RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 4, seven days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.
—Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice 3:00
—The Redskins last played a game 207 days ago. It will be 39 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.
—Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 15; Final roster cut 30; Cowboys @ Redskins 45
—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this date in 1949.
Breaking down camp
You shouldn’t believe everything that an NFL coach says.
Jay Gruden said this yesterday when asked about the possibility of trying to game the new rule that puts touchbacks after kickoff on the 25 yard line.
“We’re going to experiment, You know, we’ll see what Dustin [Hopkins] is good at. You know, we’re going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. You know, we don’t want to just succumb to the 25-yard line.”
I might believe Gruden and the other coaches who talk of pooch kicking the ball if it wasn’t such a risky play. NFL coaches have a strong tendency to analyze things on a worst-case basis. What is the worst that can happen if your kicker pounds the ball through the end zone? They get the ball at the 25, five yards closer than they did before. Yes, there is a slightly better chance of scoring points on a possession that starts at the 25 compared to one that starts at the 20. But only slightly.
And while it's true that your kicker won't always be able to pound the ball and force a touchback Hopkins was able to do it 65 percent of the time last year. Those are pretty good odds.
What is the worst that can happen if you pooch kick it and try to pin them back? The other team could return it for a touchdown, or to deep in your territory where scoring points is virtually certain. One blown assignment or one missed tackle and you plan to try to gain five yards of field position is up in smoke.
Gruden and his NFL brethren are hesitant to go for it on fourth and one at midfield even though there is plenty of research to indicate that they should. Why? Because they would rather take heat for being overly cautious than get ripped for a failed fourth-down attempt that gave their opponent a short field to work with.
When it comes down to it, NFL coaches don’t like to gamble. Just like going for it on fourth down is gambling, pooching the ball on a kickoff when you have a kicker like Hopkins who is capable of kicking touchbacks.
Perhaps Gruden will occasionally have Hopkins boom it high and hope his coverage is solid just to make other teams think that he might. He also occasionally goes for it on fourth down in non-desperation situations. But I can almost guarantee that his default strategy on kickoffs will be to have Hopkins kick it as deep as he can. That also will be the standard procedure for nearly every other NFL head coach.
There is just no reason to believe otherwise.
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