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Need to Know: Is play action a cure for Redskins' and RG3's problems?

Need to Know: Is play action a cure for Redskins' and RG3's problems?

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.

Timeline

—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

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Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Looking at cheap, reasonable and expensive wide receiver scenarios for Redskins

Most NFL teams usually carry at least six wide receivers, but going into the 2018 season, only Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris and Robert Davis hold signed contracts with the Redskins.

That means Washington must consider adding receiver help via free agency, especially considering Harris and Davis rarely played in 2017. Terrelle Pryor and Ryan Grant both played with the Burgundy and Gold in 2017, and while Grant has a solid chance to return, it would seem Pryor will head elsewhere after a disappointing season in D.C. 

Like every year, a number of receivers will be available via free agency, but what guys make sense for Jay Gruden's team? Let's take a look at three different scenarios, knowing Washington likely needs to add at least one free agent wideout. 

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  • Expensive: Jags WR Allen Robinson - A second-round pick in 2014, Robinson posted a 1,400-yard season in 2015 and has shown the ability to be a true No. 1 wideout in the NFL. He's 6-foot-3 with speed and leaping ability. In 2016, his numbers dipped to less than 900 yards receiving, but that season the Jacksonville QB Blake Bortles struggled significantly. Here's the thing: Robinson blew out his knee in the NFL opener in 2017, and that might make his price tag drop a bit. Word is the former Penn State star should be fully cleared by early March from the injury, and just 24 years old, he will be intriguing. Washington showed they would spend for a wideout in 2017 with the Pryor signing, but they did so on a one-year deal. If Robinson finds the free agent market not as robust as he wants, maybe a similar short-term deal could be reached?
  • Reasonable: Colts WR Donte Moncrief - A third-round pick in 2014, Moncrief also had a big sophomore season in 2015. He grabbed 64 catches for 733 yards and six touchdowns. That was his only full 16-game season, as injuries have continued to be an issue for the 6-foot-2, 220 lbs. wideout out of Ole Miss. In 2016, only playing in nine games, he still contributed with seven touchdowns. In 2017, his numbers slipped big-time, and he posted less than 400 yards receiving in 12 games. Moncrief's problem isn't talent, it's health. That means he could be relatively cheap, and at just 24 years old, that contract might bring a strong return. 
  • Wild Card: Jets WR Eric Decker -  The Redskins have lacked a true veteran wideout since DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon left the team following the 2016 season. Decker will turn 31 in March and would give Washington a different presence in the WR meeting room. He posted two 1,000 yard seasons playing with Peyton Manning in Denver and went to the Super Bowl in 2013. In 2015, while teamed up with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing for the Jets, Decker again hit the 1,000-yard mark and hit the end zone 12 times. Throughout his career, Decker has been a solid red zone threat and has shown the ability to win on tough routes. He will need to take a big pay cut from the $4.5 million, one-year deal he signed in Tennessee in 2017, but that has to be expected considering his paltry production. In 16 games with the Titans, Decker logged 563 yards and only one TD. Decker might make sense, though the cost would need to be low. 

There are plenty of other names to watch, guys like Seattle's Paul Richardson or Buffalo's Jordan Matthews. Free agency opens in mid-March, and some connections between the Redskins and wideouts will start prior to that.

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

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Redskins Fan of the Year bracket: Which Washington supporter deserves the title?

Every week during the 2017 Redskins season, NBC Sports Washington found two Redskins fans in the crowd and paired them in a head-to-head matchup on Twitter to determine the fan of the game.

And now that the season is over, it's time to take each of those winners, throw them into a NCAA Tournament-style bracket and let Twitter pick the Redskins Fan of the Year.

Starting on January 8 over on the @NBCSRedskins Twitter account, one matchup a day will be posted at 11 a.m., and fans will have 24 hours to vote for their favorite supporter by retweeting or liking depending on their preference. Week 1's winner will face off with Week 17's, Week 2's will play Week 16's, etc.

The winners will advance, and eventually, one member of the Burgundy and Gold faithful will stand above all the rest, earning the coveted title of Redskins Fan of the Year. 

Check out the results below, which'll be updated every day. To see the tweet that corresponded with each matchup, click the link after the date, but remember, retweets and likes submitted after the 24-hour period won't be counted.

ELITE 8 RESULTS

The Elite 8's first matchup is underway. Vote now:


FIRST ROUND RESULTS

January 8: Round one, matchup one

This was a close one that came down to the last-minute, but at the 24-hour mark, Week 17's winner garnered justtttttttt enough retweets to move on.

January 9: Round one, matchup two

In this tournament, a giant Redskins chain is apparently worth more than a giant football hat.

January 10: Round one, matchup three

In the tournament's third showdown, we have our first winner from the Likes side:

January 11: Round one, matchup four

Was there anyway she wasn't gonna win, especially with the little Hogettes nose?

January 12: Round one, matchup five

Our fifth matchup's winner earned the most retweets of anyone up to this point:

January 15: Round one, matchup six

These three 'Skins fans had to witness Washington's Thursday night flop in Dallas, so it's only fair that they get to advance to the second round:

January 16: Round one, matchup seven

You'd think a turkey hat would be enough to capture a W, but not in this one:

January 17: Round one, matchup eight

The Elite 8 is now set with this showdown going to the retweets side: