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Redskins' opponents had the green light to score in the red zone in 2016

Redskins' opponents had the green light to score in the red zone in 2016

Last week, I took a broad look at the three areas that Jay Gruden said that his team was “terrible” in during the 2016 season, issues that cost the team a chance at the playoffs.

We looked at one of those, red zone offense, earlier.

Today, it’s time to examine the problems the defense in the red zone.  

If the Redskins’ defense was going to survive the 2016 season they had to be a “bend but don’t break” unit.

They were not built to stop teams cold. It would be OK to give up some ground as long as they could force an error, get a takeaway or, at worst, make them settle for field goals more often than not.

That didn’t work out so well for the Redskins.

They were just OK in the turnover department, getting 21 takeaways to ranks 17th in the NFL in that department. Even then they were inconsistent. There were seven games where the defense forced no turnovers and a 10-game stretch where they produced only seven.

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However, it was in the red zone and in goal to go situations where the defense truly had issues. They allowed opponents to score touchdowns on 59.3 percent of their red zone trips, 26th in the league. When they let the other team get a first and goal, they got touchdowns 80 percent of the time.

Goal to go situations are a subset of the red zone so let me just point out one note on that before moving to the bigger group. The Redskins went the entire months of October and November plus a game in December without keeping an opponent from getting a touchdown in goal to go. That was 14 straight times that a first and goal was just as good as a TD.

The breakdown on the red zone numbers looks like this.

Opponents had 54 drives that had at least one play inside the Redskins 20 yard-line. They scored touchdowns on 32 of them.

How do those numbers stack up compared to the rest of the league? The team that led the NFL in red zone defense was the Giants. They faced 43 red zone drives and allowed 17 touchdowns, a 39.5 percent rate.

If the Redskins had the Giants’ red zone rate, opponents would have scored 21 touchdowns instead of the 32 that they actually did. Assuming the other team would have kicked field goals in those situations the Redskins would have allowed 44 fewer points. That difference would have moved them from 20th in the league in points allowed to 12th.

Of course, the points are meaningless without some context so let’s provide some here. The Redskins tied one game and lost three games by three or four points (including the last Giants game, which only became a nine-point loss on a last-play touchdown as the Redskins desperately tried to lateral the ball around).

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—The tie was against the Bengals, who were 4-4 in the red zone. One stop inside the 20 likely would have meant a Redskins win.

—In the first Dallas game the Cowboys were 3-5 and the Redskins lost by four. Good red zone defense could have at least sent that game into overtime.

—The Lions were 2-3 in the red zone and the Redskins lost by three.

—The Giants were 1-3 in the season finale. That’s good enough red zone D on a percentage basis but there’s no rule saying that you can’t shut the other team out in the red zone for a game. The Redskins did that only once in 2016 (Eagles went 0-7 in Week 6).

You can play with those numbers however you’d like. But if one of the losses and the tie had been wins the Redskins could have been the No. 5 seed.

What went wrong in the red zone? Washington’s opponents’ passing stats in the red zone were only slightly worse than the league average in completion percentage, yards per attempt, and passer rating. The league allowed 2.5 yards per rush on plays inside the 20 while the Redskins allowed 2.8. That’s significant but not decisive. Although nothing was glaring it added up to a fatal flaw in the Redskins’ defense.

The new defensive coordinator will have to get this figured out. The other issue that cost Joe Barry his job was the team’s problem stopping the opposition on third down. We’ll put those problems under the microscope in the next part of this series. 

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Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

Redskins 2017 position outlook: Offensive line

With the season opener fast approaching, it’s time to put the Redskins’ depth chart under the microscope. Over the coming days, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

Offensive line

Starters: Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Spencer Long, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses
Other roster locks: Ty Nsekhe, Chase Roullier
On the bubble: Vinston Painter, Arie Kouandjio, Kyle Kalis,

How the offensive line compares:

To the 2016 Redskins: Over the course of 16 games they should be better because Williams is unlikely to get his with another four-game suspension. He may miss a game or two with an injury as he did in 2014 and 2015 but they can manage that. With all five starters returning, they may be only marginally better on a game-to-game basis. Lauvao was hampered by injuries last year and he looks healthier. Long will be going into his second season at center so he could learn more and improve. Still, the improvements will be marginal. They were a top 5-10 unit last year and they should be this year. Marginally better

