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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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Ranking the 2017 Redskins roster: 11-20

Ranking the 2017 Redskins roster: 11-20

At CSNmidatlantic.com we projected the Redskins’ 53-man roster (offense, defense) right after minicamp. Now we are taking it one step further and ranking the 53 players we think will make the team.

The rankings are determined by who we think will have the most impact on the 2017 Redskins. No consideration was given for past performance or for what a particular player might do down the road. We’ll be revealing the rankings over the next few weeks.

Today we’re updating the list with the players we ranked from 11-20, Here are some of the players in our latest update:

—A former top pick who has to come through after a rookie season lost to injury.

—Kirk Cousins’ front-side protector.   

—Two free agent acquisitions.

—A third-year player in a pivotal season.    

Go here to see our ranking of the 2017 Redskins, players 11-53.

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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Redskins Playbook: Pair of rookies could start season on NFI list

Redskins Playbook: Pair of rookies could start season on NFI list

With the excitement of training camp ramping up for Redskins fans, there are a number of players that the move to Richmond brings less energy. Veteran safety DeAngelo Hall is reported to start the season on the physically unable to perform list, which isn't a surprise, as well as linebacker Houston Bates.

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

Other players are likely to also land on the PUP to start camp, including a pair of rookies: 

  1. Rookie CB Fabian Moreau - The third round pick out of UCLA suffered a torn pectoral muscle at his UCLA Pro Day. Moreau has been spotted at Redskins Park working out but it seems unlikely his injury will be ready for full contact by late July.
  2. Rookie S Montae Nicholson - A similar scenario for the fourth round safety from Michigan State, who had surgery for a torn labrum earlier this year. Asked about both Nicholson and Moreau, Washington coach Jay Gruden provided no certain timeline.

"It will be a while," Gruden said in May. "I’m hoping maybe training camp, maybe later. It might be the regular season. We don’t know yet."

Technically, since they are rookies that sustained injuries before they joined the organization, Moreau and Nicholson will land on the non-football injury list. The functionality of that list works the same as the PUP during training camp. 

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