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Redskins' Gruden picks up the tempo with no-huddle sessions

Redskins' Gruden picks up the tempo with no-huddle sessions

The no-huddle offense was something of a source of frustration for Redskins fans last year.

It seemed that when the Redskins ran it, they were effective. They didn’t run it at all during their 0-3 start, not even in situations where they were playing from behind (which was nearly all of every game). Then going to the no-huddle attack jump-started their offense in their first win in Oakland. But it went back in the drawer after that and was pulled out only occasionally Just when it seemed to be working or showing signs of effectiveness, Robert Griffin III and company would go back to huddling up.

We don’t know if Jay Gruden is any more of a fan of the no-huddle than Mike and Kyle Shanahan are but we did see it during the OTA session that was open to the media on Wednesday. The players seemed to enjoy it and it was a topic of conversation afterward.

“We did a little no huddle today, working that stuff in,” said Griffin. “Like I said, we’ll be very multiple. We’ll figure out what we do best and that’s the process—continuing to do this, continuing to learn, getting the new guys and the rookies up to speed with the offense and even ourselves, continuing to master it.”

Griffin indicated that they still intended to be physical when running the hurry up. “Our coach has said we’re going to huddle up and try to play some smash mouth football and then we’re going to no-huddle and still play some smash mouth football,” he said

Gruden, of course, is not going to discuss how much he plans to utilize a no-huddle attack. We’ll have to wait to see how the regular season games unfold before we can get a handle on that. Regardless, he sees a lot of value in running it this time of year. The benefits extend to both sides of the ball.

“We’re trying to pick up the tempo,” he said. “Also, from a communications standpoint, football is a lot about communication nowadays. A lot of teams are running a no-huddle, so from a defensive standpoint, you’ve got to be able to communicate your calls, get in the right front and talk about it and make sure everybody is on the same page.

“Offensively, it’s a good way to dictate tempo and keep defenses from substituting and keep them out of their blitz packages, all that good stuff. There’s a reason for us offensively to utilize it and there’s a reason not only from a point of view on game day, but also getting our defense ready for that kind of attack on Sundays.”

Gruden said that the no-huddle is growing in popularity around the league so the defense needs to be ready to face it. He specifically mentioned the Eagles, who rarely huddle in Chip Kelly’s fast-paced attack. The Redskins face them twice this year with the first meeting coming in Week 3.

Jason Hatcher appreciated the conditioning aspect of going against the up tempo offense on a warm June day in Virginia. “I think that was a great deal today because it was humid out here,” he said. “We got a lot of plays back to back, maybe eight, nine, 10 plays. It’s something that we really need to focus on as a team.”

One aspect of the no-huddle period that Hatcher didn’t like was that Griffin was able to use the hard count to draw the defense offside on a few occasions. “Some of those plays there down the stretch with five, 10 seconds on the clock you jump offside and give them a first down,” he said. “You’ve got to go and be a very fundamentally sound defense.”

Griffin got some satisfaction out of getting the defense to jump but he said that we shouldn’t read too much into what happened on one day. “It’s just a constant battle of X’s and O’s and mind games with the offense and defense,” he said. “Sometimes you get them, today happened

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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 a league-worse 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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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