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Fixing offensive red zone woes critical for 2017 Redskins

Fixing offensive red zone woes critical for 2017 Redskins

Yesterday, I took a broad look at the three areas that Jay Gruden said that his team was “terrible” in during the 2016 season, issues that cost the team a chance at the playoffs.

Today I’ll take a closer look at one of those areas, the struggles the offense had in the red zone.

The 2016 Redskins moved the ball up and down the field.

They were third in the NFL with a team-record 6,454 yards of offense. But they did not put points on the board to match their impressive yardage total. They were 12th in scoring, putting up just 396 points.


There are many reasons why the Redskins’ point total was not in the same league as their yardage total but primary among them is their lack of productivity in the red zone. They had 61 drives with at least one snap inside the oppositions’ 20 yard line. They scored 28 touchdowns on those drives. That comes to a 45.9 percent success rate, 29th in the NFL.

It’s difficult to quantify what those problems cost the Redskins in terms of points and wins. But we can take a stab at it anyway.

Let’s say that their red zone efficiency had remained about where it was last year when the put the ball in the end zone 61 percent of the time. They would have scored 37 touchdowns rather than the 28 that they actually did tally this year. They didn’t get a field goal every time they didn’t get a touchdown in the red zone but since we’re estimating here, for the sake of simplicity let’s say they would have traded nine field goals for nine touchdowns. That would be an additional 36 points scored which would give them 432 for the season, tied for fourth in the NFL.

What matters, of course, is not how many points they score but when they score them. Here are some hand-picked games where the Redskins had red zone problems in losses.

Opponent:Red zone TD’s/Red zone chances — Result

— Week 2 vs. Cowboys: 2/6 — lost 27-23
— Week 8 @ Bengals: 1/4 — tied 27-27
— Week 12 @ Cowboys: 2/5 — lost 31-26
— Week 15 vs. Panthers: 1/3 — lost 26-16
— Week 17 vs. Giants: 1/2 — lost 19-10


The first Cowboys game seemed to touch it all off.

The worst red zone failure in that game came in the fourth quarter when Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the end zone with the Redskins up 23-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys responded with a game-winning touchdown drive.

Many have theorized that the end zone interception, the first red zone interception thrown by Cousins in his career save for a garbage time pick the previous week, made him tentative in the tight spaces near the goal line. That can’t be proven one way or the other but something happened with Cousins; the numbers don’t lie.

In 2015 he completed 64 percent of his red zone passes with 22 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 113.5.

This year the numbers were 47.5 percent completions, 14 TD, 2 INT, and a rating of 84.6.

Since I know you’re wondering, the Redskins actually ran better in the red zone this year than they did in 2015. Last year they had 61 carries and averaged 1.8 yards per attempt. This year it was 62 tries and an average of 2.8. It should be noted that they did have more red zone trips this year (61 to 49) so they ran less frequently per red zone trip.

You can do the math on the games listed above and see that the Redskins could have won some of them with decent red zone production. It’s easy to take the 36 “missing” points calculated above and spread them out to come up with a few more wins.

What happened is one thing. How to solve it is another.

Whether it’s with personnel (Josh Doctson?), scheme, play calling (more running?), or some combination of all of the above they will need to be more efficient in the red zone or they could really be in trouble.

Their 61 red zone trips this year were the most the team has had since the NFL started tracking the stat in 2000. As noted above, the total yardage they compiled set a team record, one that had stood for 27 years. These were rare accomplishments and chances are they won’t be getting to the red zone as often in 2017 as they did in 2016. If they don’t improve their efficiency their scoring could drop and they could find themselves in negative point differential territory, not a place where winning teams are usually found.

Or maybe the defense can fix its issues and get them back on the plus side of the points ledger. We’ll take a look at what went wrong with red zone defense next.


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Redskins Draft Countdown: WR James Washington's numbers don't impress but he could be a solution for the Redskins

Redskins Draft Countdown: WR James Washington's numbers don't impress but he could be a solution for the Redskins

Redskins Draft Countdown

James Washington

Wide receiver
Oklahoma State

Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington measured at 5 feet 11 inches at the combine and his 40 time was a pedestrian 4.54.

But forget about the numbers. His catch radius is larger than his height would indicate, and he plays much faster than the stopwatch says he does.

His route tree needs to be cleaned up but his ability to get open deep, make receptions on back shoulder throws and, yes, Redskins fans, fade patterns will make him a productive receiver while he learns.

