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The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

The Tuesday Take: Is Brunell Back?

Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 09.26.06: The Tuesday Take--While Mark Brunell's performance on Sunday answered some questions, others remain. Plus a look ahead at the Jaguars, who go by the simple philosophy that if the other team doesn't have the ball it's hard for it to win.

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

It was only Houston. They were only dink and dunk passes. So what.

That was the reaction of Mark Brunell’s detractors to his NFL-record 22 consecutive pass completions on Sunday, a performance that wound up with the much-maligned quarterback going 24 of 27 for 261 yards and one touchdown, a quarterback rating for the game of 119.3.

And, to an extent, it’s a justified reaction. Houston has the worst defense in the league statistically. They’re almost 100 yards a game behind the team ranked 31st. While such stats can be misleading early in the season, they seem to be pretty darn accurate in this case. They have no impact players, they have no identity as a unit; they’re just not very good.

But there have been some pretty bad defenses in the history of the NFL and in all the thousands of games played before this one nobody has completed 22 consecutive forward passes in one game. Not Unitas against the pitiful Redskins teams of the early 60’s, not Jurgensen against the expansion Saints, not Montana playing the horrid Bucs teams of the late ‘80’s, not Marino while the Dolphins were regularly beating up on the Bills, not Manning in facing these Texans twice a year. Nobody.

This doesn’t qualify Brunell for the Hall of Fame. It doesn’t mean that his struggles are over. But to brush it off and say that anyone from your little sister to a horrible NFL quarterback could complete 22 straight passes against an NFL defense is going to the other extreme and not giving him enough credit.

Yes, they were short passes. The record would have be exponentially more impressive had even a couple more of the attempts been of the length of the one on which David Patten made that spectacular catch 25 yards downfield. On at least a couple of occasions it looked like Brunell had time to find a receiver downfield but he checked down to Ladell Betts or another receiver roaming a few yards beyond the line of scrimmage. The Redskins will need to go deep in the passing game on occasion if they are going to beat the better teams on their schedule. Brunell needs to develop the confidence to throw the intermediate and deep routes and the patience to wait for those plays to develop when he’s getting time to throw.

But for six games, including the preseason, no facet of the offense was working well. It was a train wreck. Now it appears that a few of the cars have been put back onto the track. We will see if the rest of the mess can be straightened out.

Jaguars a team in possession

In taking an early look at the Jacksonville Jaguars, one number jumps out—23. That’s the average number of possession minutes that the Jags’ three opponents have managed so far this season. And this meager total has been compiled by some quality opponents in Dallas, Pittsburgh, and Indianapolis. There’s nary a stiff among them.

The flip side of that coin is that the Jaguars’ offense has had the ball for 37 minutes a game. There is no secret formula for putting up numbers like this. You run the ball and you stop the run. The Jags defense has allowed just 59 yards a game on the ground, the third-best total in the league. They’re eighth in the league in rushing offense, but they’re third in rushing attempts. Jacksonville is one of just four teams who have run the ball more than 100 times. That’s 33 times a game and even though their average is mediocre at 3.7 yards a crack, they keep at it and they wear their opponents down.

The closer the Redskins come to evening up that time of possession the better their chances will be of pulling the upset (yes, the Redskins are a three-point dog at home). That means showing the same patience with the running game that the Jags have shown. It also means not prolonging Jacksonville’s possessions and shortening their own by creating a bunch of yellow laundry all over the field. They won’t be able to bail out of very many first and 20 or second and 15 situations like they could against Houston.

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Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Need to Know: Redskins’ Friday draft picks could be just as vital to success as first-rounder

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, April 23, four days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 10
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 31
—Training camp starts (7/27) 95
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 140

In search of someone, anyone, to stop the run

One of the areas the Redskins needed to improve last year was their rushing defense on first down. In 2015, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down. That was the worst performance in the league. It’s pretty tough to play defense when a handoff makes it second and five. The Saints, who had a historically bad defense that year, were second, fiving up 4.8 yards a pop.

