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Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Strategery

Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Strategery

Michael Wilbon may be a Bears fan but he does know football and the Redskins pretty well. He hit it right on the money in his column on Monday morning:
They should have been doing this all along. The Washington Redskins should have committed to pounding people with their running game from Week 1. Throwing is nice if you've got Peyton Manning tossing it to Marvin Harrison or Carson Palmer pitching it to Chad Johnson. But when your starting linemen are from the likes of Michigan, Auburn, Texas and Wisconsin and when your $50 million running back stands on the sideline pestering the coaches for more carries, it's clear the personality of the team is screaming, "Let us run !"
The long bomb, which was supposed to be the new thrust of the offense going in to the season, certainly has its appeal. It's quick it's easy, you really don't have to work for your seven points. It fits with the instant-gratification tone of our current society. It became even more appealing after Mark Brunell unloaded a pair of them to Santana Moss in Dallas and the Redskins got a win after having been outplayed for 55 minutes.

After that, however, the long pass became more of a novelty. Much of the passing yardage came on yards after the catch by the likes of Moss. Although the passes weren't long in distance they were high in number compared to runs. Against Denver Joe Gibbs called 57 passes and 22 runs (note that sacks and Brunell runs are counted as passing plays as that was the play call). In that case, the Redskins did trail by 11 midway through the third quarter so there was some reason to throw more, although Clinton Portis was having a good day against his old team, gaining 100 yards on 20 carries. It was the next week in KC that many started to question the play calling. In a game that never had more than a seven-point spread in the score, there were 47 pass plays called to 28 runs.

It was during the November three-game losing streak, all agonizing, close losses, that the play calling really came into question. Yes they did have to play catch up against Tampa Bay for part of the game but Clinton Portis had 107 yards on 12 carries in the first half but after the Redskins tied the game at 21 early in the third quarter he got only eight more carries.
The term “abandon the run” was thrown around even more after the next game. With Washington up 13-3 at the half, Portis had 17 carries for 70 yards. Portis got five carries for 22 yards in the second half as the lead slipped away and the Redskins lost.

It was against the Chargers that Gibbs decided that if this team was going to turn it around it would be doing so via the ground game. For the first time all year Portis had more rushing attempts than Brunell had passing attempts. It almost worked, but they couldn't get some clock-killing first downs when they needed them and they couldn't hold the best running back in the game down for all four quarters.

Against the Rams the game plan was in full throwback mode with a ratio of runs to pass of nearly two to one. Certainly, the game plan was influenced by the fact that the Rams have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL but the Chargers have one of the best so it's apparent that it wasn't merely a case of taking what the defense gives them. It was an attempt to establish an offensive identity.

Wilbon asks why it took three-fourths of a season to establish such an identity:
If the linemen wanted to run all along and there are three quality running backs to carry the ball, why did it take until the 12th game of a 16-game season to get with the program, to commit completely and totally to the run?

"What lessons do we ever learn early?" Jansen asked with a smile. "With the defense we have, we should be able to do this every week. That has to be the personality of the offense. "
The view here is that rushing attempts will be in the thirties and passes in the teens against Arizona and perhaps even against Dallas. While the Cowboys are in the top 10 in total rushing defense, they are 25th in average yards per carry, giving up 4.2 per rushing attempt. Against the Giants a more diverse offense will be a necessity, but that's a few weeks away. If the run is firmly established by then, the passing game will come.

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You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

You probably don't realize how effective Kirk Cousins is as a runner

Back at the 2012 NFL Combine, Kirk Cousins ran his 40-yard dash in 4.84 seconds.

Now, as far as QB 40-yard dashes go, that's not a bad number at all, but it's definitely not blazing, either. Defensive lineman Fletcher Cox, for example, ran his in 4.77 seconds that same year (while weighing 84 pounds heavier than the Michigan State signal caller), and 13 out of the 20 passers invited to the event topped Cousins' time.

