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Need to Know: Redskins' offense is having third-down issues

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Need to Know: Redskins' offense is having third-down issues

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, December 13, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Cardinals at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and open locker room after practice, approx. 3 p.m.

Days until:

—Broncos @ Redskins Christmas Eve (12/24) 11
—Redskins @ Giants (12/17) 18
—NFL Draft (4/26/18) 134

Redskins trade one problem for another

Just when it seems the Redskins have a handle on one problem on offense, they have lost their grip on another.

Last year, their red zone offense left a lot to be desired. They scored touchdowns 45.9% of the time they had possession inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. That was 29th in the NFL. This year they have solved that problem, scoring touchdowns on 57.9% of their red zone trips, a respectable 11th in the league.

But now, they have another, perhaps more serious problem. Last year, the Redskins converted 45.2% of their third-downs. This year, that is down to 34.9%, 27th in the league.

If you take a closer look you will find that, as is often the case, problems on third down stem from issues on first and second down. When the Redskins were humming along on third down last year their average distance to go for a first was 6.4 yards. This year they average 7.3 yards to go. That extra yard to go makes a difference.

On third down the focus usually goes to the quarterback. This year, Kirk Cousins’ performance hasn’t been significantly different this year from what it was last year. On third down in 2016, he completed 61 percent of this passes with 9 touchdowns, 4 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.0. This year the line is 60.6/9/4/93.5. He was a little better last year but that doesn’t account for the drop.

One area that has hurt the Redskins is that their third-down rushing effectiveness has dropped. Last year they got first downs on 74% of their third-down runs. This year that has plummeted to 46.7%.

It might be easy to point the finger at the injuries on the offensive line to explain this, but they only converted on 50% of their third-down rushing attempts in the first five games of the season, when the line was mostly healthy.

One area that has not hurt them directly is third-downs sacks. The Redskins gave up 12 of them last year and they are on pace to give up the same number in 2017. That doesn't mean that pass protection is not an issue. In 13 games this year they have given up 14 more sacks (37) than they did in all of 2016 (23). That certainly contributes to the offensive have further to go on average third down plays this year. 

Regardless of the reason, it’s been a problem all year and it has gotten worse lately. As they have lost five of their last six games, they have gone 21 of 67 on third downs, a 31.3% conversion rate.

To put the Redskins’ season in perspective, they have only converted at a rate of 45%, their success rate for all of 2016, in two games this year.

This past offseason the Redskins organization set out to try to fix the red zone problem and even though they could do better they have made a lot of progress. They will need place similar attention to third downs this year (and hope that they can maintain the progress they made in the red zone.

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

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Need to Know: Five possible Redskins free agent targets

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Need to Know: Five possible Redskins free agent targets

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 18, 55 days before NFL free agency starts.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL franchise tag deadline (3/6) 47
—NFL Draft (4/26) 98
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 234

Five possible Redskins free agent signings

Yesterday, we took an early look at how the Redskins might improve themselves in the first round of the draft. Free agency is just 55 days away so let’s look at five possible Redskins premium free agent signings.

QB Teddy Bridgewater (Vikings)—The Vikings have one of those “good problems to have” at quarterback. If Case Keenum leads them to the Super Bowl, they might have to hold on to him and let the 25-year-old former first-round pick walk. He didn’t put up huge numbers in his two years as the starter but the Vikings didn’t ask him to do much. He’s a pocket passer with mobility and it would be interesting to see what Jay Gruden could do with him. The devastating knee injury that cost him most of the last two seasons is, of course, a major concern and it would have to be examined closely before any major commitment.

WR Jordan Matthews (Bills)—He struggled some in 2017 after the Bills acquired him from the Eagles. He spent the last five games on injured reserve with a knee injury. But when he was healthy for his first three seasons with the Eagles, he averaged 75 receptions for almost 900 yards and six touchdowns per season. The injury could help the Redskins get a quality receiver at a discounted price.

G Jonathan Cooper (Cowboys)—The seventh overall pick of the 2013 draft has had problems getting a foothold in the NFL. He has spent two years with the Cardinals and two in Dallas. Injuries have hurt him as well. But he is young (27) and if he’s healthy he could be a good alternative to some of the more expensive options to fill the left guard spot.

DL Bennie Logan (Chiefs)—The Redskins wanted to sign him away from the Eagles a year ago but they couldn’t get a deal done. Logan went to the Chiefs on a one-year deal so he’s set to be a free agent again at age 28. He’s just the sort of nose tackle that Jim Tomsula likes (more athletic than heavy) and he could play on other downs as well. The Redskins have the same hole at nose tackle that they had a year ago and making another run at Logan is a no-brainer.

ILB Jon Bostic (Colts)—Logan was a second-round pick of the Bears in 2013 and if he signs with a new team in 2018 it will be his fourth in six NFL seasons. He is more solid than spectacular but the Redskins might just need someone who can play if they lose Zach Brown and/or Mason Foster and Will Compton to free agency.

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

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Zach Brown's Twitter frustration not aimed at Redskins, per source

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Zach Brown's Twitter frustration not aimed at Redskins, per source

Redskins fans desperately want Zach Brown back on the roster for the 2018 season, and a Wednesday morning tweet made many Washington fans freak out when the linebacker posted, "I guess the respect level is still low..."

Don't freak out Redskin fans.

The tweet has nothing to do with contract negotiations between Brown and the Redskins, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

Instead, this is about a recent addition to the Pro Bowl. 

MORE: FIVE POTENTIAL FIRST-ROUND PICKS

Tuesday night, the NFL announced Falcons linebacker Deion Jones would replace injured Panthers LB Luke Kuechly in the Pro Bowl. 

Brown made the Pro Bowl in 2016 playing with the Bills, and during Pro Bowl voting earlier this season his Twitter feed had many messages supporting a second straight trip. 

Jones had a strong season for a good Falcons defense, but he finished with just 11 more tackles than Brown despite playing in three more games.

In fact, Brown was the leading tackler in the NFL before missing the final three games of the season with a litany of injuries. Remarkably, Brown kept the NFL tackle lead after he missed Week 15, though the rest of the leauge caught up to him by Week 16. Playing in only 13 games, Brown still finished ninth in the NFL in tackles, and also added 2.5 sacks. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!