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Is a better red zone running game the solution to the Redskins’ scoring woes?

Is a better red zone running game the solution to the Redskins’ scoring woes?

The Redskins moved up and down the field a lot in 2016 but too many of their drives did not end in touchdowns.

When I posted about this last week, the number that struck me was that the Atlanta Falcons gained 199 more yards than the Redskins, but scored 157 more points than Washington.

Since we’re talking about offense, it should be noted that the Falcons did rack up five return touchdowns while the Redskins had just one. Still, Matt Ryan and company scored 58 offensive touchdowns and Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to just 42.

The Redskins’ offensive touchdown output was better than the NFL average of 38.4 but not by much.

RELATED: The Redskins week that was--Cousins' contract, under the radar players

The team’s well-documented red zone issues were certainly part of the problem. They got into the end zone on 28 of their 61 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That comes to 45.9 percent, 26th in the league.

The Redskins believe that they addressed the problem in the offseason, signing the 6-4 Terrelle Pryor and 6-3 Brian Quick to the team with holdovers Josh Doctson (6-2) and Maurice Harris (6-3) to give Cousins bigger targets in the crowded red zone environment.

There are some who think that the Redskins need to improve their running game to punch the ball into the end zone from inside the 20. But the numbers say that the Redskins ran the ball effectively in the red zone.

They ran 62 times for an average of 2.8 yards per attempt in the red zone last year. The attempts match the NFL average and the league gained 2.5 yards per carry.

It’s difficult for the “pound the rock” advocate to complain about the Redskins’ play selection, either. They ran on 61.3 percent of their first down red-zone plays compared to the league average of 52.7 percent.

MORE REDSKINS: Will the train stay on the tracks at Redskins Park? 

Perhaps the Redskins would like to get a little more out of starting running back Rob Kelley in the red zone. He had 32 of the team’s 62 red zone rushing attempts and he averaged 2.4 yards per attempt. Of those attempts, 11, nearly a third, went for one yard, no gain, or a loss.

Kelley will work on learning how to run in the tight spaces inside the 20. Perhaps fourth-round pick Samaje Perine can help there, too.

But the real weakness in the red zone was the passing game. On plays that started outside of the red zone, Cousins had a passer rating of 96.3, much better than the overall NFL rating of 83.2.

Inside the 20, however, the numbers flip. Cousins’ passer rating dropped to 84.6 in close while the NFL averaged went up to 94.7.

It should be noted that Cousins had a passer rating of 113.5 in the red zone in 2015 with essentially the same group of receivers he had last year so he can produce there.

I’ll also point out that the Redskins played eight games the top 12 teams in terms of red zone defense so perhaps there should be a return to the norm this season.

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 @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency


In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."


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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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