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Need to Know: Why did the Redskins struggle on third down in 2014?

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Need to Know: Why did the Redskins struggle on third down in 2014?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, July 2, 28 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

 

Historically bad

When the Redskins do something poorly, they don’t mess around.

In 2013 when they had some bad special teams play, they were historically bad. Football Outsiders has been tracking special teams data since 1989. Of all the teams since then only one, the 2000 Buffalo Bills had worse special teams play than the 2013 Redskins.

Last year’s team improved the special teams from awful to merely bad but they did reach historic depths in a different important category. The folks at FO tell us that only three teams since 1990 have been as bad as the 2014 Redskins were on third downs. One of those teams was the 2002 expansion Texans so they should get a pass. For the record, the other two were the 2004 Bears and the 1992 Seahawks.

FO takes more into account here than the simple conversion percentage, which was 31.5 percent, 30th in the NFL in 2014. Although the post doesn’t specify, FO metrics generally take into account the quality of the opponent, success rate compared to the rest of the league, and other such factors.

When Jay Gruden and company were asked about third down problems the usual response was that they had too far to go on third down, that they needed to be in third and shorter yardage more often. But on the average third down Washington had 7.5 yards to go; the league average was 7.3 to go. That’s a difference of about seven inches, not enough to say that the Redskins were considerably worse off. The Bucs had 8.6 yards to go on their average third down and they managed to convert 38.4 percent of the time, a conversion rate nearly 25 percent better than Washington’s.

In this post, Mike Tanier looks at some of the issues with the Redskins offense in general, including the third-down problem. He breaks down the failed third down attempts. I won’t go into all of them here (the post is well worth your time to read) but one that caught my eye was 35 pass completions that did not gain enough to make a first down. Fans of all teams get frustrated when their team throws short of the sticks (the average NFL team had 27 third-down completions that didn’t result in a first) but the problem seemed to be particularly acute with the Redskins. Passes like Colt McCoy’s one-yard completion to Jordan Reed on third and two in the fourth quarter in Dallas are plays you just don’t see many other teams make.

So while it certainly wouldn’t hurt to have a shorter distance to go on third down, giving yourself a chance to convert by being just a touch more aggressive would help as well. As Tanier wrote in the article, "If you don't have a seven-yard pass in your playbook for 3rd-and-medium, then frankly, you don't have an NFL offense."

It seems likely that the Redskins will improve on third down this year if only because, as was the case with special teams after the 2013 debacle, there is nowhere to go but up.

Timeline

—It’s been 186 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 73 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 28; Preseason opener @ Browns 42; final cuts 65

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Redskins vs. Packers Preseason Live Updates: Week 2 score, stats, highlights, analysis

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Redskins vs. Packers Preseason Live Updates: Week 2 score, stats, highlights, analysis

Week 2 of the NFL preseason is here as the Redskins take on the Packers on Saturday night.

Following the Redskins' 23-3 loss to the Ravens in Week 1, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins starters will look to continue their development again against Green Bay. Head coach Jay Gruden plans to play the starters for at least a full quarter.

The Redskins-Packers preseason game kicks off at 7:30 p.m. ET at FedEx Field in Landover, Md. and will be aired on CSN Mid-Atlantic. Redskins Kickoff begins a 6:30 p.m. ET, as Chick Hernandez, Brian Mitchell and Trevor Matich get your prepared for the game with 60 minutes of pregame coverage. (Channel Finder)

CSN Mid-Atlantic is here to provide all the live updates, stats, score, highlights, video and analysis from the Redskins and Ravens. If you have a comment about the game, be sure to leave a comment in the section below the article.

REDSKINS VS. PACKERS WEEK 2 PRESEASON LIVE UPDATES

8:07 PM - Touchdown, Packers

Bennett 3 pass from Rodgers (Crosby kick)
Drive: 15 plays, 75 yards, 7:41
Drive summary: The Packers got their drive started with some Aaron Rodgers artistry. Or a cheap trick, whatever you want to call it. He went no huddle on third and five and on a replay review the Redskins were caught with 12 men on the field. One pass to Davante Adams and two to Jordy Nelson got the Packers into Redskins territory. On third and six, Rodgers scrambled for 13 yards to the 13. A hands to the face penalty set up a first and goal at the four. On second down, Rogers threw a fade to TE Martellus Bennett, who fought the ball away from ILB Zach Brown.

Packers 7, Redskins 3

7:53 PM - Redskins get caught with too many players on the field after a forcing a three-and-out. Packers get a first down.

