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Need to Know: What has to happen for the Redskins to go run heavy on offense

Need to Know: What has to happen for the Redskins to go run heavy on offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 18, 73 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

https://twitter.com/habimaki88/status/598534181296156672

It certainly seems like that is the plan, or something close to it. Jay Gruden has consistently talked about running the ball all offseason as has Scot McCloughan. The GM drafted two power blocking offensive linemen in Arie Kouandjio and Brandon Scherff and took running back Matt Jones, who McCloughan has compared to none other than Marshawn Lynch.

To figure out if they can transform into the Seahawks, at least in terms of overall offensive philosophy, let’s look at what each team’s play selection last year. The Seahawks were one of four NFL teams that ran the ball more than they passed it, with 32.8 rushing attempts per game and 28.3 passes per game, a 46%-54% pass to run ratio. That just about flipped the NFL average, which was 26.7 runs and 34.9 passes (57%-43%).

The Redskins’ ratio was about the same as the league average, with 34.1 passes per game and 25.1 runs, coming to a 58%-42% pass to run.

To flip their play calling ratio to something more like that of the Seahawks Gruden would need to call seven more runs per game and seven fewer passes. That sounds easy but, of course, it’s not. We could slice up the numbers in dozens of different ways to demonstrate why but let’s look at just a couple.

On first down the Seahawks ran the ball 317 times and picked up an average of 5.0 yards/carry. The Redskins called 248 first-down runs and gained 4.0 per play.

There is a big difference between second and five and second and six. The 2014 Seahawks faced another running down after their typical first down run, especially since they averaged 5.3 yards on all of their running plays. Gruden had to think about passing on second and six with his rushing attack that averages 4.3 per carry.

The other factor that makes it easier for the Seahawks to run the ball last year was their defense. It was the best in the NFL in terms of both yards and points allowed. If they ran the ball a few times and didn’t get anywhere they could punt the ball away knowing that their defense was likely to get it back for them soon.

The Redskins were 29th in points allowed and 20th in yards given up. They didn’t have to score on every possession but with the defense giving up an average of nearly a touchdown per quarter (27.4 points/game) they were desperate to score more often than not.

If the Redskins want to flip their pass-run ratio around it will take more than Gruden altering his game plan. They will need to improve their rushing game and their defense. Then that would take the pressure off of Robert Griffin III or whoever is at quarterback to win games single handedly. It doesn’t seem that any of the three are capable of doing so at this point so it’s the smart way to go.

Timeline

—It’s been 141 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 118 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 29; Redskins training camp starts 73; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 129

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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 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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