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Welcome to football, 2015 Redskins style

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Welcome to football, 2015 Redskins style

If the Redskins play 15 more games like the one they played on Sunday against the Dolphins, much of what Scot McCloughan set out to accomplish since he got put in charge of rebuilding the team back in January will be in place.

McCloughan wanted to the offense to emphasize the running game. Against Miami ran the football early, often, and successfully. The numbers were 37 carries for 161 yards, a 4.4 per carry average. They ran the ball more often than that once last year, Jay Gruden’s first as head coach. That was in their blowout 41-10 win over the Jaguars then they had 42 rushing attempts. The most they ran the ball in a competitive game was 31 times in their 20-17 Monday night win over the Cowboys.

And it was Alfred Morris, the back who was the recipient of a frequent and lavish praise by Gruden, getting the job done. He had 25 carries for 121 yards, a solid 4.8 average. And when he took a rest, Matt Jones stepped in and averaged 4.7 a pop with 28 yards on six carries.

McCloughan also set to rebuild the Redskins’ offensive line, starting the process by drafting Brandon Scherff fifth overall. Ndamukong Suh was lined up against Scherff most of the day and Suh had two tackles, zero sacks. While we’re at it, for one game Morgan Moses justified the faith shown in him by making him the starting right tackle a week into camp by keeping end Cameron Wake off of the stat sheet entirely.

In the big picture, in addition to the 4.8 average per rush, the Dolphins sacked Kirk Cousins just once. A good first effort against one of the NFL’s best defensive fronts.

Speaking of defensive fronts, the Redskins’ front seven looked good, certainly better than Miami’s heralded group. The Dolphins rushed for just 74 yards including only two in the first half. Running back Lamar Miller, who averaged 5.1 yards per carry last year, averaged 4.1 on 13 attempts. He had consecutive runs of 12 and 17 yards in the third quarter. Absent that burst he was held to 2.2 yards a pop.

Preston Smith made a big play that could have been a huge play, sacking and stripping Ryan Tannehill and then hustling about 30 yards to recover the fumble. The turnover took away a field goal chance for the Dolphins—the line of scrimmage was the Washington 22—but Cousins and company went three and out from the Miami 40.

Finally, McCloughan wants the Redskins to be physically tough. The good play up front on both sides of the ball shows that that is off to a good start. The defense delivered a number of solid hits. On offense, Pierre Garçon and Jones were particularly physical in their play.

But the problem is that this style of play does not leave much of a margin for error. The offense needs to take that Smith fumble recovery and get at least three points out of it, if not seven. Chris Culliver needs to get that third-quarter interception that may have been a pick six and was at least a first down well in the red zone. Kai Forbath can’t go wide right on a 46-yard field goal attempt. The team can’t draw 11 penalty flags for 88 yards. Cousins can’t throw two interceptions. And, most importantly, the special teams can’t continue the problems of the last two seasons by allowing a game-winning 69-yard punt return.

McCloughan knew that all of the Redskins’ problems were not going to be fixed in one offseason. In talking about what he wanted to accomplish this year he made sure to emphasize that a certain number of wins was not on his list. This could mean more close, “shoulda-woulda-coulda” losses are on the horizon.

In fact, until the Redskins can reduce the mistakes and make some key plays in clutch situations, it almost guarantees them.

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Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Need to Know: Did the Redskins underachieve in 2016?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, January 18, 99 days before the NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:
NFL franchise tag deadline 43
NFL free agency starts 51
First Sunday of 2017 season 236

The coordinator search and more

Did the Redskins underachieve this year? I know that a metric like Football Outsiders' DVOA is not the final word in the quality of a team but looking at it year after year it usually does work out that the teams with the better numbers in DVOA usually win more games than those with worse numbers. The Redskins finished 2016 eighth in DVOA. Considering that 12 teams make the playoffs, that could be considered a playoff quality team. Yet 15 teams finished with a better record than they did. I’m sure there are some holes in the formula for the stat but just looking at that it sure appears that the Redskins did leave some wins out on the field.

John Keim is reporting that the Redskins are prepared to switch to a 4-3 defense if that is what their new defensive coordinator prefers. They have been in the 3-4 since Mike Shanahan arrived in 2010. Whether it is because of the scheme or lack of draft and free agent resources spent on the line and at safety, the defense hasn’t been very good. As Keim notes, they will need to make some personnel changes if they do change but with a full load of draft picks and $62 million in cap space this may be the time to do it.

I expected the angst that was all over Twitter when word of the Rob Ryan interview got out. But it’s pretty dumb to get all worked up over an interview (with all due respect to readers here who may have been upset). It’s not a hiring. Look, somehow or another Ryan managed to stay employed as an NFL defensive coordinator for 12 straight seasons. I don’t know how to research it without going through some very time consuming and tedious steps but I’d be willing to bet that only about a few dozen men in the history of the league have been able to remain a defensive coordinator for that many season in a row. The organization can learn something from sitting down and talking to him for a few hours.

I understand that we want things to talk about in a relatively slow time. But I just don’t see why there is fear out there over the possibility that Kyle Shanahan will get hired as the coach of the 49ers and somehow steal Kirk Cousins away to be his quarterback. The Redskins can maintain his rights via the franchise tag. They could tag Cousins and trade him to the 49ers but there would be a heavy price in terms of draft picks. But while it’s possible, it’s unlikely. The chances are very, very good that Cousins will be in a Redskins uniform this year via either the tag or a long-term deal. 

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page www.Facebook.com/RealRedskins and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

#RedskinsTalk Podcast Episode 40 - Seriously, when will the Redskins pick a coordinator?

As the Redskins settle into the offseason without both an offensive and defensive coordinator, JP Finlay and Rich Tandler debate who will get the jobs, and when they will be announced. 

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