The Redskins have become much better at a very important aspect of football—holding on to the football.
Last year they turned the ball over 35 times. As is usually the case with most teams, the quarterback position was responsible for the lion’s share of the giveaways. Rex Grossman threw 20 interceptions in 13 games while John Beck was picked off four times in three-plus games. Grossman lost five fumbles for a total of 25 turnovers while Beck lost one for a total of five.
The rest of the team managed to hold on to the ball pretty well. Roy Helu Jr. lost two fumbles while Jabar Gaffney, Terrence Austin, and Fred Davis lost one each.
The turnovers did not come in bunches, they were spread out over the season. The Redskins tied a record by having at least one turnover in every game they played.
(I had a Twitter exchange with @redskinfootpaul. He said it felt like there was a turnover every half. I checked the records and found that he wasn’t quite right. Of the 32 halves of football the Redskins played in 2011, they went turnover free in seven of them.)
This year it is a different story. Through 10 games, the Redskins have nine giveaways. On their current pace they will finish he year with 14 or 15 turnovers.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III is responsible for most of the turnovers. He has thrown three interceptions and lost two fumbles. The other giveaways came on two Kirk Cousins interceptions and lost fumbles by Alfred Morris and Santana Moss.
A good chunk of the Redskins’ turnovers this year came in one half. Four came in the second half of the game against the Giants.
They have had five turnover-free games, including the last three in a row.
New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason.
The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended.
Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.
The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes.
Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback.
Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do.
"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."
MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins
The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.
Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.
The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10.
After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.
Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too.
The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list.
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