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Need to Know: Should the Redskins stick with one back?

Need to Know: Should the Redskins stick with one back?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, October 15, three days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Jets.

Should the Redskins reconsider running back by committee?

There is a new line of conventional wisdom brewing out there among Redskins fans and some in the media. The problem with the Redskins’ rushing attack, says this new theory, is that they need to settle on one running back. Switching between Alfred Morris and Matt Jones is not permitting either one of them to get into a “rhythm”, and they are both supposedly “rhythm” backs.

According to this line of thinking, neither is in the game for long enough to be effective, to establish that rhythm. I asked Jay Gruden about this and he didn’t buy it.

“I don’t know. There probably is some validity to it, but there’s also some validity to keeping them fresh and having a package of plays for each back that we feel good about. There are certain things that Matt Jones does better than Alfred. There are certain things that Alfred does better than Matt Jones . . . We try to mix and match our system to the best personnel that we have at that time on that play call.”

The other reason not to abandon the multi-back rushing attack is that there really isn’t any evidence that either of them plays better with more carries.

In his 53 games with the Redskins, here are Morris’ average yards per carry by quarter:

First—4.2
Second—5.0
Third—4.7
Fourth—3.7

The number that jumps out at you is the fourth-quarter average. It is a half yard lower than his average in any other quarter and a full yard lower than his average in the third quarter. If he is a back who needs work to get into a “rhythm”, shouldn’t that average per carry go up as the game goes on?

You can’t attach much significance to Jones’ quarterly rushing splits because his five-game sample size is too small. But, for the record, here they are:

First—5.7
Second—4.0
Third—1.6
Fourth—4.3

I think we will have to say there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove the notion that Jones gets better with more carries.

Just because I was curious, I pulled up the numbers for the entire league. Here is the collective rushing average per quarter:

First—4.1
Second—4.1
Third—4.3
Fourth—3.9

Certainly there no general trend of backs getting stronger in the fourth quarter around the NFL. In fact, the average falls off a cliff between the third and fourth quarters.

It sounds nice to talk about rhythm and a running back will always tell you that he’d rather get more carries than fewer. But the numbers here don’t back up any assertion that more is better.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30.

Days until: Redskins @ Jets 3; Bucs @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Patriots 24

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

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Need to Know: Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Giants

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 23, seven days before the Washington Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins Kickoff 7:30 NBC Sports Washington; Redskins vs. Giants, NBC, 8:30  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 7
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 17
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 24

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Giants

Look out for Eli—There are many reasons why the Giants are 2-8 but Eli Manning is not one of them. He isn’t nearly the turnover machine he has been for much of his career. His interception percentage this year is 1.6; he hasn’t been under 2.3 percent interceptions this decade. Manning only has 14 touchdown passes but considering that Odell Beckham, who went out in the fourth game of the season, still leads Giants wide receivers in touchdown receptions, that’s not bad.

Running game stuck—What makes Manning’s performance even more impressive is the fact that he doesn’t get much support from a running game. The Giants are 26th in the league with 920 yards. They have gained some traction lately after installing Orleans Darkwa as the starting running back; he is averaging 4.8 yards per carry for the season and 71 yards per game over the last three games. The Redskins certainly don’t want to let him get going tonight.

Reverting to reality—The Giants ranked 32nd in total defense in 2015. They dropped millions on free agents such as Janoris Jenkins, David Harrison, and Olivier Vernon and jumped to 10th. Now, this year they are 31st and equally bad against the pass (29th) and the run (30th). Health hasn’t been a huge issue, although Vernon has missed a few games and Jenkins was suspended. Redskins fans know full well that spending sprees don’t necessarily make for permanent improvements and Giants fans are learning it this year.

Keys to winning

  • Run the ballThe Redskins are 4-2 this year when rushing for 90 yards or more.
  • Continue to protect the ball—The Redskins have turned the ball over just twice in their last three games.
  • Don’t give them hope—The Chiefs let the Giants hang around last week and New York stole a win. The Redskins need to get on top early and mash down on the gas pedal.

Prediction—It’s hard to see a scenario where the Redskins lose this one. Even in their injury-depleted state they are battling every game and the same can’t be said for their opponents today. The weather forecast is for cold temperatures but not much wind, ideal conditions for Cousins to throw for 300 yards. For once, the Redskins get up early and keep going.

Redskins 31, Giants 13

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.

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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.