Here is what you need to know on this Monday, December 29, 122 days before the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.
Three and out—Third downs, pass defense Redskins’ big issues
1. We’ll spend a lot of the next few weeks doing an autopsy on the 2014 season and looking at what the Redskins need to do to improve. But you don’t have to dig too deep to see that third down conversions were a big issue for the offense. Yesterday they converted three of 12, which inched their rate for the season up every so slightly. But they were still 30th in the NFL at 31.5 percent. If you want to figure out why the Redskins were 13th in yards gained but 27th in points scored, this is a big factor. They would move it some but drives would stall.
2. Defensively the big issue is pass defense. Opposing passers have lit up the Redskins with passer rating of 108.3. That means that the composite quarterback the Redskins faced in 2014 was better than Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger. If assigned to an individual quarterback that rating would have ranked third in the NFL. Communication issues, fundamental mistakes, and subpar talent at safety, and an inconsistent pass rush are all factors.
3. The Cowboys pulled off a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. “We got the look we wanted,” said Dallas coach Jason Garrett. Presumably that “look” was seeing the Redskins special teams unit lined up on the other side. That was two successful surprise onside kicks that the last three weeks. Add in a fake on an extra point that led to a two-point conversion by the Rams and you have a team that’s is just not paying enough attention. Such trick plays should work every once in a while, not every time they are tried.
Out: Back to the first point, another reason the Redskins rank near the bottom in points scored is that the defense and special teams didn’t contribute any return touchdowns. Redskins opponents had seven return touchdowns this year. You don’t have to be a math major to figure out that put Washington at a major disadvantage. If you are perhaps deficient in talent while rebuilding one way to make up for it is to be opportunistic. I’m not sure what the opposite of that is, but whatever it is would be an apt description for the 2014 Redskins.
—Today’s schedule: Open locker room 9 a.m.; Jay Gruden news conference 3 p.m.
—Days until: 2015 NFL Draft 122; 2015 NFL season opening Sunday 258
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In case you missed it
The Giants shipped out Jason Pierre-Paul for life as a Buccaneer, and in turn, Tampa will send a third and fourth round draft pick to New York.
Moving Pierre-Paul comes at a curious time for the Giants. The team will eat $15 million of dead money in the move, and New York also sent a fourth-round pick to Tampa as part of the transaction.
What it definitely signals is that Big Blue looks to be moving from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 look. Additionally, with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, maybe the Giants will seriously look at NC State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb.
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For the Redskins, seeing Pierre-Paul leave the NFC East is welcome news. He has 12.5 career sacks against Washington QBs, the same amount he has against the Eagles and Cowboys combined.
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The Redskins and linebacker Zach Brown agreed to a three-year contract that will require Brown to continue to play at a high level if he is going to collect all of the $21 million the deal contains.
Brown’s camp reportedly was shopping for a contract that had some $20 million in guaranteed money. The actual deal fell well short of that.
Brown, who was leading the league in tackles before an assortment of injuries forced him to sit out the last three games, got a total of $5.5 million in fully guaranteed money. He got a $4.5 million signing bonus and his $1 million salary for 2018 is fully guaranteed.
MORE REDSKINS: NFL MOCK DRAFT 6.0
After that, the remaining two seasons essentially are team options. In 2019 he has a $6.75 million salary and $4.5 million of that is guaranteed for injury. His 2020 salary is $7.5 million with no guarantees of any kind.
The contract also has per-game roster bonuses available at a rate of $15,625 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster in 2018 (total of $250,000 for the year) and $31,250 per game in 2019 and 2020 ($500,000 total).
The salary cap hits per year are as follows:
2018: $2.75 million
2019: $8.75 million
2020: $9.5 million
The average annual value of $7 million ranks ninth among inside linebackers.
Brown will need to continue to play well to collect on the contract. The team will be able to save $5.75 million on the 2019 cap if they terminate the deal after one season and $8 million if they do it in 2020.
RELATED: EARLY LOOK AT REDSKINS DEPTH CHART--DEFENSE
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.