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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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Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.

But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.

“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

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

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

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In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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