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Need to Know: The running game is the key to the Redskins getting back on track

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Need to Know: The running game is the key to the Redskins getting back on track

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 1, four days before the Washington Redskins go to Seattle to play the Seahawks.


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

Days until:

—Vikings @ Redskins (11/12) 11
—Redskins @ Saints (11/9) 18
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 22

Ground game needs to get going for the Redskins to win

Against the Cowboys, for the second straight game, the Redskins made their ground game an afterthought. And for the second straight game, they lost.

Against the Eagles last week, they had 18 rushing attempts for 75 yards. And on Sunday against the Cowboys, they ran the ball just 15 times for 49 yards, an average of 3.3 yards per carry. Starting running back Rob Kelley had eight carries for 19 yards while Chris Thompson had four for 18.

Doing the math, that is a total of 33 rushing attempts in two weeks. In perhaps their best game of the season, against the Rams in Week 2, they ran 39 times. If the win in LA wasn’t their best of the season, then it was the following week against the Raiders when they ran 34 times.

Neither of the last two games ever got to the point where the run game had to be abandoned except for a few stretches here and there. To be sure, there were some reasons in each game for the Redskins to not try to hand the ball off 30 times. The Eagles run a Wide 9 defensive set that is hard to run against; they are the NFL’s leading rushing defense. And against the Cowboys the Redskins were working without three of their five starting offensive linemen, making it difficult to do much in the way of intricate run blocking.

That’s all well and good. But under Jay Gruden, the Redskins are now 3-21 in games where the run for fewer than 90 yards. Until they find a way to run when other teams are lined up to stop it or learn to win games when they can’t run the ball, the Redskins will continue to struggle to become a consistent playoff contender.

The Redskins may have an opportunity to run the ball this week in Seattle. Their defense is not as stout as it once was. They are 20th in rushing yards allowed per game. They have allowed over 80 yards on the ground in six of their seven games and 140 or more three times.

To be sure, the success of the running game may hinge on the health of the offensive line. But dropping back to pass 42 times like the Redskins did against Dallas isn’t exactly a formula for success

Note: I tweeted out the 3-21 stat a couple of days ago. I got some pushback saying that the stat is often misleading because it can confuse cause and effect. Teams with the lead late in the game will run the ball to try to kill the clock. Yes, that dynamic may be in effect for the Redskins sometimes. But it helps a lot for the Redskins to get started on the ground early. Since the start of the 2015 season, they are 7-13 in games where they don’t have at least 45 yards rushing by halftime. In that time span, they are 7-2 in games where they have at least 75 yards rushing at halftime. So, getting the rushing game going early and often is their recipe for success.

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

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 


The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.


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Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Need to Know: Redskins' Junior Galette will be a valued free agent

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, February 20, 22 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Galette to be a valued free agent

Originally published 12/13/17

Like the Redskins, the Broncos are no longer relevant in 2017. Both teams’ fan bases have started to look towards the coming offseason.

To give their readers what they want, the Denver Post published an article by Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus that discussed some of the top pending free agents who have done the most to increase their values in the past year. There were two Redskins named, one you would expect to see on such a list and one that might surprise some people.

Kirk Cousins is at the top of the list. “The Washington signal-caller is grading as a top-10 quarterback (82.8), and soon he’ll have the long-term contract of one,” Renner wrote. “Only this time its value will be exponentially higher than any one he would have signed back when he first became a free agent in 2016.”

But the surprising name is that of Junior Galette. After missing the last two seasons with two torn Achilles tendons, he played this year on a one-year, $800,000 deal. And while he hasn’t been on fire in the sack department with just two on the year, he has been getting pressure on the passer.

“He’s accumulated the 27th-highest pass-rushing grade of any edge defender this season, but in only 264 snaps,” wrote Renner. “At 29 years of age, it’s doubtful he ever gets back to the level of the contract that he once had on the table with New Orleans. With how he’s played this season though, some pass-rush-needy team will pay handsomely for his services.”

One team that could be considered to be pass rush needy is the Redskins. Preston Smith is the starter and supposedly one of the Redskins’ top pass rushers. But in 100 fewer pass rush snaps this year, Galette has only three fewer quarterback hits than Smith and six more hurries.

And after missing those two seasons, Galette has remained healthy. Although he was limited with a hamstring during much of the preseason, he has not missed a practice or appeared on an injury report this year.

But would the Redskins be willing to pay him “handsomely”? Perhaps a good comp would be Connor Barwin, who moved from the Eagles to the Rams this past offseason at the age of 31. He had five sacks in Philly in 2016. That got him a one-year deal worth $3.5 million.

Barwin likely will have more sacks on his ledger going into free agency so let’s say Galette could command around $3 million. Perhaps he could offer Washington a bit of a hometown discount and agree to something in the $2.75 million range. If that is the case, the Redskins would be smart to keep him around for another year.

Plenty of things could alter the equation. If Galette gets hot in the last three games and posts a few more sacks his price could rise. With Smith and Ryan Kerrigan both back next year, perhaps Galette will want to go somewhere that he might get more playing time.

The details need to be sorted out but don’t be surprised if Galette gets a lot of attention in free agency, as much as teams need pass rush, and if the Redskins have to make a very tough decision about how much he is worth.

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


Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 9
—NFL Draft (4/26) 65
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 201