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Need to Know: Redskins couldn't take advantage of fumble recoveries

Need to Know: Redskins couldn't take advantage of fumble recoveries

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 29, 60 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 140 days ago. It will be 106 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 60; Preseason opener @ Falcons 74; Final roster cut to 53 97

I’m enjoying a vacation week in the Outer Banks. While I’m gone I’m presenting a few of the most popular posts from earlier this offseason (Note: A few details may not be updated) as well as some posts looking back at some of the team’s best performances of 2016. Thanks for reading, see you again on Monday, June 6.

Tale of the turnovers

Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.

Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.

Today we’ll look at the takeaway side of the equation, specifically fumbles recovered, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later this week we’ll look at interceptions by the defense the giveaway side of the equation.

The Redskins’ 16 fumble recoveries were tied for the most in the NFL. Here is their record broken down by how many fumbles they recovered during the games.

So they were 5-5 in games where the recovered at least one fumble. That’s not what one might expect but you don’t have to look real deep to find out why they didn’t do better when recovering fumbles.

They drove for just two touchdowns after recovering fumbles all year. That doesn’t count DeAngelo Hall’s fumble returned for a TD against the Eagles in the division-clinching game but it’s still a pretty meager output. A total of 20 teams that recovered fewer fumbles than the Redskins drove at least as many touchdowns off of them as did Washington and nine scored more.

The alarming aspect of the Redskins’ takeaway total is that so many of them came on fumbles They led the league in both forced fumbles with 36 and fumble recoveries with 16. If you asked Joe Barry about that he would say that it was because they worked so hard in training camp and in practice during the season at stripping the ball and fighting for it when it came loose.

Certainly they did practice forcing and recovering fumbles but so does every other NFL team. Generally speaking, fumble recoveries have a great deal of luck attached to them. As they say in the sports stats business, fumble recovery totals aren’t “sticky” meaning they don’t tend to hold up from year to year. Teams that are good in fumble recoveries one year are often bad at it the next and vice versa.

An example to illustrate the non-sticky aspect: In 2014, five teams recovered 13 or more opponents’ fumbles. Last year seven teams recovered at least 13 fumbles and none of them were on the list of the five from the year before. Similar results year after year show indicate a strong element of luck was involved in averaging one fumble recovery per game. If it was skill the same teams would be good at picking up fumbles year after year.

In short, the Redskins can’t rely on being able to get as many takeaways via the fumble in 2016 as they did last year.

The league average for fumble recoveries for the season is 9.7 per team so the Redskins can expect to see their fumble recover total gravitate towards that number. If they are going to maintain their takeaway total they will have to get more interceptions. We’ll take a look at that next.

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Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

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USA TODAY Sports

Five takeaways from the Redskins' necessary win over the Giants

Here are my five takeaways from the Redskins’ ugly 20-10 win vs. the Giants.

A Win is a Win:
If you are worried about style points you are doing it wrong. This was a banged up team on a short week playing for its life. Perhaps a better start would have made for a more comfortable win but they got done what they needed to do.

Jamison Crowder is on a Roll
:
He gained a career-high 141 yards on seven receptions. The yardage broke his career high of 123 that he set in Week 8. The third-year receiver got off to very slow start, not posting over 52 yards in any game.

But he has broken out of his slump in a big way and Kirk Cousins is very glad to see it.

Perine is Ready:
The rookie was elevated into the starting role after Rob Kelley went onto injured reserve two weeks ago. His importance elevated when Chris Thompson went out for the year with a broken leg.

Fortunately for the Redskins, his play has elevated since becoming the starter. He rushed for 117 yards against the Saints on Sunday. Thursday, four days later, he couldn’t get anything going in the first half, gaining only three yards on seven carries. But he got rolling in the second half and finished with 100 yards on 24 carries.

The Redskins may well have lost this game if Perine, the only back who was on the roster as of three weeks ago, had not gotten himself on track.

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

Defense Got Help: 
Eli Manning passed for 113 yards. Only six times in his career, which spans 211 games, has he thrown for fewer yards. There are three entities mainly responsible for Eli’s woes. The Redskins defense did a good job of putting pressure on him and for the most part the back seven played well in coverage. But Eli himself contributed to his own production problems.

On many occasions he had time to throw and a receiver open but he either sailed the ball well over the receiver’s head or threw it in the ground. Finally, when Manning did have time and delivered the ball on the money, his receivers frequently were unable to find the handle; there were several costly drops.

RELATED: BIGGEST UP'S AND DOWN'S FROM REDSKINS-GIANTS

There is Hope:
It’s too early in the weekend to go into much detail about the Redskins chances of making the playoffs but the losses earlier in the day by the Lions and Cowboys certainly helped.

It’s still a tough path to navigate.

But they did what they needed to do today in winning one of six games that looked winnable earlier this week. All they can do is try to get a winning streak together and they did all they could do in that regard on Thanksgiving.

Now it’s on to Dallas to see if they can take the next step.

MORE: THIS ONE THROW SHOWS HOW COUSINS IS EVOLVING

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

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USA TODAY Sports

Want to see how Kirk Cousins is evolving as a quarterback? Then watch this throw

LANDOVER — At times during the Redskins' 20-10 Thanksgiving night victory over the Giants, Kirk Cousins and Washington's offense performed at a level somewhere between sloppy nausea-inducing.

There was that awful sequence where the offense botched a fourth-and-1 more than they normally do.

There was also No. 8's slightly off-target throw to a running back he barely knows that ended up as six points for New York. And there were plenty less notable, but still gross, plays before and after those.

But Cousins' first touchdown pass to Jamison Crowder was far from gross. It was beautiful. It was creative.

And it showed how the 29-year-old is still developing as a quarterback:

MUST-SEE: BEST IMAGES FROM REDSKINS' THANKSGIVING VICTORY

"The touchdown he had to Crowder was one of his best touchdown passes that I've seen since I've been here," Jay Gruden said about it afterward.

He's right.

By now, you know the boxes that Cousins checks off as a passer. He has the requisite arm strength. He's usually able to move an offense, even one like the Redskins' 2017 version that includes a ton of spare parts, up and down the field. He has the work ethic and leadership skills. 

But a common knock against him is that he can't extend a play and find a receiver when things aren't there during his initial dropback. And that weakness becomes a glaring one in the red zone.

Yet on Thanksgiving night, there Cousins was, avoiding an edge rusher, stepping up, rolling right and then nailing Crowder right on the numbers for a crucial TD. Like his head coach, Cousins was proud of how that score unfolded.

"I felt some pressure so I just tried to escape up and to the right and kept my eyes down field," he said. "I think just the longer I play, I'll get a better feel for how to move and escape."

MORE: ALL OF THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE THANKSGIVING WIN

Cousins' final stats don't stack up to some of his past performances, such as his Week 11 effort in New Orleans where he shined or his pretty perfect evening vs. the Raiders in Week 3. Regardless, this one was encouraging in its own way, because it provided another grlimpse at how the signal caller is becoming more comfortable when things around him become uncomfortable.

Like most of his fellow starters in the league, Cousins has flaws. But the more he plays, the more those flaws diminish. Gruden sees it, he sees it, and you should see it, too.