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Redskins camp countdown: 26 sacks allowed

Redskins camp countdown: 26 sacks allowed

We’re counting down to the start of training camp here by looking at some numbers that will be keys to the Redskins’ 2014 season.

26—Sacks allowed

You don’t have to be a big-time Redskins analyst to figure out that if the Redskins are going to be successful in 2014, Robert Griffin III is going to need to have a big year. And if he is going to have a good year he is going to have to stay upright in the pocket.

The Redskins really weren’t as bad as many fans thought when it came to protecting Griffin and Kirk Cousins in 2013. They were more in the middle of the pack, giving up 43 sacks compared to the NFL average of 40.5. When you consider how often the Redskins pass, they ranked 13th in the NFL getting sacked on 6.6 percent of their pass plays.

Still, they need to be better at protecting the franchise. A target of 26 sacks allowed may be very ambitious—last year it would have had them tied for third in the NFL—but it’s reachable. Between an increased emphasis on protection and Griffin improving his recognition skills and ability to get rid of the ball when he needs to, trimming off a sack per game should be an achievable goal.

It should be noted that pass protection is not all about sacks. If they allow about 40 percent fewer sacks they should also cut back on the QB hits and hurries (186 total in 2013 per Pro Football Focus). That will help make for a much more effective passing game in 2014.

Camp countdown

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When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

When will Jordan Reed return? Jay Gruden says he 'can't predict it'

The Redskins best pass cacther did not play in a loss to the Cardinals, and it appears there is still no clear timeline for Jordan Reed's return to the field. 

"Jordan will be day-to-day," Washington coach Jay Gruden said. "You know, we just have to wait and see."

Gruden issued the same statement on Reed last week, and the tight end proceeded to miss all Redskins practices for the week and was announced out for the Arizona game on Friday. Reed's injury came on Thanksgiving in Dallas when he separated his shoulder diving in the end zone for a Kirk Cousins' pass during the first half.

Incredibly, Reed returned in the second half and caught two touchdowns while playing in immense pain. Gruden and Cousins used words like 'stunned' and 'surprised' talking about Reed's return in the Dallas game, but looking forward to Philadelphia, it's hard to know what to expect from the tight end's shoulder.

"Everybody is different with these types of injuries and hopefully he is a fast healer but we’ll take him day-to-day, get him his treatment and go from there," the coach said. "I can’t predict it."

For the season, Reed has 59 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns in just nine games. Reed missed two games earlier this year after sustaining a concussion against the Ravens.

Without Reed in the lineup against the Cardinals, the Redskins offense dipped in production. Cousins threw for less than 300 yards for the first time in three games, though backup tight end Vernon Davis had five catches for 47 yards. 

If Reed practices Wednesday, even in a limited role, would be a good sign for the 'Skins tight end. 

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Goal to go situations another problem area for Redskins' defense

Goal to go situations another problem area for Redskins' defense

In the third quarter of the Redskins’ Week 3 game against the Giants, New York drove to a first and goal at the Washington 10. A Trent Murphy sack and two incompletions later, Josh Brown came in and kicked a field goal.

Since then, opponents have had goal to go situations 12 times. They have scored touchdowns on every one of them.

The stop against the Giants was one of just two all year. They had one against the Cowboys in Week 2. Their opponents’ goal to go success rate is 90.5 percent. That’s the second worst in the NFL.

The failures have been costly. On Sunday, the Cardinals recovered a Kirk Cousins fumble and returned it to the Washington 10. The Redskins led 13-10 at the time and coming out of that situation with the game tied would have been large. But on third and goal at the six Carson Palmer hit Michael Floyd with a touchdown pass and the Cardinals had both the lead and the momentum.

Opponents usually haven’t had to work that hard. Teams have run 21 plays in goal to go and they have 10 touchdowns.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys got to goal to go three times. A stop on any one of them would have been a boost to the Redskins and would have changed the dynamic of the game. But Dallas was three for three.

The goal to go problems are a subset of the Redskins’ problems with red zone defense in general. Opponents have scored touchdowns on 27 of 40 red zone trips, a 67.5 percent success rate that puts the Redskins 30th in the NFL.