To the rest of the NFL: As noted, it’s a top 10 unit easily and you could make the case that it’s in the top five. Yes, even though the Redskins were 21st in the league in rushing last year. The thing is, they were eighth in the league with 4.5 yards per rushing attempt. When they ran the ball, they ran it well. And their sack percentage was fourth in the league. They should set aside the "Hogs 2.0" nickname until the accomplish more as a team but they are very good right now.  Top five

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2017 outlook

Biggest upside: Scherff was the fifth pick of the 2015 draft. He nominally was taken as a tackle although many analysts, including some at Redskins Park, figured he would end up as a guard. He is off to a good start in his career, playing nearly every snap over his two seasons and making the Pro Bowl last year. But he can get better and he has the mindset to do it.

Most to prove: Long is injured right now and that has been a minor issue with him since he became a starter. Last year he played well after taking over at center when Kory Lichtensteiger was injured but he still has a lot to learn. His contract is up after this year and if he is going to earn a solid contract from the Redskins or from any other team he must take a couple of steps up and show that he is worth a significant financial investment.

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Rookie watch: With Long sidelined until the season opener, the focus turns to Roullier. Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan have shown extraordinary confidence in the sixth-round pick, not shopping for a veteran backup center after seeing Roullier in the offseason program and in training camp. They have a better idea of what they have in him after he starts against the Bengals’ first-team defense on Sunday.

Bottom line: The offensive line is one of the strengths of the team. Williams and Scherff could go back to the Pro Bowl. Moses won’t but that’s primarily because right tackles don’t get Pro Bowl invitations. They will keep Kirk Cousins upright and on what is likely to continue to be a pass-first team, that is critical. Run blocking could be better but that top-10 average of 4.5 yards per carry last year points to issues in the run game beyond the O-line.

Quote-unquote

Jay Gruden on Trent Williams:

I think he’s going to get better. He’s lost a little bit of weight and I think he might even be a vegan, whatever that means. The things that he can do with his body and athleticism is incredible. He’s by far I think the best tackle in the league and we’re glad we have him. But it’s also good to see a guy with that type of talent and skill set work as hard as he does. That rubs off on the younger guys, the guys that are up and coming young players. They see a guy like that with much talent, that much production over the years – and Pro Bowls – work that hard, you know, it makes the other guys say, ‘Hey, I better work harder because I’m not as talented as him.’

2017 Redskins position outlook series: Wide receiver | Defensive line |

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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Report: Odell Beckham could miss regular season games after preseason hit

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USA Today Sports

Report: Odell Beckham could miss regular season games after preseason hit

Odell Beckham Jr. took a hard hit to the leg in Monday night's preseason game against the Browns. Immediately following the play, it seemed Beckham might have sustained a serious knee or lower leg injury, especially as the wide receiver collapsed in pain walking to the locker room

Reports came out that showed Beckham merely sustained an ankle sprain and that X-rays and an MRI revealed no major problems. On Wednesday, however, ESPN reported that the Giants wideout could miss regular season games with the ankle issue. 

From ESPN.com:

It's "not out of the question he could miss a week or two of the regular season," according to one source.

The Giants open their season on September 10th against the Cowboys in Dallas, a key NFC East battle. 

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Arguably the most explosive receiver in the NFL, losing Beckham, even for just one game, would be a big blow for Big Blue. New York's offense hasn't scored a touchdown yet this preseason, and Eli Manning and company did not have a particularly good year in 2016 either.

The Giants offense ranked 26th in the NFL in scoring at just 19.4 points-per-game. The Redskins, even with their red zone struggles, ranked 12th at 24.8 PPG.

Despite the Giants offensive struggles, Beckham still produced in 2016. He posted 101 catches for 1,367 yards and 10 touchdowns over 16 games. It marked the first year of his three season career he was able to suit up for all 16 games.

This offseason, the Giants brass tried to make the offense better, adding veteran receiver Brandon Marshall and taking tight end Evan Engram in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Offensive line remains a significant concern for New York, especially with the 36-year-old Manning behind center. 

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