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Need to Know: Is the running game at the root of the Redskins' red zone issues?

Need to Know: Is the running game at the root of the Redskins' red zone issues?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 2, 11 days before the Washington Redskins play the Minnesota Vikings at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Bye week

Days until: Vikings @ Redskins 11; Packers @ Redskins 18; Redskins @ Cowboys on Thanksgiving 22

Looking at the Redskins going into the bye

—I posted my initial thoughts on the Trent Williams suspension here. There are many more layers to unpack and I’ll do that over the next few days.

—I’m trying to sort out the Redskins’ red zone problems. It’s a common notion that they don’t run there very often or very effectively. But the numbers don’t fully support that. They have run on 30 of their 74 red zone snaps, or 40 percent (stats via the indispensable Pro Football Reference). The Redskins have run 511 plays from everywhere on the field and they have run on 198 of those, or just 38.7 percent. Jay Gruden and Sean McVay don't become more pass happy when they get inside the 20.

—The Redskins average 2.9 yards per carry in the red zone. That sounds bad but actually it’s better than most teams do in the compressed area inside the 20. Four teams average over three yards a pop in the red zone and they are the elites in that category. The Redskins are sixth. I’m not saying that in certain situations that the Redskins should not have run when they passed. But this whole no run in the red zone “issue” seems to be a product of fans cherry picking their memories to support their own points of view.

—Regardless of the red zone running situation the Redskins are a passing team. Kirk Cousins is on pace to attempt 642 passes. That would shatter the team record of 543, set by Cousins last year. Such a season would be just outside of the top 15 in single-season pass attempts. To knock out Tony Romo’s 2012 season out of the No. 15 spot Cousins would have to attempt 649.

—Just so you know that Cousins isn’t throwing all those passes for nothing, he also is on pace to shatter his own team record for completions in a season (379 last year) and passing yards (4,166 last year).

—The trade deadline came and went and the Redskins made no deals. That is not surprising despite some fan speculation that they might try to deal for Jets DL Sheldon Richardson. He’s a good player at position of need and he would be fairly cost effective at about $700,000 for the rest of this year and a shade over $8 million on his fifth-year option in 2017. According to multiple reports the Jets were shopping him aggressively. But trade deadline deals usually are pipe dreams and/or vaporware and this was a whole lot of both.

—So the Redskins will go into the second half of the season with what they have, barring an injury pickup or two. It’s a decent roster. It’s not one that seems to be capable of winning a Super Bowl but there was nothing they were going to be able to do about that at the trade deadline anyway.

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

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Need to Know: Five Redskins who must step up in 2018

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 25, 17 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

Five Redskins who will have to step up in 2018

Originally published 12/26/17

WR Josh Doctson—This list is in no particular order but if it was, Doctson would be right here at the top. The watchword for Doctson is consistency. He makes some incredible catches and then there are throws that he drops or doesn’t quite seem to make enough of an effort to catch. There is promise there. The first-round pick has shown his ability and his teammates say he has a chance to be elite. But the potential must translate into production on the field, week in and week out.  

RB Samaje Perine—There is plenty of chatter about the Redskins’ need to sign or draft a top running back. But a look at this team’s recent history tells us that they are unlikely to invest major assets in the position. That means that Perine, a fourth-round pick in 2017, will have to become a more consistent runner. It’s not all his fault that he hasn’t done much since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in Weeks 11-12; tough defense, offensive line issues, and game score situations have slowed his production. But he needs to be consistently productive in 2018 no matter who he lines up against.

CB Josh Norman—Unless he gets a pick against the Giants, he will go through the year without any interceptions. Sure, they don’t throw his way all that often and INT’s don’t give you the complete picture of his play. But a CB taking up $20 million in cap room needs to get a couple of picks almost by sheer accident. Norman battled some injury problems and if he wants to justify the final two years and $23 million of salary remaining on his contract, his age 30 2018 season needs to be more impactful.

OLB Preston Smith—The third-year player started strong, with at least half a sack in the first five games. And he’s finishing strong, with three sacks, an interception, and a forced fumble in the last two games. But in between, he had a total of just half a sack in eight games. This follows the pattern he displayed his first two years in the league of being dominant in some games and invisible in others. If he can develop some consistency in his 2018 contract year, he could cash in huge in free agency the following year.

Head coach Jay Gruden—Normally I only include players on lists like this one but if Gruden doesn’t do something to get the Redskins out of their near-.500 rut then nothing else will matter. He needs to change up something, whether it’s pushing the players hard in training camp or perhaps fine tuning his friendly approach to the players. Sure, better luck regarding injuries and a schedule that right now appears to be a bit less challenging will help. But Gruden needs to look at what he can change, too.

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 4
—NFL Draft (4/26) 60
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 196

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Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

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Usa Today Sports Images

Need to Know: The five highest-paid 2018 Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 24, 18 days before NFL free agency starts.

I’m out this week so I’ll be re-posting some of the best and most popular articles of the past few months. Some may have slightly dated information but the major points in the posts still stand. Thanks for reading, as always.

The five highest-paid Redskins in 2018

Originally published 1/12/18

This is how the five highest-paid Redskins per their 2018 salary cap numbers stack up as of now. The list could change, of course during free agency and if a particular quarterback returns. Cap numbers via Over the Cap.

CB Josh Norman, $17 million—The Redskins do have a window which would allow them to move on from Norman. His $13.5 million salary for this year doesn’t become guaranteed until the fifth day of the league year so it would be “only” a $9 million cap charge to move on from Norman, who turned 30 in December. Don’t look for that to happen but the possibility is there.

OT Trent Williams, $13.86 million—He is one of the best left tackles in the business. Those of you out there who have advocated moving him to left guard should look at this cap number, which is way out of line for what a team can afford to pay a guard. At his pay, he needs to be playing on the edge.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan, $12.45 million—He has delivered double-digit sacks in each of the two seasons that his contract extension has been in effect. That’s good value in a league that values the ability to get to the quarterback.

TE Jordan Reed, $10.14 million—The Redskins knew that he might have a year like last year when he played in only six games when they agreed to Reed’s five-year, $50 million extension. They can live with one such season. If he has another one in 2018 they may rethink things.

G Brandon Scherff, $6.75 million—The fact that a rookie contract is No. 5 on this list is a good sign that, as of now, the Redskins’ cap is not top heavy like it was last year. The top three cap hits from Norman, Williams, and Kirk Cousins totaled $59 million, which was about 35 percent of the cap. This year the total cap numbers of the top three come to $43.3 million, 24.3 percent of the estimated $178 million salary cap.

Next five: OT Morgan Moses ($5.4 million), TE Vernon Davis ($5.33 million), DL Stacy McGee ($4.8 million), DL Terrell McClain ($4.75 million), S D.J. Swearinger ($4.33 million)

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.

Timeline  

Days until:

—NFL Combine (3/1) 5
—NFL Draft (4/26) 61
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 197