A year ago new Redskins offensive line coach Bill Callahan talked about the team’s need to improve on third down in the red zone.
“It really comes down to your efficiency on third down,” said Callahan. “Those are tough downs and your ability to convert on third down in the red zone comes up rather big . . . That makes the difference on if you are going to convert sevens or kick threes.”
Callahan was on to something. The 2014 Redskins were pathetic on third down in the red zone. They had 34 such plays and gained an average of 1.5 yards per play, and scored just three touchdowns (8.8 percent).
Compare that to the league average of 2.85 yards per third down red zone play with a touchdown conversion rate of 23 percent.
Let’s take a look at 2015 and see what Callahan, Jay Gruden, Sean McVay, and the rest of the offense did on third down in the red zone last year.
They ran 33 plays and gained an average of 3.8 yards, an improvement of 150 percent over 2014. They quadrupled their touchdowns scored to 12 (36%), tying for the most in the NFL.
Quarterback play in the red zone improved tremendously. On third down in 2014, three quarterbacks combined for a 47.6 percent completion percentage and a passer rating of 50.3. Last year Kirk Cousins completed 75 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 124.3.
The only issue with the Redskins excellent performance in this situation is that it will be difficult to improve to any great degree. As noted, no team scored more touchdowns on third down in the red zone and they were seventh in yards per play and fifth in first down percentage (touchdowns count as first downs). In addition, Washington was one of six teams that did not have a third down red zone turnover. There isn’t much room to grow.
Every team in the NFL would love to add to their pass rush, and the Redskins are no exception. The team withdrew its contract offer to Junior Galette, spurring rumors that they were looking elsewhere.
The Redskins recently had linebacker Pernell McPhee in for a visit, and rumors are swirling that the former Bear is close to joining the Burgundy and Gold.
Nothing has been confirmed, but if McPhee does come to Washington, it would be in the hopes that he can provide a boost to the team's pass rush. The linebacker has proven himself capable of getting to the quarterback in his seven seasons in the NFL, recording 31.0 sacks in his career, with 21.5 of those coming in the last four years. He's also forced at least one fumble in each of the past five seasons.
Playing in the DMV again would mark a homecoming of sorts for McPhee, who played in Baltimore for 4 seasons after being drafted by the Ravens in the 5th round of the 2011 draft before signing in Chicago as a free agent.
Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, March 24, 33 days before the NFL draft.
The Redskins week that was
A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington.
Free agency update: What's next for the Redskins on the D-line? The Redskins have been casting out lines for defensive linemen since before free agency officially started but they haven’t been able to reel one in. Part of the issue might be that they know that Vita Vea and Da’Ron Payne are likely to be available in the draft. They have to balance spending big on a lineman vs. being able to get one pretty cheap for the next five years.
Redskins make a D-line contract change, gain roster flexibility—Speaking of the D-line, the team negotiated the removal of a salary guarantee for one player to give themselves more flexibility when it comes time to cut the roster down to 53 in September. See the post for details.
Redskins guarantee Alex Smith a whopping $71 million in new contract—In the words of Joe Biden, this is a big f-----g deal. It showed that the Redskins aren’t afraid to pay a quarterback big money if they think it’s the right guy. It should be noted that whether or not they chose the right guy is something that remains to be seen. Although the post shows that it’s plausible for the Redskins to terminate the deal after three years, I anticipate Smith playing out at least four if not all five years of the contract.
Redskins add another ex-Cowboy as they sign Scandrick—Orlando Scandrick has struggled with injuries the past few years and Redskins fans did not greet the news of his signing with great enthusiasm, to say the least. To point out the bright side, his contract is not pricey by NFL terms ($2.6 million cap hit this year, no guaranteed money beyond a $1 million signing bonus) and from what I have been able to gather it’s possible that change of scenery might give him a boost for a year or two.
Tweet of the week
Well before free agency started, I wrote that the Redskins’ top priorities in free agency should be to get extensions done for Smith, Brandon Scherff, and Jamison Crowder. They should have about $15 million to work with after a few more free agent signings and that would be plenty to get all of those extensions done. And if they do score a big free agent signing, it would be worth it to restructure the contract of someone like Ryan Kerrigan to get them done.
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.
—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 23
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 124
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 169
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