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Redskins' second-half offense has been second rate

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Redskins' second-half offense has been second rate

One of the things we have heard coming from Redskins Park during the team’s current four-game losing streak is players and coaches bemoaning the fact that the team can’t put together a full 60-minute game of football. A look at the numbers shows this is true when you look at the offensive production in the first 30 minutes of play compared to the last 30 minutes.

During the first halves of the four games of the losing skid Washington hasn’t been a scoring machine but has been able to move the ball. In the first 30 minutes of those four games they have rushed for 423 yards (105 per game) and passed for 438 yards (109 yards/game). If the Redskins rolled up 214 yards in every half of their 12 games this season they would have over 5,100 yards of offense, a total that would rank second in the NFL.

It’s been a different story in the second half. The Redskins have rushed for a total of 198 yards (50/game) and passed for 441 (110/game). If they had gained that combined 160 yards in every half of their 12 games, they would have 3,840 total yards. That would rank 27th in the NFL.

There are many theories as to why the offensive production has dropped off so precipitously in the second halves. Many fans frequently talk about a lack of halftime adjustments by the coaches being a factor. That may be a factor but making major changes to strategy when the break is just 12 minutes is largely a thing of the past. Kyle Shanahan has said many times that adjustments take place constantly during the game, from the first series to the last.

Regardless of when they happen, it doesn’t appear that the adjustments are working. That could be due to poor strategy or it could be execution. Tight end Logan Paulsen said that the latter is an issue. “So the counter punches to their counter punches are things we have not been able to execute as well,” Paulsen told John Keim of ESPN after the Giants game.

It’s hard not to notice that passing yards a close in the first and second halves of the last four games (438 in first halves, 441 in second) but their rushing total declines by over 50 percent from the first half to the second. It appears that fan and media comments that the team is too quick to abandon the running game have some merit.

Since the name of the game is scoring points, let’s take a look there before we wrap up. In the last four games, the Redskins have scored a total of 44 first-half points. In the second halves of those games they have scored 22. The only touchdowns they have scored in the last 30 minutes came in the fourth quarter against the Eagles in a game where their opponent seemed to have lost some interest after building a 24-0 lead in the first three quarters of play.

As they say, it’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish. The Redskins seem to have this backwards and they will continue to struggle until they find a solution.

Note: I was asked about the run-pass ratio in the comments. I answered there but since I should have included them in the original post, here they are:

Second half–44 runs, 83 pass plays (69 att + 14 sacks)
First half–88 runs, 65 pass plays (62 att + 3 sacks)

 

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Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Need to Know: Five pre-training camp questions for Jay Gruden

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 26, one day before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 46 days.

Today’s schedule: Players report to training camp for physicals and conditioning test. Jay Gruden news conference 2 p.m.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 15
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 24
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 38

Five pre-camp questions for Jay Gruden

RICHMOND—The media portion of training camp gets underway on Wednesday as Jay Gruden holds his pre-camp presser at 2 pm at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center (that’s probably the last time I’ll use the full name of the facility).

Here are some questions we will ask of Gruden as he enters his fourth season as the Redskins head coach.

Will Kirk Cousins’ contract situation be a distraction? This must be asked, even though we know that the answer will be no. Yes, Cousins handled a similar situation just fine last year. But a quarterback playing on a second franchise tag is unprecedented. Certainly, Gruden has to guard against things getting out of hand if the season starts to turn sour.

In his fourth training camp, what is he doing now that he wishes he would have done in 2014? One very visible change has been a reduction in the amount of contact that takes place on the field. Will this continue to decline or, give the issues the team had tackling last year, will it ramp up? What used to be the morning practice and afternoon walkthrough were flipped a couple of years ago. Has there been any thought to changing it back?

How has the adjustment process to having so many new coaches gone so far? The Redskins have new coordinators on both sides of the ball and several new position coaches. As happens when any group of co-workers gets added to a workplace, there is an adjustment period. In the NFL, the coaches have to get up to speed with each other in a hurry.

Will Gruden use the season-ending loss to the Giants as a motivational/learning tool or just bury it in the past? It’s a fine line between learning from past mistakes and dwelling on them. While Cousin should make sure that he doesn’t throw another late-game interception like the one he threw in that game, he can’t have it spook him to the point where he can’t pull the trigger on a pass late in a close game. How Gruden handles the 2016 finale could have a major effect on how 2017 unfolds.

After having one of the highest pass ratios in the league, will Gruden look to run the ball more often? Last year, Sean McVay called passes on 62.4 percent of the Redskins’ snaps. The Redskins drafted a fourth-round running back in Samaje Perine and they may team him with starter Rob Kelley and call to keep the ball on the ground a few more times per game.

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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Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Is Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL? One analyst says so

Pete Prisco of CBS Sports declared Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins the most overrated player in the NFL. Prisco repeatedly points out that while Cousins is a good quarterback, the notion that he should be paid like one of the best passers in the league is what makes him overrated.

From Prisco:

After having six 300-yard-plus passing games in his first 11 games, including two over 400, Cousins had one in the final five games last season as the Redskins pushed for a playoff spot. He had five touchdown passes and five interceptions in those games, going 2-3 as Washington folded. It wasn't all on him, but that's the point. I don't think he's a quarterback who rises above situations when the team isn't going right. I am not going to sit here and pan him as a starter. He has proven to be that, and a pretty good one. It's just that the perception is he's much better than that, which is why he's my most overrated player in the NFL in 2017.

Here's the problem with Prisco's login: Simple market economics. 

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

An argument can be made Cousins is a Top 10 passer. He's certainly in the top half of the league at the position. Few, if any, would argue Cousins is a Top 5 quarterback, but his contract situation forces him to be paid like he is. Those are the exact terms of the franchise tag, even before the 20 percent increase Washington paid this season to use a second-straight tag.  

Since the Redskins lost their window to sign their single-season passing yards record holder to a team-friendly deal last year, Cousins has leverage and the advantage of inflated QB salaries on his side.

That doesn't mean Cousins is overrated. 

If the threshold for being overrated is money, then Brock Osweiler wins this thing in a landslide. After the 2016 season in Houston, Osweiler seems unlikely to ever again be considered a starting QB in the NFL. He's due to be paid $18 million this fall and his offseason trade to the Browns will go down as the first-ever salary dump in NFL history. 

Is Cousins overpaid? Probably. That's the way contracts work in pro football. 

Is Cousins overrated? Probably not. He's thrown for more than 9,000 yards and completed about 68 percent of his passes over the last two seasons. 

There just aren't enough quarterbacks to go around in the NFL, and guys who can play the position get paid handsomely. That doesn't make Cousins overrated. 

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