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Redskins running the ball more but not as much as perceived

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Redskins running the ball more but not as much as perceived

There is a fine line between being perceived as pass happy and fans having confidence that you like to run and pound the football.

Jay Gruden should know. After being labeled as a coach who wanted to throw the ball too much last year, he has talked all offseason about the importance of his Redskins being able to run the football and how that would be the emphasis of the team’s offense. The perception now is that he is Ground Gruden, utilizing what is now a three-headed rushing attack with the reliable Alfred Morris, powerful rookie Matt Jones and intriguing scatback Chris Thompson. But the play calling has not been dramatically different.

Let’s look at first down plays because those calls are the least controlled by circumstances such as distance to go. The Redskins have run 54 times and passed 67 times, a 55 percent-45 percent run to pass ratio. Their play calling favors the run more than most teams; the NFL as a whole this year runs 51 percent of the time on first down and passes 49 percent.

But last year, when Gruden was supposedly throwing the ball all over the place, the Redskins ran on 53 percent of their first downs, compared to the league average of 52 percent. If this year plays out at its current pace, the Redskins will end up running the ball on 268 first-down plays compared to 248 last year. So on about 30 first-down snaps per game, the 2015 Redskins trade a run for a pass on one of them compare to last year.

Zooming out to all plays, the 2015 Redskins have run 126 times and passed 158. That’s 44 to 56 percent in favor of the pass. It’s still more run heavy than the league as a whole. So far in 2015 the NFL runs 41 percent of the time and passes 59 percent.

If the Redskins keep up their current pace, they will have just over 500 rushing attempts in 2015 compared to 402 last year. That would be about 6.4 more runs per game, about 10 percent of the plays, a significant increase. You could print up the “Ground Gruden” T-shirts if that happens.

But Gruden still has a way to go before he would be among the most run-oriented teams in the league. Although the Redskins are second in the NFL in rushing attempts with 126 they are like most of the rest of the teams in the league in that they pass more than they run. There are currently five teams—the Panthers, Bengals, Packers, Bills, and 49ers—who have more running plays than passing plays.

The reality is that the Redskins’ shift to running the ball more often, however subtle, may be related more to game scores than to a grand philosophical shift. Last year they were outscored by 137 points, about nine points per game. They lost nine games by double digits. In short, they were in a lot of passing situations.

This year they have played with the lead a lot and have faced a double-digit deficit in just one game. Those are running situations.

Game situations dictate play calls as much as a coach’s does. That’s important to keep in mind when trying to figure out what Gruden is happy to do.

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Five takeaways: A lot to like about the Redskins' dominant primetime win.

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Five takeaways: A lot to like about the Redskins' dominant primetime win.

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ 27-10 win over the Raiders:

This was the Redskins best defensive performance since 1991. That was the last time they held an opponent to under 128 total yards. They were physical, smart, determined and they made plays. If not for two turnovers they would have had a shutout. Oakland did not cross the Washington 48 without the benefit of a gift. Just dominant. 

With a strong defense, you can do what you want to on offense. I asked Kirk Cousins how much running for a couple of yards a pop as Samaje Perine was doing early in the game helped the offense. He answered in part by saying that the offense can afford to run for a low average per carry when the defense is playing so well. That's true. A punt isn't a bad play when you are confident that you are likely to get the ball back three plays later. 

Chris Thompson just keeps getting better every week. His patience when he has the ball in his hands and his ability to burst into the opening when it's there are textbook excellent. Oh yeah, his open field speed, which he gets to show off after being patient and cutting is amazing. Even the smaller plays, like two near the end of the half, when he wove his way through the cracks in the defense and then got out of bounds after gaining everything he could, are fun to watch. He is the Redskins' offensive MVP so far. 

Doctson showed why the Redskins drafted him on one flash. Nobody is going to give Josh Doctson an MVP award but we did see his potential when he went up and took that deep pass away from David Amerson for the touchdown. Plays like that make you see why the Redskins drafted him in the first round and why they have been patient with him. He will need to develop consistency but in the meantime, splash plays like that help a lot.

It’s hard to find fault in this one. Normally in these posts, I try to find a positive in a loss and something to be critical of in a win. But it’s really hard to find much to be critical about in the immediate aftermath of this one. Jamison Crowder’s muff of a punt certainly was an issue and perhaps Samaje Perine could have made more out of the line’s blocking for him. But from the defense to Cousins to Thompson to Zach Brown to D.J. Swearinger and many more, it was as dominant a game as we’ve seen from this team in a while. Can they keep it up? Tune in next Monday from Arrowhead Stadium and we’ll find out.

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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With one catch, Josh Doctson proved just how dangerous he can be for the Redskins

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With one catch, Josh Doctson proved just how dangerous he can be for the Redskins

LANDOVER, Md. — It took a while, longer than likely anyone expected, but Josh Doctson's first career touchdown catch may just have been worth the wait.

In the third quarter of the Redskins' 27-10 win over the Raiders on Sunday night, Kirk Cousins lofted a deep ball from a bit beyond midfield toward Doctson, who was being boxed out by David Amerson. And as the pass made its descent, Amerson went up to go snag it.

There was just one problem for the corner: Doctson went up and got to it first.

The result? A 52-yard touchdown that made the score 21-0 in favor of the hosts but, far more importantly, opened — quite forcefully, too — everyone's eyes to the sheer talent No. 18 possesses.

MORE: WHY THE DEFENSE'S EFFORT WAS SO ENCOURAGING

"I just made the play," the second-year wideout said afterward, about as nonchalantly as he made the TD look even though it absolutely wasn't. "It was pretty simple to be honest."

Against the Eagles and Rams in Weeks 1 and 2, Doctson suited up for Washington's offense but wasn't involved at all. And in the early going vs. Oakland, it again looked like he'd walk off the field with the same statline as an inactive player, on the verge of facing more questions about why he isn't producing. 

But that all changed on one jump-ball, which is exactly what his head coach has been anxiously waiting for.

"I think it was some relief for him," Jay Gruden answered when asked about the highlight. "I think the players have seen him do that in practice quite often but nobody else has... It wasn't a perfectly thrown ball, but to give him a chance where he can go up and make a big time catch, hopefully we'll get more of that."

RELATED: REDSKINS PLAYERS SIT AND KNEEL DURING ANTHEM

Doctson's QB, who gestured toward him during the post-score celebration as if to say There's the dude you've all been hearing about for months, certainly appreciated it.

"I do like Josh's ball skills and his ability to catch the ball up in the air and I thought, 'You know what, I'm going to give him a chance, they have been asking me to give him that chance and let's give it to him," Cousins said.

As fans of the team know all too well by now, Doctson isn't someone that can be counted on yet. He's oft-injured, and the grab he made over Amerson, while spectacular, was just the third of his career. 

But that sequence provides hope that many more similar to it will follow if he continues to stay healthy and gains more of Gruden's and Cousins' trust this year. He's still far from validating his 2016 first-round selection, but it's now obvious he has the skills to distance himself from those who so badly want to label him a bust.