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Small situational sample size makes judging Redskins' play calling difficult

Small situational sample size makes judging Redskins' play calling difficult

I was doing some research on the Redskins’ run-pass ratio last year and I stumbled across a number that I found to be both stunning and very, very revealing.

I was looking into play calls in situations where the Redskins were trailing in a game by seven points or more and compared that to both league averages and to what they did when they led by seven or more.

When they were trailing by seven or more, Jay Gruden’s play selection mirrored that of the league as a whole. The Redskins passed 68 percent of the time and ran 32 percent. The league as a whole passed 68.7 percent of plays and ran on 31.3 percent.

How about when leading by a touchdown or more? In those situations the league as a whole went with the pass on 47.2 percent of the snaps and ran 52.8 percent. Gruden was a bit more pass happy, going 50.5 percent pass to 49.5 percent run.

The surprising stat that I found was that the Redskins ran just 91 plays when they were up by seven points or more. That’s pathetic. The average NFL team ran 230 plays with a lead of a touchdown or more. But the Redskins ran just about five and a half per game.

But the average is deceiving. They ran 53 of those plays with a lead of a touchdown or more in Week 2 against the Jaguars. The other 38 snaps came in two other games, the Week 3 shootout in Philadelphia and in Week 9 in Minnesota. So in 13 games they didn’t take a single snap with a lead of at least seven points.

Gruden was indeed pass happy in his play calling last year, with 60 percent passes to 40 percent runs. But given that they rarely had a substantial lead to work with, even Chuck Knox, a.k.a. Ground Chuck, the former Bills and Seahawks coach known for strongly favoring the running game, would have found it necessary to throw a lot.

This doesn’t render any criticism of Gruden’s overall play selection last season null and void. But it does make it difficult to predict what the Redskins run-pass ratio will be this year if they manage to play with a lead some of the time. If the upgraded personnel improve the defense and if special teams can become a help and not a hindrance, perhaps the Redskins will run an average number of plays with a lead of seven points or more and we can see if the stated intentions to control the game with the run actually happen.

If, on the other hand, the Redskins again run fewer than 100 plays with a lead of a touchdown or better we won’t really know what the intentions of Gruden and company were. They will be forced to throw to catch up.

And we may never find out what Gruden’s offensive model looks like. If they can’t play with a lead a substantial amount of the time there may be a different coach developing the offensive philosophy in 2015.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

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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