Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 3, 27 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.
Play action the cure for what ails them?
The post I wrote here yesterday on third down struggles came from a fairly substantial article by Mike Tanier, who does work for Football Outsiders. The post looked at several different issues with the Redskins’ offense. Among them was play action passing. Let’s take a closer look at that here.
The 2014 Redskins were among the best teams in the league in play action passing. They averaged 10.2 yards per attempt when throwing with a run fake. That was just slightly behind the league-leading Broncos, who averaged 10.3. You don’t have to be a math major to figure out that one such play will yield a first down.
On passes where play action was not used they averaged 5.7 yards per play. The 4.5 yard per play difference between play action and straight dropbacks was the highest in the league.
In particular, Robert Griffin III was very effective in play action. His completion percentage was 71.9 percent and he averaged 13.7 yards per completion. Again, you don’t need much math to tell you that the Redskins moved the ball pretty well when Griffin was putting the ball into Alfred Morris’ belly, pulling it out, and firing downfield.
The problem was that the Redskins only used play action 22 percent of pass plays. That was about the league average. By comparison, the Eagles used it the most, 33 percent, while the Chargers didn’t like it much, using it just eight percent of its pass plays.
The easy thing to insert here is criticism of Jay Gruden’s play calling. While that certainly deserves some scrutiny it must be noted that the Redskins were outscored by an average of 8.6 points per game. Only three teams were outscored by more points. If you just look at the 15 games they played against teams other than the Jacksonville Jaguars, they were outscored by an average of 11.2 points per game. There were plenty of times when teams had no reason to honor the play fake. There is no point in adding some play action to a pass play if it is only window dressing that will have no effect on the defense.
Things could be different this year. The Redskins spend considerable cash and some draft picks to upgrade the defense. If they can keep games closer Gruden may be inclined to call play action more often. If Griffin remains effective throwing the ball off of play action and he does it more often, well, I think you can write the rest of the story. It would end with Griffin looking like the quarterback of the future.
There are plenty of ifs and maybes there so we will have to see.
—It’s been 187 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 72 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.
—Days until: Redskins training camp starts 27; Preseason opener @ Browns 41; final cuts 64
In case you missed it