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Redskins concerned over lack of rushing production but not alarmed

Redskins concerned over lack of rushing production but not alarmed

The Redskins’ running game has been sputtering in the preseason, and that is putting it lightly.

When Washington’s first-team offense has faced the opponents’ first-team defense they have attempted 13 rushes and they have 13 yards.

That isn’t getting it done and Jay Gruden knows it.

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“Obviously, Robert [Kelley] didn’t get going, he didn’t have many chances,” he said following the Redkins' 20-17 loss to the Packers. “You know, we’re a work in progress, no question about it. We’re building something and we’ve got to do some things and quite frankly we didn’t get them done today, but I’m not going to give up on it by any stretch of imagination. We’ve just got to continue with our plan and build on what we’ve done, or haven’t done, learn from it, move on and get ready for the Bengals and try to figure out a new plan.”

Kelley, the Redskins’ starting running back, has 12 carries for 11 yards in the two preseason games, including some carries against the other team’s reserve defenders.

While it doesn’t take advanced film study to realize that the low production is primarily due to him having nowhere to run, Kelley still believes he must do better.

“I just have to be a better runner,” the second-year back said. “I have to make stuff happen and get back to what I was doing last year, breaking some tackles, trying to make some guys miss. That’s what the pay you for. Anyone can get there if there’s a wide open hole.”

Yes, Kelley is getting paid to run. But is making the second-year minimum salary. All five of the offensive line starters are being paid well over $1 million this year to create space forhim and they haven’t been able to get the job done.

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The highest-paid player up front is left tackle Trent Williams. He is in his eighth season and he isn’t losing any sleep over the one yard per carry rushing average.

“I’m just not worried,” he said.

“It’s going to take time and it’s going to take plus-one, plus-two, negative-one, then you get a plus-eight. And things start to pop. It’s attrition. Nothing’s going to happen just because you want it to.”

But Williams does know that it’s not going to get better unless they work at it. And that’s why he and the rest of the line stayed in the game with there was talk of putting the second unit into the game.

“They wanted to sub but we said we were staying in,” said Williams. “We didn’t feel like we had it going good enough to call it a game . . . I just heard the O-line folks say, ‘twos up’, I really just ignored it, I put my helmet on and stood on the sideline ready to run back on the field.”

“I wasn’t going to leave on that note two weeks in a row.”

The Redskins’ starters finally got some offense going when the Packers put in their backup defenders. But it mostly was through the air; Washington finished the first half with 10 yards rushing.

But Williams has faith that more reps and having a chance to continue in the game to keep wearing down the defense will make it come together.

“You’re not going to open the game just gashing people,” he said. “You never make the rock break on the first strike.”

Or on the second try, in this case. Their next chance to strike the rock comes next Sunday against the Bengals at FedEx Field. That will be their last shot at fixing the running game before the games start to count. 

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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Opposite extremes, but loss of Chris Thompson, Terrelle Pryor tell Redskins story in 2017

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Opposite extremes, but loss of Chris Thompson, Terrelle Pryor tell Redskins story in 2017

The hype train escalated for Terrelle Pryor as soon as he signed in Washington. Folks looked at his 2016 production - 77 catches for more than 1,000 yards - and immediately saw huge potential paired with Kirk Cousins. 

The hype train barely moved when Chris Thompson signed an offseason extension with the Redskins. Despite a breakout season in 2016 - 700 total yards and five touchdowns - most Redskins fans expected similar production from Thompson in 2017.

Once the season started, however, it was obvious both men were on opposite trajectories. In fact, looked at a bit more carefully, it started to show during training camp.

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While fantasy experts predicted monster stats for Pryor, it became clear he and Cousins were not exactly on the same page. Cousins is a precise passer, wanting to know when and where his targets will break off routes and where he can throw the ball to hit an open man. Pryor, for all of his size and physical prowess, is still learning the receiver position, as he played quarterback almost exclusively in his career. 

Watching practices under the Richmond sun, it was obvious Josh Doctson was the team's best wideout. Still, the praise and hype mounted for Pryor.

By Week 1, expectations far outpaced reality, and on the first offensive play of the year Pryor could not find a deep pass from Cousins. In the moment it was just one play. In hindsight, it was a microcosm of everything that was to come. 

When Jay Gruden announced Pryor would go to injured reserve and miss the remainder of the season on Monday, it almost seemed like a fair way for things to end for all parties. Pryor has talent, and maybe in a system less exacting and more volume oriented (like 2016 in Cleveland) he can accel again. It wasn't going to happen in Washington, and as his playing time and targets dwindled, there was no reason for Pryor to play through ankle pain. 

Losing Pryor shouldn't make much of an impact on the final six games of the Redskins season because, well, Pryor didn't make much impact on the first half of the season either.

Losing Thompson is another matter entirely. 

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The five-year veteran was in the middle of a career year, leading all NFL running backs in receiving yards and likely on his way to being named the Redskins Offensive MVP. It's hard to overstate Thompson's value to this team. He is the best runner, receiver and pass blocker the Redskins had at running back, and one of the few game-breaking talents on the field. 

Washington likely needs to run the table, win out their final six, to make the playoffs. Doing that without Terrelle Pryor won't be too difficult.

Doing that without Chris Thompson, that's going to be very difficult. 

The 2017 season will be remembered by many as a year where injuries buried the Redskins chances. Early on, Washington looked like a possible contender. 

Losing Thompson, and Pryor, tell that story, but in very different ways. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Need to Know: How bad are the Redskins late in each half?

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Need to Know: How bad are the Redskins late in each half?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, November 21, two days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Jay Gruden press conference and open locker room, 11:45 a.m.; the team will conduct a walkthrough instead of a practice.  

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 9
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 19
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 26

Quantifying the problem with giving up late points:

Anyone who has watched the Redskins this year knows that they have had problems keeping other teams from scoring points late in the first half and at the end of the game. How bad is the problem? Let’s look at the numbers.

The Redskins have given up 266 points on the season. That’s 31st in the NFL. Of those points, 96 have been scored in last three minutes of the first and second halves. Opponents have put up 12 touchdowns, eight one-point conversions, two two-point conversions, and four field goals.

For comparison, the average NFL team has given up around 40 points near the end of each half. Looking at defensive scores allowed only (two of the late touchdowns against Washington were on returns), the Redskins have allowed 10 touchdowns while no other team has allowed more than seven. The average is 3.96 touchdowns given up late by each team.

You can look at it this way. In the first 27 minutes of each half of their 10 games, the Redskins have given up 170 points, or about .31 points per minute. In the other six minutes of the games, the final three of each half, the Redskins give up 1.6 points per minute played.

How have the Redskins done scoring points late in each half? They have put up five touchdowns and three field goals, a total of 44 points.

How does this affect the big picture? On the season, the Redskins’ net point differential is minus-28. If you take out the late scores, they are at plus-24. It usually works out that the teams that have positive point differentials have winning records and those with negative performances are under .500.

We saw that big picture up close on Sunday. At the end of the first half, it looked like the Redskins were going to get at least a field goal as they had a nice drive going. But the drive stalled, a false start forced them to abandon even a field goal try and the Saints put together a quick drive for a field goal as time in the half ran out. Then, of course, there was the touchdown and tying two-point conversion with just over a minute left in regulation. That’s minus-10 in the last three minutes of a game they lost in overtime.

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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