Well, it was no better for the Redskins defense in 2016. Again, they gave up 5.0 yards per carry on first down, again the worst performance in the league.  Remember, this is on first down, when teams are most likely to run.

The Redskins’ problems on third down were well known. They were dead last in the league allowing first downs on 46.6 percent of third-down attempts. For context, an average performance on third down is allowing about 38 percent and the best teams are around 35 percent.

That doesn’t tell the whole story, however. The Redskins weren’t very good at getting teams to third down. They allowed first downs on 33.8 percent of their opponents’ second-down plays. That put them in the bottom third of the league. Again, you don’t have to look too hard to connect the dots to link that back to the five yards per rushing play on first down. Second and five is a piece of cake most of the time.

You don’t need an advanced degree in statistical analysis to figure out that the Redskins defense isn’t going to get much better if they can’t stop teams from running the ball on first down.

It’s easy to point to the defensive line, which has not been very good, and say that the problem is there. That certainly has something to do with it. But the Redskins didn’t have a very good D-line in 2014 and they allowed 4.1 yards per first-down rushing attempt, a performance that was right at the league average.

The factor that was common in 2015 and 2016 and was different in 2014 was the defensive coordinator. It’s possible that opposing teams found a flaw to exploit in Joe Barry’s scheme that wasn’t there in Jim Haslett’s (which surely had flaws in other places).

But X’s and O’s can only get you so far. The Redskins will be looking to take a defensive lineman early and perhaps use an additional pick or two at the position later in the draft. While getting one who can rush the passer would be a plus, they need a run stuffer who can take snaps on first down and bottle up the ground game.

The focus in the draft will be on the first-round pick but, as has been discussed here many times, that pick is unlikely to be a defensive lineman. There isn’t likely to be one at 17 who would represent good value. That could mean that the Redskins’ second- or third-round pick, perhaps an interior lineman like Caleb Brantley of Florida, Larry Ogunjobi of Charlotte, or Montravius Adams of Auburn, is just as important to the team’s success as the first-round pick.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Mock drafts, cap bargains

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 22, five days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 20
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 32
—Training camp starts (7/27) 96
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 141

The Redskins week that was

Redskins full 2017 schedule released—Even with the Caps and Wizards in full playoff mode, the DMV stops to take a look and see when the Redskins will be playing. The Thanksgiving game was surprising. It’s another working day but I worked at various places since I was 14 and last year was the first time I’ve had to work on Thanksgiving so I can’t complain too much about working two in a row. It’s a small price to pay for having the best job in the world.

Don't count out any RB for Redskins at 17—Yeah, I know that NFL teams aren’t supposed to take running backs in the first round any more. But that is one of those trends that comes and goes. In 2013 and 2014 there were no RBs taken in the first. Todd Gurley and Ezekiel Elliott in the last couple of years began to shift the thinking. If the Redskins think that Dalvin Cook or Christian McCaffrey can help them win games more than any other player on the board they should pull the trigger.

Rise of Patrick Mahomes could bring big payoff for Redskins—It seems likely that quarterbacks Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky will be taken before the Redskins pick at No. 17 goes on the clock. That means that two players in whom the Redskins might be interested will be available, pushed back by the quarter backs. Could Mahomes, out of Texas Tech, push a third player back to Washington. The buzz is that a team might grab him in the first half of the first round.

The Redskins' five best salary cap bargains for 2017—When I started pulling the numbers for this post I thought I’d find more key players with salaries of under $1 million. I only found three and one of them is the kicker. This means that they don’t have very many late-round or undrafted players who are contributing a lot of value. They need more out of players like Anthony Lanier, Matt Ioannidis and Maurice Harris. That is how a team thrives in the salary cap era. A couple of Saturday picks could make or break this draft.

Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often—There are a lot of ways the first 16 picks of this draft can work out. It seems almost certain that everyone’s favorite first-round pick, a stud defensive lineman, won’t be a realistic option on the board. This could send things in an odd direction for the Redskins. It’s fun to do a mock and I’ll do one or two more prior to draft day but there are too many variables to think that it has a high degree of accuracy. 

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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