Height: 5-11
Weight: 213
40-yard dash: 4.54

Projected draft round: 1-2

What they’re saying

He doesn't look like a receiver and he doesn't run routes like a receiver, but then you see him get open deep and make all those explosive plays, and you know exactly what he does for an offense.

—A Big 12 assistant coach via

How he fits the Redskins: The Redskins needed a wide receiver to line up opposite Josh Doctson after Terrelle Pryor fizzled out last year. They went out and signed Paul Richardson to a free agent contract, solving the immediate need.

But in the NFL, you should always be looking for your next receiver. It takes most of them at least a season to develop so if you wait until you really need a pass catcher it’s too late to draft one. Washington has the capability to contribute early and develop from there.  

Film review: vs. Pitt, vs. TCU, vs. Oklahoma

—Like most coaches, Jay Gruden wants his wide receivers to block and Washington certainly gives it the effort. He helped backs gain extra yards on stretch plays with hustling blocks downfield. His technique may need some work—a long touchdown run against Oklahoma was called back when he was hit for holding—but the effort is there.

—Against the Sooners, Washington got by a cornerback who was in off coverage and beat him for a long gain. Later in the game, the corner was in press coverage and Washington made one move and beat the defender on a post for a touchdown. We can insert the usual cautions about Big 12 defenses here, but it still was impressive to watch.

—Speed is important but so is how fast a receiver can stop to catch a pass. On one underthrown fade pattern, Washington was able to slam on the brakes while the cornerback kept on running, making the catch for a nice gain out of the end zone an easy one.

—Against TCU he split two defenders on a deep pass. He caught the ball in stride and then he found a second gear and easily outraced the defensive backs to the end zone to complete the 86-yard play. This is a good example of Washington playing faster than his 40 time.

Potential issues: Washington is not a good enough prospect to warrant the No. 13 pick, but he could easily be gone by the time the time their second-round pick is on the clock. As noted above, the quality of the defenses he faced in compiling 74 receptions for 1,549 yards (20.9 per catch) and 13 touchdowns has to be considered.

Bottom line: If I’m the Redskins, I have a talk with Jamison Crowder’s agent before the draft to gauge what his client would want in order to sign an extension prior to the 2018 season. If it’s something the Redskins consider reasonable, they should look elsewhere in the second round. But if a 2019 Crowder departure seems likely,  they should look at Washington if he’s there in the second round. 

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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Redskins withdraw contract offer to Junior Galette

Redskins withdraw contract offer to Junior Galette

It looks like the Redskins are moving on from Junior Galette.

Citing a team source, Chick Hernandez of NBC Sports Washington is reporting that the team has withdrawn its contract offer to Galette, the veteran pass rusher who finally got on the field last year after missing all of his first two seasons in Washington with injuries. He is an unrestricted free agent.

The Redskins may have a replacement for Galette lined up. They had former Bear Pernell McPhee in for a visit earlier this week and there was a report that they made him a contract offer after that. McPhee subsequently visited the Falcons facility, but he has not signed anywhere. However, there have been no reports that a deal is imminent as of this morning.


As for Galette, Hernandez mentions two possible destinations. One is the Browns, who have two key connections to Galette. Scot McCloughan, the former Redskins GM who signed Galette after he was cut by the Saints after the 2014 season is in the personnel department in Cleveland. In addition, Gregg Williams, who was the Saints’ defensive coordinator when Galette made the team as an undrafted rookie, currently has the same position with the Browns.

Another possibility is the Rams. The connections there are Joe Barry, the linebackers coach in LA who was Redskins’ defensive coordinator during Galette’s first two years with the team, and head coach Sean McVay, who was the offensive coordinator in Washington while Galette was on the other side of the ball.

Galette has said on social media lately that his first choice is to remain with the Redskins but that the money had to be “fair”. The interest in a return to Washington was mutual but evidently, the organization’s idea of fair and Galette’s differed by too great a margin to bridge the gap.  

Last year, Galette didn’t have an impressive sack total, getting three in a backup role. But he got plenty of pressure on the quarterback and that can be just as important as sacks.


Galette developed into a feared pass rusher with the Saints, getting double-digit sacks his last two seasons there. After signing him to a lucrative contract extension, the Saints abruptly released Galette due to some off-field issues. McCloughan and the Redskins signed him soon after the start of training camp in 2015 but before he could even play in a preseason game, he suffered a torn Achilles tendon in practice and he was out for the year.

His much-anticipated return the following year ended before it even started. Shortly before it was time to report to training camp, he tore the other Achilles and he was on the shelf again.

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.