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Need to Know: Third-down passing stats reveal why the Redskins need to draft edge rushers

Need to Know: Third-down passing stats reveal why the Redskins need to draft edge rushers

Are the Redskins moving towards the edge in the draft on Thursday.

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, April 23, three days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 18
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 30
—Training camp starts (7/27) 94
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 139

The best edge rushers who should be available at pick 17

In the big picture, the Redskins weren’t too bad when it came to bringing down the quarterback. They compiled they compiled 38 sacks, good enough to tie for ninth in the NFL.

But when you put the numbers under closer scrutiny you can see that they didn’t get it done when they really needed to. On third down, when most teams are expected to pass the ball, the Redskins got just 12 sacks on 166 pass attempts. That was tied for seventh-fewest in the league.

It’s easy to see the linkage from this to the Redskins league-worst third down defense that gave up first downs on 46.6 percent of opponents’ attempts. The time opposing quarterbacks had to pass was a factor in the passer rating of 110.3 that they posted on third down. The composite passer rating for all third-down pass attempts throughout the league last year was 86.1.

Looking at this, it would be difficult for any Redskins fan to object to the selection of an edge rusher with the team’s top draft pick on Thursday. Here are some possibilities who may be available when the Redskins draft with the 17th pick.

Derek Barnett, Tennessee—A highly productive player who racked up double-digit sacks in the last three seasons playing in the SEC.

Charles Harris, Missouri—A high-motor player who has a jaw-dropping spin move to get to the quarterback.

Takkarist McKinney, UCLA—The Bruins moved him around at times, sneaking him inside to rush through the A gap. He may not always win but it won’t be because he doesn’t try.

Taco Charlton, Michigan—He’s 6-6, 277 and very athletic. Vidaunte (his given name) recorded 10 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss for the Wolverines.

T.J. Watt, Wisconsin—The buzz is that the Redskins are very high on Watt’s potential. In just his second year as an outside linebacker he had 11.5 sacks and 15.5 tackles for a loss.  

Haason Reddick, Temple—This one has an asterisk as he likely would be an inside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 base defense. But they could slide him onto the edge, where he starred for the Owls, on passing downs and get help at two problem areas with one draft pick.

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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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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