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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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Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins

Out

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.

T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.

RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.

Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)

Cardinals

Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.

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Jordan Reed ruled out for Redskins vs. Cardinals; Vernon Davis set for start

Jordan Reed ruled out for Redskins vs. Cardinals; Vernon Davis set for start

After separating his shoulder against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Jordan Reed has officially been ruled out for the Redskins game in Arizona. 

Friday, coach Jay Gruden said Reed doesn't have sufficient range of motion to play against the Cardinals but remains hopeful he'll be healthy for the following game against the Eagles. Reed estimated that range was at about 30 percent Monday.

The decision to sit Reed against the Cardinals comes with little surprise. The 'Skins star tight end did not practice all week, even after having a few extra days to rest after the game last Thursday.

Playing without Reed is obviously a blow to the Washington offense, but No. 2 tight end Vernon Davis has been a strong development for Gruden's team this year. Thursday, Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay said that while losing Reed is a blow to the unit, the team can run almost all of the same plays and sets with Davis that they can with Reed. 

"Fortunately you’re in a situation where you feel really good about your tight end in Vernon Davis where he’s playing at an extremely high level in both phases in the run and in the pass game," McVay said.

As good as Davis has been, he's not the dynamic threat Reed presents. In the second half against Dallas — while playing with the injured shoulder — Reed hauled in two touchdowns and played arguably the best football of his career.

On the season Reed has 59 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games earlier this year dealing with a concussion.

Davis has played in all 11 games this season and has 31 catches for 450 yards and two TDs. 

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