That, plus the facts that Cousins isn't physically imposing and he clearly prefers to operate within the safe confines of the pocket, would lead you to believe that he's not much of a threat as a runner. But a stat — and this stat is far from an advanced one or a hidden one — indicates otherwise.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER ON SOME KEY KIRK COUSINS STATS

Over the last two seasons, Cousins has the third-most rushing touchdowns amongst quarterbacks. Cam Newton has 15 (not surprising), Tyrod Taylor checks in with 10 (also not surprising), and then there's Cousins, who rushed for nine scores in 2015 and 2016, which is good enough for a bronze medal on this particular podium (that's quite surprising).

Washington's starter has actually found the end zone with his legs more than peers like Andy Dalton (7), Alex Smith (7) and Aaron Rodgers (5) since taking over the primary gig in D.C., and all of those guys have reputations as runners that exceed Cousins'.

In fact, no one on the Burgundy and Gold has crossed the goal line as a ball-carrier more than the 28-year-old in the past 32 contests; Rob Kelley and Matt Jones are both three short of the man who lines up in front of them on Sundays.

Of course, Cousins isn't going to flatten defenders like Newton does, and he won't run around them like Taylor does. He also won't rip off big-gainers down the sideline when opposing team turns their back on him in man coverage.

But as the following highlights show, he hasn't just cashed in on one-yard sneaks the last couple of seasons, either:

All three of those plays were designed runs, and Cousins, while not exactly resembling Madden 2004 Michael Vickexecuted them perfectly. He doesn't really rack up yards — the numbers vary depending on which site you use, but the consensus is he's picked up about 150 total since 2015 — but Jay Gruden and Co. have developed a tremendous feel of when to use Cousins' feet instead of his arm in the red zone.

Sure, he's not going to show up on your Twitter timeline juking out a corner, and he won't scamper for much more than 10 yards at a time. But in a few games in 2017, Kirk Cousins is going to finish a drive with an impressive touchdown run instead of a throw, and that might shock you — even though it really shouldn't.

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Cousins talk, back end of D

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, July 22, five days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 202 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 50 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 19
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 28
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 42

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics from the past week on www.CSNmidatlantic.com and on www.RealRedskins.com.

What would a fair Redskins contract offer to Kirk Cousins look like?  As it turns out, the offer the Redskins made fell below “fair” territory. But perhaps they recognized that a deal never was going to get done, not this year anyway. Cousins is content to see things unfold in 2017 and decide on a longer-term destination next year. So, the team’s offer was not high enough but there really wasn’t an offer that was going to be sufficient.

Cousins explains why he's not offended by Redskins statement—Bruce Allen raised plenty of eyebrows by detailing some of the team’s contract offer in a statement. Clearly the intent of the statement, which revealed some details that weren’t very impressive under closer inspection, was designed to turn public opinion in their favor. Cousins, appearing on the radio the next day, didn’t have a problem with it and said that Allen had told him that he would do it. As expected, plenty of fans and media types decided to be outraged in his place.

Redskins have plenty of 2018 cap room for possible Kirk Cousins offer—With the focus turning to 2018, the fact that the team will have about $60 million in cap space becomes relevant. It’s enough to give him the $35 million franchise tag and perhaps enough to match a front-loaded offer sheet if the Redskins use the transition tag. But the cautionary word is that they have at least a dozen starters and key contributors who also are set to be free agents next year. They will have to find money for them or their replacements somewhere.

Redskins depth chart preview--Safety—Cousins talk dominated the week but other topics did draw plenty of interest. The back end of the defense, with Su’a Cravens converting from linebacker and free agent D. J. Swearinger moving from being mostly a strong safety to playing free, will be under the microscope this year. Whether the defense gets better may hinge on the safety position. 

11 predictions for the 2017 Redskins offense—Does Trent Williams make the All-Pro team? How many yards for Rob Kelley? One prediction for each projected offensive starter here including how many non-receiving touchdowns for Jamison Crowder.

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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