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Need to Know: What should we expect from the Redskins' running game this year?

Need to Know: What should we expect from the Redskins' running game this year?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, July 20, 10 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

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.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today’s question comes from Twitter:

I’ve spent a lot of time this offseason looking at various aspects of the running game but Raj’s question here gives me a good opportunity to step back and look at the big picture, how I expect the various parts to fit together. So here we go:

After saying shortly before the start of the 2014 seasons that running the ball was what the Redskins did best, Jay Gruden didn’t call a whole lot of runs. The Redskins were 19th in the NFL in rushing attempts with 401. To put that in context, the Seahawks led the league 525 rushing attempts, ahead of the Cowboys (508) and Jets (507).

I think that Gruden perhaps intended to call more than 25 runs per game but between his natural inclination to pass first and a defense that was giving up points at a pace of almost a touchdown per quarter (27.4 points/game), it just didn’t happen. The defense should be improved and the presence of Bill Callahan on the sideline will nudge Gruden towards keeping the ball on the ground a bit more. If they add four or five runs per game that will get them up in the area of 450-475 rushing attempts.

Who will carry the ball? Gruden has assured us on multiple occasions that Alfred Morris is still the workhorse running back so until I see something different I’ll believe him. Morris carried 265 times last year so let’s say stays right around in that area. Rookie Matt Jones should get the 40 carries that the departed Roy Helu had last year and then some, perhaps 100 total.

The wild card is quarterback rushing attempts. We’re not going to see a return to 2012 when Robert Griffin III ran the ball 120 times. But if Griffin starts at least a dozen games or so he should get more than the 61 rushing attempts the three quarterbacks combined for in 2014. I’d say something around the 86 he had in 13 games in 2013.

So what will it add up to? Last year they averaged 4.2 yards per rushing attempt, 15th in the NFL. The Redskins averaged 105.7 yards per game, 19th in the league. How much better can they be? Adding a half a yard to their average per rush is a fairly ambitious goal but between the addition of Callahan, a new right side of the line, and more power running, it’s possible. We’ll use 4.7 yards per carry to figure things here while recognizing that 4.5 would represent a solid improvement.

Some quick math tells us that if the Redskins run the ball 475 times and average 4.7 yards a pop over 16 games they will average 140 yards on the ground per game. Last year that would have been fourth in the NFL, behind Seattle (173 per game), Dallas (147), and the Jets (142).

How about if they run 450 times and average 4.5? That would still represent a good improvement up to 126 yards per game, which would have been eighth in the NFL in 2014.

Somewhere between 125 and 140 yards per game is the upside prediction and I think their performance will trend that way. But some things must go right—the defense has to be improved and not just different to keep the team in running situations, Griffin or whoever the quarterback is needs to play well enough to keep teams from stacking the box, and the right side of the line needs to gel in a hurry both in run blocking and in pass protection. Things not going according to the preseason plan has been the norm for this franchise. We will see how it all shakes out but it does seem that the intention is to run more often and run better.

Timeline

—It’s been 204 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 55 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 10; Preseason opener @ Browns 24; final cuts 47

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What's cuter than the way Kirk Cousins found out his baby's gender? Nothing

What's cuter than the way Kirk Cousins found out his baby's gender? Nothing

What's the cutest thing you've ever seen in your whole, entire life? Whatever that thing is, be prepared for it to slide down to the second spot, because what you're about to see is absolutely going to move up to No. 1 (and then stay there forever).

Two weeks ago, Kirk Cousins and his wife, Julie, announced that they were expecting. That announcement, which was posted on Julie's Instagram, was really adorable in its own right — Mrs. Cousins shared a photo of the couple's dog, Bentley, who was wearing a sign that read, "Mom & Dad are getting me a human!"

On Friday, though, Kirk put up a video on his Instagram that revealed their future child's gender. What else did that video do, you ask? Well, it only made every future gender reveal irrelevant, since none will ever top what the Cousinses did.

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Gender Reveal! Had to stand close so it wouldn't get intercepted... and still almost missed ha! IT'S A...

A post shared by Kirk Cousins (@kirk.cousins) on

OMG. O. M. G. OMG.

The regular season may be months away, but with that toss, Kirk Cousins is already 1-for-1 (yes, the pass was low, but a completion is a completion) with a perfect quarterback rating.

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Vernon Davis 'just can't fathom' the NFL's very strict celebration rules

Vernon Davis 'just can't fathom' the NFL's very strict celebration rules

As he proudly demonstrated in a 27-20 win against the Eagles last October, Vernon Davis has a silky jumpshot. Unfortunately, in today's NFL, celebrating by shooting a football like Davis did in the end zone that fall Sunday is prohibited.

The tight end, who was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and eventually fined more than $12,000 for the move, didn't really get the point of the rule then, and he still doesn't understand it now. And as he told Kalyn Kahler of MMQB, he think it's time for the league to back off their strict stance on celebrations.

"I would just tell guys that when it comes to celebrations, anything is allowed, as long as it isn’t inappropriate," Davis said when asked how he'd change the celebration rules. "Anything that we know is wrong, we shouldn’t do. I think that is the key."

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In Davis' case, he was penalized because of an odd technicality. The NFL doesn't want players using the ball as a prop — which No. 85 did on his jumper — but yet, they allow guys to spike and spin the ball without retribution. That gray area doesn't sit well with him.

"It doesn’t make sense to me at all," he said. "It should be really simple, we should know that we can’t use the ball as a prop for anything. So for them to allow spiking and not allow shooting, I just can’t fathom that."

The 33-year-old hopes that change is near, and he may get it, too, as the competition committee will reevaluate what is and isn't allowed at the upcoming league meetings. But if he and everyone else clamoring for less restrictions are rebuffed, Davis does have a workaround so that when he scores next, he won't get in trouble. 

"I shoot the shot, but without the ball," Davis said. "That’s my go-to now. As long as I don’t have the ball, I’m safe."

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