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Redskins Bye Week Grades: No clear leader among a scuffling group of running backs

Redskins Bye Week Grades: No clear leader among a scuffling group of running backs

Redskins bye week grades: Running backs

At times the Redskins look like a team that could make some serious noise in the playoffs and at other times they look like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. At 4-3-1, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.

Tandler: The Redskins’ rushing attack has been strong on rare occasions, adequate at times and completely ineffective in other spots. The question here is how much of the credit/blame goes to the running backs and how much goes to the line, play calling, etc. I don’t think it’s fair to put it all on the rather inexperienced trio of running backs employed by the Redskins this year but they do get the majority of the blame.

The Redskins are 14th in rushing yards per game. As I noted yesterday when grading the offensive line, Football Outsiders has them as the third-best run blocking team. That indicates that if the backs are holding up their end of the deal they should have a top five or at least a top 10 rushing attack. Yet as noted they are 14th in the raw measurement and 13th in rushing DVOA if you want to go by the more sophisticated analysis of FO.

Matt Jones is the target of most of the heat the running backs draw and he has earned it to an extent. While he has had a couple of strong games he also has left a lot of yardage on the field. Add in three fumbles in a three-game span, two of them lost, and you have a back still struggling. Rob Kelley is thought to be the savior but he has a lot to prove. While his average per carry is 5.0 yards, it drops to 3.8 if you discount the 45-yard run against the Eagles. Chris Thompson has been the best of the bunch, a consistent and reliable performer running the ball, receiving, and pass blocking. Overall it’s a below-average group of running backs.

Grade: D

Finlay: Anybody that listens to CSN's #RedskinsTalk podcast knows that Tandler and I disagree here. My colleague continues to defend Matt Jones, despite the fumbles, while wanting to remove Robert Kelley's one long run from his statistics. Well, flip that equation, remove Jones' 57-yard run that ended the Eagles game, and his YPC drops nearly a half yard.

Further, the biggest problem with Jones for the Redskins (beyond the fumbles) is the negative plays. Often, Jones gets bottled up behind the line of scrimmage and the team loses one or two yards on simple design runs. The same does not seem to happen with Kelley; he is more elusive in the backfield and turns negative plays into no gains or often falls forward for a yard or two. The difference between 2nd & 12 and 2nd & 8 may not show up too often in the stat sheet, but guarantee Kirk Cousins and Sean McVay notice. 

Numbers support that assertion: Looking at Pro Football Focus' Yards-After-Contact-Per-Attempt stat, Kelley averages nearly a full yard more than Jones after contact. Now the derivation between the two is impacted somewhat by Jones having more than double the attempts of Kelley, but just watching both runners, the undrafted rookie out of Tulane avoids negative plays better than the second-year man out of Florida. Per Pro Football Reference, it's also clear: 13 percent of Kelley's runs have gone for zero or negative yards. For Jones, that percentage jumps to 19 percent. 

That said - Jones is the better pass receiver and a more capable home run threat. Also, to agree with Tandler, Chris Thompson gives the Redskins their most dependable back, yet his size keeps him from being on the field for too many snaps. The grade for Redskins RBs collectively won't look good, but could trend upward over the second half if Kelley continues to emerge.

Grade: C-

Consensus Grade: D+

Tandler and JP grade the Redskins at the bye:

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes or press play below.

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Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

roullier-ap.png
Associated Press

Need to Know: The Redskins appear to be set at center

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, February 21, 21 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 Redskins appear to be set at center

Originally published 12/19/17

Chase Roullier might have been the Redskins’ fourth choice to play at center this year. But he could be snapping the ball for Washington for a long time.

Kory Lichtensteiger, the starter for the previous three years when healthy, retired. Veteran backup John Sullivan departed as a free agent. Spencer Long started six games this season before knee and quad problems pushed him to the sideline, elevating the rookie Roullier into the starting lineup.

The sixth-round pick started three games before breaking his right hand at some point during the game against the Saints. That’s his snapping hand and him finishing that game was an underrated act of courage this year. But he was out for three games before returning against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden was pleased with his play. 

“Chase did good. He did good,” said Gruden. “It was good to see him back in there. His snaps were outstanding and handled the calls and play well.”

That was good but standard praise. What was interesting was what he said next.  

“I like Chase’s progress right now,” he said. “I think he is going to be a very good center for a long time here. It was a great pickup for us in the draft.”

It appears that you can at least pencil in Roullier as the 2018 starter at center, if not put him in with a Sharpie.

Where would this leave Long, who is slated to be a free agent in March? The Redskins could let him walk and go with the younger and cheaper Roullier. They also could sign him to be their starting left guard. That job has belonged to Shawn Lauvao. But Lauvao also is a pending free agent and he is 30 and he has missed large chunks of two of the last three seasons with injuries. When he missed the last 13 games of the 2015 season, Long went in at left guard and played well.

If that happens, that would give the Redskins a starting offensive line consisting entirely of players drafted by the team and with only Trent Williams over the age of 27 in Week 1 of 2018.

Regardless of what happens at left guard, it looks like Roullier will be the man in the middle for 2018 and beyond.

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) 8
—NFL Draft (4/26) 64
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 200

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New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

New free agent Doug Martin unlikely fix to Redskins' woeful run game

News broke Tuesday that the Tampa Bay Bucaneers released former Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin, and while the name certainly triggers value, his play of the last two seasons should calm the excitement. 

Since a 2015 season where Martin rushed for 1,400 yards and averaged nearly 5 yards-per-carry in 16 games, Martin has been suspended, undergone substance abuse rehab and missed games due to injury.

In the last two seasons, Martin has played in 16 of 32 games, rushed for 827 yards and averaged less than 3 yards-per-carry.

Over his six year NFL career with the Bucs, Martin has only played two full seasons. Those two seasons were great, in 2012 and 2015, but the other four have been largely disappointing. 

RELATED: WHAT SHOULD THE REDSKINS DO AT RUNNING BACK?

The Redskins averaged just 3.6 yards-per-carry last season, and could definitely use a boost in the run game. It's entirely possible Washington might look to upgrade their offensive backfield this offseason, either in free agency or in the 2018 NFL Draft, but Martin does not look like the player to help. 

Early in the 2017 season, it appeared the Redskins run game might be a strength for the offense. After a disappointing effort on the ground to open the year in a loss to the Eagles, the Redskins rushed for at least 111 yards in their next three contests, including nearly 230 yards on the ground in a Week 2 win over the Rams. 

Injuries undid the run game, however, as Rob Kelley got hurt and the offensive line lost players, too. Over the course of the season, rookie Samaje Perine sustained minor injuries and Chris Thompson was lost for the year with a broken leg. 

Going into 2018, Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Kapri Bibbs are all on the roster and expected for now to stay with the team. That's yet another reason why the Redskins are likely to stay away from Doug Martin.

RELATED: 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 5.0

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