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Need to Know: What is the single biggest problem the Redskins and RG3 have to fix?

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Need to Know: What is the single biggest problem the Redskins and RG3 have to fix?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 14, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

RG3’s biggest issue

Robert Griffin III is the most analyzed athlete in Washington, perhaps in the country. When training camp starts later this month every step on his dropback, the position of his feet when he makes an errant throw, his arm motion, his demeanor after a good play and after a mistake, and what he says to reporters will be under the microscope. And after the season he had last year, looking awful all too frequently, such scrutiny is to be expected.

But perhaps things are not are not as complex as they might appear to be. It seems that Griffin could improve a great deal if he just cut down on the number of sacks he takes.

For the purposes of looking at this, let’s set aside the question of who is to blame for how many of the 33 sacks he took in 247 dropbacks in 2014. Let’s just say that the number of sacks can get cut by some combination of improved pass blocking by line, backs, and tight ends, quicker decision making by the quarterback, the defense keeping the score closer so they’re not in as many obvious passing situations, and so on.

Griffin was sacked on 13.4 percent of his dropbacks last year. Before you can ask the rhetorical question, yes, that’s bad. The league sack rate was 6.3 percent. Kirk Cousins, playing behind the same line as Griffin did, had a 3.8 percent sack rate.

What if Griffin had been able to get sacked at the same rate as Cousins and do everything else the same?

Let’s use net yards/pass attempt (NY/A, the formula is sacks/(pass attempts+sacks)) as the metric here. It incorporates yards lost to sacks into the more familiar yards per attempt stat. The league average for NY/A is 6.4, Griffin’s was 5.9. The league leader was Aaron Rodgers at 7.6, followed by Tony Romo and Peyton Manning at 7.5. Griffin was 25th, in between Geno Smith and Kyle Orton.

What would Griffin’s NY/A have been if he had been sacked at the same rate as Cousins? He would have taken 10 sacks instead of 33 and his yards lost to sacks would have shrunk from 227 to 69. Griffin could have attempted 23 more passes. His completion rate on all passes last year was 68.7 percent but we’ll figure he would complete 60 percent of those additional passes since he would throw some away to avoid getting sacked. At 7.9 yards per attempt, his average on the season, that comes to an additional 110 passing yards.

Add the additional passing yards to the 158 yards that would not have been lost due to sacks and Griffin would have had 268 more net passing yards. That increases his NY/A to a stellar 8.4. Remember that Rodgers led the league at 7.6.

Is reducing Griffin’s sack percentage from 13.4 all the way to 3.8 percent too big a task? It’s hard to say but there were four quarterbacks who started 16 games who had a sack rate of 3.9 percent or better. Sure, two of them were Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But one of them was rookie Derek Carr of the Raiders. I don’t think that aspiring to the same sack rate as Oakland’s QB, and one that Cousins achieved a year ago, is too tall an order.

Even if Griffin and company can't get the sack rate down below four percent, improvement into neighborhood of the league average of 6.3 percent would offer a big boost to the passing game.

The sacks are not the only problem with the offense in general and with Griffin in particular. But it seems that fixing the pass protection and the issues Griffin had with holding on to the ball for too long are remedies that will bear the most fruit. This likely is priority No. 1 at Redskins Park.

Timeline

—It’s been 198 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 61 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 16; Preseason opener @ Browns 30; final cuts 53

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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