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Torain could face old team

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Torain could face old team

The Redskins may or may not see a familiar face when they take on the Giants on Monday night.

The Giants were short at running back with Andre Brown out with a broken leg and so they signed Ryan Torain to a contract.

Torain was the Redskins’ leading rusher in 2010 with 742 yards on 164 carries. He was just 24 and, more importantly, he had only 15 NFL carries’ worth of wear and tear on his body when he came to the Redskins as a free agent. It looked like the Redskins were set at the position for the next few years.

But apparently Mike Shanahan didn’t think so. He drafted two running backs, Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster, in the 2011 draft and traded for Cardinals running back Tim Hightower just as training camp started.

Torain didn’t help himself by suffering a broken hand in non-contact work early in camp. That sidelined him for most of August and bolstered his reputation for being injury prone. By the time he was well enough to play, Hightower was established as the starter.

Torain got his first carries of the season in the Redskins’ fourth game of the season and he made the most of it as he picked up 135 yards on 19 carries. But even after Hightower was lost for the season with a knee injury, rookies Helu and Royster got most of the carries. Torain didn’t gain more than 22 yards rushing in a game the rest of the year and he was released just before the end of the season.

Torain’s phone didn’t ring as teams went through OTA’s, minicamps, and training camp. He finally landed with a team this week when the Giants tried him out and then signed him after Brown’s injury.

“I was kind of really surprised that he was on the street as long as he was,” said Mike Shanahan. “I think the one thing he’s going to look for, is a guy that can make people miss, a guy that can carry the football and he’s a great kid.”

Torain was confident that he would eventually get another chance. “[I] just had to be patient with it at home and stay focused,” he said.

He spent two seasons with Mike and Kyle Shanahan in Washington and spent his rookie year with Mike in Denver after he was a fifth-round pick of the Broncos in 2008 so he normally might be expected to provide some inside information on the Redskins’ offense to his new team.

However, the Redskins’ offense in 2012 has been so radically revamped to take advantage of the unique skills of Robert Griffin III that it bears only some resemblance to the scheme in which Torain worked.

“No,” said Torain when asked about the possibility of him giving tips on the Washington offense. “We all watch film. We all see what they can do.”

There is a distinct possibility that Torain will be watching the game from the sidelines. Brown played special teams for the Giants while Torain does not. Kregg Lumpkin, the other running back the Giants signed in the wake of Brown’s injury, does play teams. So, if they only keep three running backs active, the third back behind Ahmad Bradshaw and David Wilson is likely to be Lumpkin.

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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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