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Need to Know: Should the Redskins stick with one back?

Need to Know: Should the Redskins stick with one back?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 15, three days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Jets.

Should the Redskins reconsider running back by committee?

There is a new line of conventional wisdom brewing out there among Redskins fans and some in the media. The problem with the Redskins’ rushing attack, says this new theory, is that they need to settle on one running back. Switching between Alfred Morris and Matt Jones is not permitting either one of them to get into a “rhythm”, and they are both supposedly “rhythm” backs.

According to this line of thinking, neither is in the game for long enough to be effective, to establish that rhythm. I asked Jay Gruden about this and he didn’t buy it.

“I don’t know. There probably is some validity to it, but there’s also some validity to keeping them fresh and having a package of plays for each back that we feel good about. There are certain things that Matt Jones does better than Alfred. There are certain things that Alfred does better than Matt Jones . . . We try to mix and match our system to the best personnel that we have at that time on that play call.”

The other reason not to abandon the multi-back rushing attack is that there really isn’t any evidence that either of them plays better with more carries.

In his 53 games with the Redskins, here are Morris’ average yards per carry by quarter:

First—4.2
Second—5.0
Third—4.7
Fourth—3.7

The number that jumps out at you is the fourth-quarter average. It is a half yard lower than his average in any other quarter and a full yard lower than his average in the third quarter. If he is a back who needs work to get into a “rhythm”, shouldn’t that average per carry go up as the game goes on?

You can’t attach much significance to Jones’ quarterly rushing splits because his five-game sample size is too small. But, for the record, here they are:

First—5.7
Second—4.0
Third—1.6
Fourth—4.3

I think we will have to say there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove the notion that Jones gets better with more carries.

Just because I was curious, I pulled up the numbers for the entire league. Here is the collective rushing average per quarter:

First—4.1
Second—4.1
Third—4.3
Fourth—3.9

Certainly there no general trend of backs getting stronger in the fourth quarter around the NFL. In fact, the average falls off a cliff between the third and fourth quarters.

It sounds nice to talk about rhythm and a running back will always tell you that he’d rather get more carries than fewer. But the numbers here don’t back up any assertion that more is better.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30.

Days until: Redskins @ Jets 3; Bucs @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Patriots 24

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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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Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

After NFL minicamps end in mid-June, and before the grind of training camps start in late July, players are free to have a little bit of fun and try to relax. For Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins that evidently means a game of Jenga.

Fun at Kirk's 10 year high school reunion!!!

A post shared by Julie Cousins (@juliehcousins) on

The video comes from Cousins' wife Julie, and the caption explains that the couple were attending the quarterback's 10-year high school reunion. Looks like a fun scene, and the Michigan waterfront looks even better.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

For anybody that has watched Cousins on the practice field or listened to him mic'd up during a Redskins game, the competitive outburst is no surprise. Cousins likes to win, period. Even at life-size Jenga during his 10-year high school reunion. 

Obviously, contract talks between Cousins' representatives and the Redskins continue, and likely will until the July 17th franchise tag deadline. Last season, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 passing yards, completing 67 percent of his passes to go with 25 TDs and 12 INTs. He's allowed to have a little fun here and there.

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