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Need to Know: How much will the 2015 Redskins run?

Need to Know: How much will the 2015 Redskins run?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 23, four days before the Washington Redskins play the Baltimore Ravens.

Question of the day

As I wrote about a few days ago, the Redskins plan to rely on the ground game to take as much pressure off of the quarterback, whether it’s Robert Griffin III or someone else, as possible. The idea is to set up more favorable down and distance situations, set up play action passes, and wear down the defense.

In order to move this plan from paper to the field, the Redskins made a number of personnel moves. They bolstered the offensive line with the acquisition of Brandon Scherff with the fifth overall pick. They took running back Matt Jones in the third, hoping that he will be a fresh, powerful set of legs to help out Alfred Morris. To put it all together the Redskins hired Bill Callahan to coach the offensive line and coordinate the running game.

They made some defensive free agent acquisitions as well and you can make the case that improving that side of the ball helps the running game as well. After all, you can’t run the ball consistently if the defense isn’t doing its part to keep the score close enough where the running game can be effective.

After that setup, let’s look at Randy’s question. It’s really two questions. How much can a given NFL team run the ball in the pass-happy league and how many rushing attempts are realistic for the 2015 Washington Redskins?

The most rushing attempts by a team in the last 10 season was 607 by the 2009 New York Jets. Rex Ryan was a rookie head coach and he had rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez behind center. Thomas Jones, 31 years old, led the team in rushing with 331 attempts for 1,402 yards. Also helping to carry the load on the ground were Shonn Greene (108/540) and Leon Washington (72/331).

The plan worked. Sanchez completed just 54 percent of his passes and threw 20 interceptions. But their running game and their defense, ranked first in the NFL in both yards and points allowed, pulled them to a winning record. They pulled off two road upsets in the playoffs before falling to the Colts in the AFC title game.

Their offensive line coach was a guy named Bill Callahan, by the way.

Can the Redskins copy that blueprint? As a point of reference, they ran the ball 401 times last year. So to run as often as the Jets did they would have to increase their rushing attempts by 50 percent. The 2008 Jets ran the ball just 422 times with Brett Favre at quarterback. So it is possible to shift gears to such an extent.

I will be surprised if they don’t end up running the ball around 500 times. I think they would like to approach 600 attempts but I don’t think they will have a good enough defense to be able to do it. The ’09 Jets had a solid unit with Darrelle Revis in his absolute prime at cornerback, and linebackers Thomas Pace and David Harris. They allowed 14.8 points per game making it possible for the Jets to stick with the running attack virtually all game, every game. I think the Redskins will be improved defensively but I don’t see them cutting their 27.4 points per game allowed just about in half.

So I think that 500 rushing attempts is very realistic for this team and 525-550 is possible if the defense really comes together.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:45 a.m.; player availability and Jay Gruden news conference after practice (approx. 1:45)

—It’s been 237 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 19 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason Redskins @ Ravens 4; final cuts 11; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 30

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In case you missed it

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.

Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.

Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return. 

Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games. 

The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury. 

MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond. 

The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.

Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it. 

  1. Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come. 
  2. Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions. 
  3. Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus. 

Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-

We didn't spend last week playing checkers.

News & Notes:

  • Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
  • The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed. 
  • D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
  • Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week. 
  • Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.

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