7:46 PM - FG, Redskins  

FG Hopkins 34
Drive: 4 plays, 0:17, 0 yards
Drive summary: The Redskins had a golden opportunity after the Packers fumbled a punt and Niles Paul recovered at the Green Bay 16. But after three incomplete passes the Redskins had to go for three and Dustin Hopkins put it through. 

Redskins 3, Packers 0

7:44 PM - Morgan Moses returns to the field at right tackle.

7:42 PM - On the punt return, the Packers muff the kick, Niles Paul recovered the loose ball at the Packers 16-yard line.

7:39 PM - Morgan Moses goes down on the second offensive play. He is helped to the sideline by the trainers, replaced by Ty Nsekhe at right tackle.

7:34 PM -  No flags.

6:50 PM - Get excited, Redskins fans:

6:45 PM - And it's official:

6:30 PM - We'll just leave this right here:

5:10 PM - Preseason games are what they are: Not all that great after the first quarter. But there's value in the games. Here are the three things you should be watching for.

5:05 PM - I implore you to follow me on Twitter. I'm great. You can also follow Our @CSNRedskins account, which is equally great. Our Redskins Insiders JP Finlay and Rich Tandler are OK too. 

5:00 PM - The 2017 NFL preseason rolls on as the Redskins take on the Packers in Week 2 of the preseason at FedEx Field. As is the case again this season, I am Troy Machir, and I will be guiding you through the live blog of tonight's preseason game.

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Preseason Week 2 Redskins vs Packers; 3 things to watch

Preseason Week 2 Redskins vs Packers; 3 things to watch

Remember that playoff game at the end of the 2015 season? Or the Sunday Night Football rout from last year? Well, Saturday night when the Redskins take on the Packers in the second game of the preseason, much less will be on the line, but that doesn't mean the game doesn't have plenty to watch.

All the coverage starts at 6:30 p.m. on CSN, and will feature a 1-on-1 interview where Jay Gruden explains exactly what he's looking for from his team. The first preseason game in Baltimore was a poor showing for the Redskins, and Gruden wants to see his squad look much better at home against Green Bay. The weather looks perfect for an August evening, and here are three things to keep in mind in advance of the contest. 

  1. They're gonna play - Last season, Gruden unexpectedly sat many of his starters for the second preseason game. The move set off mild chaos, especially when Colt McCoy got the start over Kirk Cousins. It was just the coach resting players, reducing the risk of a preseason injury, but it was a big surprise. And it was also probably a mistake. This year, Gruden made clear the starters will play in the second preseason game, and Cousins will start against Green Bay. The starting offense only took six snaps against the Ravens last week, and generated zero first downs. While the first downs are no guarantee, expect the first unit to play more than six snaps, likely at least double, and some offensive production should follow suit.
  2. Well, not everybody - The long wait for Redskins fans to finally see Junior Galette on the field will continue. The pass rush specialist hasn't played since 2014, and has never suited up for Washington. He won't play Saturday night, and neither will star tight end Jordan Reed. A few others will likely miss the game, but many eyes will be on Josh Doctson. After a slight hamstring injury suffered in Richmond, the second-year wideout missed the Ravens game and a number of practices before getting back out there Thursday and catching a few passes from Cousins in team drills. Gruden said of Doctson, "we’ll get a look at him during pregame warmup and see where he stands and try to get him out there. We’ll see." On the Green Bay side, Aaron Rodgers is not expected to play either.
  3. The other side - Much of the focus has been on the offense needing to perform, particularly the run game. Keep in mind, however, the Redskins defense performed well in Baltimore. Greg Manusky's unit will look to keep the strong work going, especially from the first team. One change on the Redskins defense: free agent addition Zach Brown will move into the starting lineup and play alongside Mason Foster as the two interior linebackers. That means 2016 defensive captain Will Compton starts the game on the bench. Preston Smith should also be back on the field and starting opposite Ryan Kerrigan; Smith missed the Ravens game with a sprained ankle. No word yet on rookie linebacker Ryan Anderson, who suffered a stinger in Baltimore. Gruden on Anderson, "we’re going to let him dress in pregame warmup on Saturday and see where he is. He has total mobility now back, I think he’s fine, but we just want to make sure he has strength back."

News and notes:

  • Saturday marks the eighth time the Redskins and Packers have played in the preseason since 1961. In regular season and postseason play, the Packers hold a 20-15-1 record against the Redskins. 
  • In their last two meetings, the Redskins rocked the Pack 42-24 last November on Sunday Night Football. It was the high point of Washington's season, as the 'Skins skidded from there and missed the playoffs, losing four of their final six games. 10 months earlier, the Packers knocked the Redskins out of the playoffs in almost equally one-sided fashion. The game was early, but Green Bay proved to be too tough for Washington, and the Redskins lost on their home turf after a surprising NFC East title run. 

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