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Need to Know: What is the single biggest problem the Redskins and RG3 have to fix?

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Need to Know: What is the single biggest problem the Redskins and RG3 have to fix?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 14, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.

RG3’s biggest issue

Robert Griffin III is the most analyzed athlete in Washington, perhaps in the country. When training camp starts later this month every step on his dropback, the position of his feet when he makes an errant throw, his arm motion, his demeanor after a good play and after a mistake, and what he says to reporters will be under the microscope. And after the season he had last year, looking awful all too frequently, such scrutiny is to be expected.

But perhaps things are not are not as complex as they might appear to be. It seems that Griffin could improve a great deal if he just cut down on the number of sacks he takes.

For the purposes of looking at this, let’s set aside the question of who is to blame for how many of the 33 sacks he took in 247 dropbacks in 2014. Let’s just say that the number of sacks can get cut by some combination of improved pass blocking by line, backs, and tight ends, quicker decision making by the quarterback, the defense keeping the score closer so they’re not in as many obvious passing situations, and so on.

Griffin was sacked on 13.4 percent of his dropbacks last year. Before you can ask the rhetorical question, yes, that’s bad. The league sack rate was 6.3 percent. Kirk Cousins, playing behind the same line as Griffin did, had a 3.8 percent sack rate.

What if Griffin had been able to get sacked at the same rate as Cousins and do everything else the same?

Let’s use net yards/pass attempt (NY/A, the formula is sacks/(pass attempts+sacks)) as the metric here. It incorporates yards lost to sacks into the more familiar yards per attempt stat. The league average for NY/A is 6.4, Griffin’s was 5.9. The league leader was Aaron Rodgers at 7.6, followed by Tony Romo and Peyton Manning at 7.5. Griffin was 25th, in between Geno Smith and Kyle Orton.

What would Griffin’s NY/A have been if he had been sacked at the same rate as Cousins? He would have taken 10 sacks instead of 33 and his yards lost to sacks would have shrunk from 227 to 69. Griffin could have attempted 23 more passes. His completion rate on all passes last year was 68.7 percent but we’ll figure he would complete 60 percent of those additional passes since he would throw some away to avoid getting sacked. At 7.9 yards per attempt, his average on the season, that comes to an additional 110 passing yards.

Add the additional passing yards to the 158 yards that would not have been lost due to sacks and Griffin would have had 268 more net passing yards. That increases his NY/A to a stellar 8.4. Remember that Rodgers led the league at 7.6.

Is reducing Griffin’s sack percentage from 13.4 all the way to 3.8 percent too big a task? It’s hard to say but there were four quarterbacks who started 16 games who had a sack rate of 3.9 percent or better. Sure, two of them were Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. But one of them was rookie Derek Carr of the Raiders. I don’t think that aspiring to the same sack rate as Oakland’s QB, and one that Cousins achieved a year ago, is too tall an order.

Even if Griffin and company can't get the sack rate down below four percent, improvement into neighborhood of the league average of 6.3 percent would offer a big boost to the passing game.

The sacks are not the only problem with the offense in general and with Griffin in particular. But it seems that fixing the pass protection and the issues Griffin had with holding on to the ball for too long are remedies that will bear the most fruit. This likely is priority No. 1 at Redskins Park.

Timeline

—It’s been 198 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 61 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 16; Preseason opener @ Browns 30; final cuts 53

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.