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What to watch for: Redskins turn to short passing game instead of runs

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What to watch for: Redskins turn to short passing game instead of runs

The Redskins ran the ball 37 times against the Dolphins, the most they had run the ball during a competitive game during the Jay Gruden era (they did run 42 times during the blowout of the Jaguars in Week 2 last year). But only 11 of those rushing attempts came in the second half with the game within one score the entire time. That drew some fire from fans saying that Gruden abandoned the running game, which was working very well, with Alfred Morris rolling for 4.8 yards per run.

But CBS put up an interesting graphic during the fourth quarter charting Kirk Cousins’ 10 passing attempts starting with the four-yard touchdown pass to Jordan Reed just after the two-minute warning. Here it is:

Note the emphasis on the short passing game. If the defense is expecting you to run the ball, the normal way to counter this in a West Coast offense is to go to the short passing game. After Morris’ first carry of the second half went for minus-2 yards, Gruden tried the short passing game some. Short passes to fullback Darrel Young and wide receiver Jamison Crowder gained nothing and the Redskins punted.

The next possession it was short left to receiver Pierre Garçon for six and then Cousins hit Reed for the 25. An attempted screen to tight end Derek Carrier lost a yard, then a series of penalties pushed the Redskins out of field goal range.

The Redskins ran three times on their next possession, which was marred by penalties. The ensuing punt was the one that Jarvis Landry took to the house and the Redskins trailed the rest of the way.

They ran once in their first possession after the punt return and also tried a lateral to Andre Roberts, who misplayed the ball. That resulted in a fumble charged to Cousins that fortunately went out of bounds.

In their final series, the Redskins ran three of the nine plays with Morris gaining seven and 13 yards on the first two carries. But when he was caught for a loss of one on first down from the Miami 23 with three minutes left, the running game was pretty much out of the picture.

I have said that the Redskins probably should have run the ball more often in the second half. But note that some passes can have the same effect as runs and they are used as a change of pace. That’s what Gruden did here and it likely will be part of the game plan all year long.

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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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In case you missed it

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Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

Kirk Cousins shows off competitive spirit, soft touch - at Jenga (VIDEO)

After NFL minicamps end in mid-June, and before the grind of training camps start in late July, players are free to have a little bit of fun and try to relax. For Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins that evidently means a game of Jenga.

Fun at Kirk's 10 year high school reunion!!!

A post shared by Julie Cousins (@juliehcousins) on

The video comes from Cousins' wife Julie, and the caption explains that the couple were attending the quarterback's 10-year high school reunion. Looks like a fun scene, and the Michigan waterfront looks even better.

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

For anybody that has watched Cousins on the practice field or listened to him mic'd up during a Redskins game, the competitive outburst is no surprise. Cousins likes to win, period. Even at life-size Jenga during his 10-year high school reunion. 

Obviously, contract talks between Cousins' representatives and the Redskins continue, and likely will until the July 17th franchise tag deadline. Last season, Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 passing yards, completing 67 percent of his passes to go with 25 TDs and 12 INTs. He's allowed to have a little fun here and there.

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