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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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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

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Everybody thinks the intentional grounding call against Kirk Cousins was wrong, except Troy Aikman

The referees made a fairly obvious mistake last week in the Redskins loss to the Saints when they flagged Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins for intentional grounding late in the game. 

Let's be honest: the call was terrible.

Cousins never felt a pass rush on the play, and was very obviously throwing the ball away. Jay Gruden talked about the play on Monday, and could not figure out how a flag came out in that situation. 

We had two receivers in the area. Quarterbacks throws it away all the time that are uncatchable balls whether they are in the pocket or not. As long as there is a receiver in the area, you can throw it whether they are looking or not. Guys run bad routes – one guy runs a hitch and he’s supposed to run a go and the quarterback throws the go ball, it’s not grounding. So I don’t know why the confusion.

The NFL even reached out and apologized to Redskins team president Bruce Allen for the blown call, a hollow gesture that did not generate much excitement from Cousins (via 106.7 the Fan). 

Whatever they do to say, ‘we’re sorry, wrong call,’ it’s tough because there’s nobody bringing that up in February or March when we're making decisions about which direction to go with the organization. We appreciate the clarification but you know it really doesn’t do much.

If you're keeping score, the NFL, the Redskins head coach and the Redskins quarterback all know the call was wrong. 

You know who doesn't think the call was wrong? Fox analyst, and former Cowboys Hall of Fame QB, Troy Aikman.

Grounding? Free rusher? Decide for yourself below.

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

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Fantasy Football -- Thanksgiving Day plan

The Week 12 fantasy football rankings are out -- but when it comes to Thanksgiving Day, everyone wants some player regardless of where they slot overall. Don't overthink it and take a lesser player, but for those on the fence or simply looking for Thursday action, here are some recommendations for all three games.

Vikings @ Lions

Obvious: Vikings -- Wide receivers Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs... running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon are in the RB2/Flex discussion for most, but good luck picking between them; Lions -- Wide receiver Golden Tate and ... wide receiver Marvin Jones works in three-WR formats while quarterback Matthew Stafford is No. 14 among passers this week.

Start: Case Keenum averaged 19.3 points over the last four games while the Lions have allowed ample points to fantasy quarterbacks in that stretch, though only three touchdown passes. Having Thielen and Diggs up the potential for Keenum, who is QB17 in the Week 12 rankings. That's comparable with Matthew Stafford (QB14), Andy Dalton, Jacoby Brissett and ahead of Derek Carr.

Add: Not sure there's any fringe skill player worth taking a flyer on so take a look at Vikings kicker Kai Forbath. He's attempted at least three field goals in four of his last five games and he kicked five extra points in the lone exception. ... Some will start Ameer Abdullah based on their options, but just know the Vikings allow the second fewest points to fantasy tight ends this season.

Chargers @ Cowboys

Obvious: Chargers -- running back Melvin Gordon and wide receiver Keenan Allen; Cowboys -- Wide receiver Dez Bryant, running back Alfred Morris and... quarterback Dak Prescott, though his production is down without running back Ezekiel Elliott and left tackle Tyron Smith.

Start: This hasn't been a vintage Philip Rivers season, but he's coming off his best performance (251 yards, two touchdown passes) since Week 5. The Cowboys aren't that special in the secondary and have surrendered two touchdown passes in three consecutive games. At QB13, he's on the cusp of QB1 status in 12-team leagues. 

Add: Kickers Nick Novak (Chargers) and Mike Nugent (Cowboys) are 15th and 16th respectively. So, there's that. 

Giants @ Redskins

The obvious: Giants -- tight end Evan Engram and... running back Orleans Darkwa is a viable RB2 option against a Redskins defense giving up gobs of yards on the ground; Redskins -- quarterback Kirk Cousins, tight Vernon Davis and...running back Samaje Perine is RB12 this week, though listed as questionable on the injury report with a finger issue.

Start: Jordan Reed is out for a fourth consecutive game, meaning Vernon Davis once again is Washington's main tight end. While he hasn't provided wow performances like Reed at his Pro Bowl best, Davis has been good for a solid 8-11 since taking on a larger role starting in Week 3. This could be his best statistical week of the season. The Giants allow the most points to fantasy tight ends on the season. Opposing tight ends scored a touchdown in each of the first 10 games before the streak snapped Sunday.

RELATED: NEW AND IMPROVED WEEK 12 FANTASY RANKINGS

Add: Josh Doctson is only owned in 55 percent of leagues on CBS even though he's moved into the role of Washington's top outside receiver. The second-year player had four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's overtime loss, though all the production came in the first half. Consistency is the next step, but Kirk Cousins is showing more and more confidence in the 6'3" target especially on 50-50 balls. Doctson is WR36 in my Week 12 rankings, meaning he's worth starting consideration in three-WR formats regardless.