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Redskins' Matt Jones' ball security is an issue that needs to be fixed in 2016

Redskins' Matt Jones' ball security is an issue that needs to be fixed in 2016

Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.

Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.

Earlier we looked at fumble recoveries and defensive interceptions. Today we’ll look at fumbles lost on offense, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later we’ll look at Kirk Cousins’ interceptions.

The Redskins put the ball on the ground 26 times in 2015; only three teams fumbled more. Of those, 11 were recovered by the opposition. Five teams lost more fumbles but that really isn’t as bad as it sounds. In all, 16 teams, half of the league, lost between nine and 13 fumbles; the median was nine so the Redskins were just a little worse than the norm.

As you might have guessed, Matt Jones and Kirk Cousins led the team in lost fumbles with four. Cousins’ fumble total is on the high side but it’s not particularly alarming. Six other quarterbacks lost more fumbles and three others lost just as many. Remember that the quarterback handles the ball on every play and the simple odds say that he will fumble more and lose the ball more often than most players.

But Jones’ fumbles were a legitimate issue. Only Doug Martin of the Bucs, who lost five, lost more fumbles than Jones. But it needs to be noted that Martin fumbled five times in 321 touches (288 rush att., 33 receptions), or 1.6 percent. Jones fumbled five times in 163 touches (144/19), a fumble percentage of 3.1 percent. Certainly Jones will have to tighten this up if he is going to continue to play in the NFL.

In addition to Jones and Cousins, the other Redskins to lose fumbles were tight end Jordan Reed, who lost two, and DeSean Jackson. He committed the only special teams turnover of the year against the Cowboys on a punt return that Redskins fans won’t forget.

How much damage did the lost fumbles do? One was returned for a touchdown; that was Cousins fumble in the second quarter of the Bucs game that Howard Jones scooped up and took to the house. On drives following fumble recoveries the Redskins’ opponents scored five touchdowns and three field goals. Only one team, the Bucs, gave up more touchdowns following lost fumbles and seven teams gave up more field goals.

One note on this that you can take however you’d like. Half of the scoring drives against the Redskins following fumbles came in one game. They had a bad day against the Panthers, giving up two touchdowns and two field goals after fumbles. You can’t throw out the bad game when analyzing the numbers but beware that even a 16-game season is small enough of a sample size that one ugly performance on one Sunday can skew what the other 15 games look like.

One other fumble almost certainly cost the Redskins some points. In Week 3 against the Giants Jones appeared to be headed to the end zone but he lost the ball and it went out of bounds in the end zone. That wasn’t a critical situation—at the time the Redskins trailed 25-6 with less than 10 minutes left to play—but it still was a symptom of Jones’ ball security problems.

What can be done to solve the issue going forward? There is no magical solution. Jones needs to learn better ball security. That is something that can be learned. Alfred Morris fumbled nine times in his first two seasons in the league (1.4% of touches) while in the last two years he fumbled just twice (0.4% of touches).

The other end of it is to improve the defense so that they can stonewall the other team after a turnover. Joe Barry and the defensive players will tell you that they needed to stop the Cowboys after Jackson’s fumble and hold them to at worst a field goal. That’s not an impossible task.

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Hypothetical first-round trade could be a good one for the Redskins

Hypothetical first-round trade could be a good one for the Redskins

On Monday, Redskins college scouting director Scott Campbell publically sent out the message that the Redskins are open for business when it comes to making a trade in the upcoming draft. Peter King of the MMQB.com put one into his mock draft that just might catch the Redskins’ interest if it is proposed when the draft starts on Thursday.

The deal has the Redskins swapping first-round picks with the Texans. Houston needs a quarterback and they won’t get one they want with pick No. 25. So they send that pick plus their second-round pick, No. 57 overall, to the Redskins for pick No. 17. With that pick the Texans take Deshaun Watson of Clemson. At No. 25, Washington selects ILB Jarrad Davis of Florida.

There is a lot to consider when trading back in the first round, the most important of which is the players on the board when you trade back. If you bypass the chance to get a game-changing talent who fits your system to add a pick later in the draft you could end up regretting it.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

In King’s mock draft, these players who have been connected to the Redskins during the draft process are off the board—RB Christian McCaffrey, LB Haason Reddick, OLB Dered Barnett, LB Reuben Foster, DL Jonathan Allen, and OLB Takkarist McKinley. The next four players off the board after the Texans take Watson are two offensive tackles, a tight end, and a wide receiver. None of those would fill a major need for the Redskins. A trade back seems to be a reasonably safe move.

The other factor to evaluate is the value of the deal and that works out well for the Redskins if you look at the traditional trade chart. The 17th pick is worth 950 points. The point values for picks 25 and 57 add up to 1,050. The 100-point difference is about a pick in the middle of the fourth round. The Texans may ask for a later pick back in return and the Redskins could gauge how desperate Bill O’Brien is to get his quarterback of the future in the building.

Davis, who ends up with the Redskins in this scenario, is an interesting prospect. His athleticism and high motor fit those of a high first-round pick. But he missed time in his last three seasons with the Gators due to injuries, including problems with both ankles last year. There is some buzz that the Redskins are considering Davis with the 17th pick so to could get him at No. 25 and pick up a second-round pick in the process would be quite a coup.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often 

In an interesting side note, King reported that the Redskins are “divided” on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. He unquestionably has talent but he has three arrests in his past and a high fumble rate. No. 25 might be a better spot to take a chance on Cook than No. 17. King also mentions Missouri edge player Charles Harris as a possibility at No. 25 as well.

Among the players the Redskins may be able to add with that additional second-round pick are Michigan DL Chris Wormley, G Dan Freeney of Indiana, CB Cordrea Tankersley, and CB/S Desmond King of Iowa.

This is all a hypothetical scenario. King is not reporting that such a deal is in the works. But it does make sense for both the Redskins and the Texans and it would not be surprising to see something like this deal unfold on Thursday night.

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: With 10 draft picks, the Redskins are ready to deal

Need to Know: With 10 draft picks, the Redskins are ready to deal

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 24, two days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 17
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 29
—Training camp starts (7/27) 93
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 138

Let’s make a deal

Even though the Redskins have 10 picks going into the draft, Scott Campbell, the team’s college scouting director, said that they will still be open to making deals to add more.

Washington has one pick in each of the seven rounds plus additional selections in the fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Campbell said that the team will be happy to add picks if the right deal is on the table. He is not concerned about having too large a draft class competing for a limited number of competitive roster spots.

“Yeah, I don’t know if you can have ‘too many guys,’” said Campbell. “I think the main thing to get better is you want to add competition to the team and anywhere you can add competition, even positions where you think you may be set depth-wise, you know, add more competition. Get the best players in here and I think it pushes each other and makes everybody better.”

It’s a matter of improving the odds of finding players who can help them.

“It’s not an exact science, Campbell said of the draft. “You’re not going to hit on all the guys. You’d like to think you can, but I mean that’s not reality, no one’s ever done that. Just increasing the odds of adding the more players, the more guys that can help us, that’s great.”

Campbell specifically mentioned the team’s two fourth-round picks, which are the 115th and 123rd overall selections, as possible capital to move up or as bait to trade back and get more picks.

What could they do with those picks? If they make a deal that goes by the draft value trade chart, they could trade their second-round pick (17th in the round, 49th overall) and the higher of the two fourth-rounders for the 11th pick in the second (42 overall). If they see a player they like in the third, that same fourth round pick would move them up to from the 81st overall pick (17th in the round) to the 68th overall pick (4th pick of the round).

The return for moving back in the fourth round is not very high. You’re looking at a fifth-round pick in return for moving all the way back from 115th overall to the end of the fourth round. That’s OK if you’re in a range where there just aren’t any players you like but you are very unlikely to get a game-changer in the fifth.  

With 10 picks it would be surprising if the Redskins just used all 10 of them without making any moves. It’s just a matter of if there will be a blockbuster deal involving their first pick or if there are more minor deals on Saturday afternoon.

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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