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Tandler's Redskins Blog Ver. 12.08.06--Mike Wilbon is one of the most respected columnists out there but he's going to lose his reputation if he continues the shallow, vapid analysis he cranked out in his article today.

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Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Mike Wilbon. He is one of the most reasonable, knowledgeable, and respected newspaper columnists in the business. Rarely does he say or write something outrageous just for the sake of doing so or ask a question of a coach or athlete that is carefully crafted to draw attention to himself. This sets him apart from many of his brethren who have also become print/ESPN hybrids.

That’s why I was disappointed in his effort in today’s Post. Not that I disagree with his main thesis, that the Redskins desperately need a personnel manager who isn’t wearing a whistle. That is becoming more and more obvious every play that T. J. Duckett and Adam Archuleta watch. No, there were two points that he made that need to be examined here. First there was this one:

Look no further than the Redskins' loss to Atlanta four days ago. Okay, neophyte quarterback Jason Campbell certainly didn't have a good day. He played like what he is essentially -- a rookie. But Campbell was nowhere near as incompetent as his coaches on Sunday. How, in good conscience, could Al Saunders or Gibbs (and whoever else might have called plays) allow a kid making his third NFL start to throw 38 passes? Coaches talk all the time about how they must put players in position to do well. How does asking a newborn quarterback to throw 38 times work to his advantage?

Too busy traveling to the Monday night game city to do PTI or to wherever you’re doing the NBA pregame from, Mike, to do any more analysis of the Redskins game than to take a cursory glance at the final stats? If Wilbon had just taken a moment to pull up the Gamebook he could have figured out, just as I did, that in the first half when the Redskins had their 14-0 lead, Campbell threw 11 passes. In the third quarter, as the Redskins fell behind by three, the pace of passes increased slightly as Campbell threw seven times. Even after Atlanta took a 10-point lead with 12:26 to play Saunders tried not to place the entire game on Campbell’s shoulders. On the ensuing series Saunders called Ladell Betts’ number three times before calling for Campbell to throw. His third and two pass was incomplete. If anything, one might be tempted to call that series too conservative.

It was only after the Redskins regained possession with 6:22 left trailing by 10 that Campbell passes started to fill the air. In two futile attempts to score to try to pull the game out, Campbell threw 19 passes, exactly half of his total for the game. I don’t think that any reasonable person would conclude that Saunders was in a position where he had to call passes on virtually every single play. The game situation greatly inflated Campbell’s pass attempts. Anyone who was paying attention should know this and acknowledge it before taking potshots at the play calling.

And then, along those same lines, there’s this:

The Saunders experiment should be about over now. Twelve games of disaster isn't enough?

Mind you, Wilbon says this after stating that, “Any routine examination of the Redskins now reveals a team that constantly (and unsuccessfully) tries to remake itself. . .” in the second paragraph of the column. So since they try to remake themselves too often and that damages the team they should remake themselves again and get rid of Saunders? Again, he’s probably too busy to look it up but one can easily discover that the Chiefs’ offense struggled in Saunders’ first season calling the plays in Kansas City. I suppose that Wilbon would have had Dick Vermeil pull the plug on Saunders three quarters of the way through that season, too. Of course, once the Chiefs got things figured out they became the NFL’s most prolific offense for the next four seasons.

Let’s look at it this way—is it better to have Jason Campbell pass 19 times in the last six minutes of a game that this team is trailing by 10 points or to have him learning his seventh new offense in the past seven seasons.

Such "analysis" is more worthy of Wilbon’s vapid PTI and Washington Post sidekick that it is of a Pro Football Hall of Fame elector. Perhaps if he’s too busy to do the kind of in-depth analysis he needs to do in order to maintain his top-notch reputation he needs to hire a research assistant. I’m available, for the right price.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

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Need to Know: Could Ty Nsekhe be the Redskins' answer at left guard?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, February 19, 23 days before NFL free agency starts.

Monday musings

—One possible solution to the left guard spot is perhaps being overlooked. Ty Nsekhe played there some last year, starting the game in Dallas and playing there until Morgan Moses got injured, forcing him to move to right tackle. Nsekhe is slated to be a restricted free agent but his return is likely. In December I asked Jay Gruden if Nsekhe might move to guard in 2018. “I think Ty is a big man and a very good tackle, but in the offseason when we have more time, maybe we can feature him at some guard when we’ve got all our guys back,” he said. “Feature him some” doesn’t mean that they will make him a starter; perhaps they want him to be the top option to fill in at four of the five OL positions. But it’s something to keep an eye on if they don’t land a left guard solution in free agency or the draft.

—When I posted about Albert Breer’s report that Kirk Cousins would file a grievance if the Redskins put the franchise tag on him in an effort to trade him, I pulled up a copy of the CBA to see the language on which Cousins could base his case. I read through the Article 10, which deals with the franchise tag twice and I saw nothing of it. But Mike Florio found it in Article 4, the one that deals with player contracts. “A Club extending a Required Tender must, for so long as that Tender is extended, have a good faith intention to employ the player receiving the Tender at the Tender compensation level during the upcoming season.” Since the Redskins clearly have no intention of employing Cousins after the Alex Smith trade, this seems to be a fairly simple case. In reality, it never is.

—I tweeted this last week:

However, possible cap casualties from other teams are not included in that group. That won’t turn the pool of players who will become available to sign into a bunch of potential franchise changers. Still, there could be a number of players in whom the Redskins could be interested in like RB DeMarco Murray, WRs Emmanuel Sanders and Torrey Smith, edge rusher Elvis Dumervil, and DL Brandon Mebane. A plus to signing players who have been waived is that they don’t count in the formula that determines compensatory draft picks. The Redskins have never really paid attention to that in the past but with potential high comp picks at stake if they lose both Kirk Cousins and Bashaud Breeland, this could be a good year to start.

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) 10
—NFL Draft (4/26) 66
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 202

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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.