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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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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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