: Shanahan defends play calling

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, September 24, five days before the Redskins visit the Raiders.

Nickel coverage

Five key quotes from Mike Shanahan’s Monday press conference:

1. Along with many, I commented on the Redskins’ play selection with 50 passes called in what was a one-score game most of the way. I realized that it got skewed in the latter stages of the game when the Redskins fell behind by 10. Mike Shanahan gave the following, more detailed explanation:
“I think when you take a look at that ratio, you have to look at the total game. We had 22 passes that were with 38 seconds left; we had five at the end of the half, we had 17 at the end of the game. Then you take 12 third-down passes, and you get 35 passes there. Then you take your first-down ratio of run-to-pass; I think we had 14 runs, 13 passes. Then you take second-down; I think we had five runs and 11 passes. That’s the type of ratio that we’re looking for. Once you get into the two-minute situation, those numbers can get really carried away one way or the other and that’s what happened.
2. Why hasn’t Bacarri Rambo been playing? This explanation if kind of, well, ouch:
“When he gets his opportunities, he’s got to take advantage of it. We’re not here to keep his spirits up. When he does play special teams or whatever role you’re in, you better play it 100 percent and make some plays. If he doesn’t play anything on defense, he better play well on special teams and if you don’t play well on special teams and you’re not a starter on defense, then you won’t be dressing. So everybody’s got a role and it changes during the season.”
3. Why didn’t Robert Griffin III slide feet first on that critical fourth-quarter play?
“Like I said after the game, I’ve had a lot of guys do it both ways. A lot of people would rather go feet-first, other guys want to get the extra yards and go face-first. Sometimes they feel a little more protected going head-first. I told Robert he can do it any way he wants to, he just has got to hold onto the football if he goes face-first.”
4. Here are his comments on putting Josh Morgan in on kickoffs:
“He’s still a legitimate guy, a legitimate threat as a kick-off returner. Josh [Morgan] has a little bit more wiggle than Niles does. He’s more of a power-type runner. We thought we’d give Josh a shot at it.”
5. Finally, he had this puzzling positive comment on Griffin’s second-quarter interception.
“That was not his fault. I was very upset during the game. I thought he just kind of threw it haphazardly, and really it was a great throw. It just didn’t work out that way. I’m not going to go through the blame, but as I said after the game, I thought it was just a mistake, and it was a good throw.”
Stat of the day

—This via my friend John Keim and ESPN Stats and Information: In first two games, Matthew Stafford completed 1 of 8 passes on throws of 15-plus yards. On Sunday he was 7-9 for 22.2 yards/attempt.

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Timeline

—Born on this day: current WR Aldrick Robinson (1988), former RB Joe Washington (1953), former C Casey Rabach (1977)

—Days until: Redskins @ Raiders 5; Redskins @ Cowboys 19; Bears @ Redskins 26

—Today’s schedule: Day off, no availability

Shanahan talks turnovers

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up a league-worse 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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