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Redskins' Matt Jones' ball security is an issue that needs to be fixed in 2016

Redskins' Matt Jones' ball security is an issue that needs to be fixed in 2016

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.

Earlier we looked at fumble recoveries and defensive interceptions. Today we’ll look at fumbles lost on offense, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later we’ll look at Kirk Cousins’ interceptions.

The Redskins put the ball on the ground 26 times in 2015; only three teams fumbled more. Of those, 11 were recovered by the opposition. Five teams lost more fumbles but that really isn’t as bad as it sounds. In all, 16 teams, half of the league, lost between nine and 13 fumbles; the median was nine so the Redskins were just a little worse than the norm.

As you might have guessed, Matt Jones and Kirk Cousins led the team in lost fumbles with four. Cousins’ fumble total is on the high side but it’s not particularly alarming. Six other quarterbacks lost more fumbles and three others lost just as many. Remember that the quarterback handles the ball on every play and the simple odds say that he will fumble more and lose the ball more often than most players.

But Jones’ fumbles were a legitimate issue. Only Doug Martin of the Bucs, who lost five, lost more fumbles than Jones. But it needs to be noted that Martin fumbled five times in 321 touches (288 rush att., 33 receptions), or 1.6 percent. Jones fumbled five times in 163 touches (144/19), a fumble percentage of 3.1 percent. Certainly Jones will have to tighten this up if he is going to continue to play in the NFL.

In addition to Jones and Cousins, the other Redskins to lose fumbles were tight end Jordan Reed, who lost two, and DeSean Jackson. He committed the only special teams turnover of the year against the Cowboys on a punt return that Redskins fans won’t forget.

How much damage did the lost fumbles do? One was returned for a touchdown; that was Cousins fumble in the second quarter of the Bucs game that Howard Jones scooped up and took to the house. On drives following fumble recoveries the Redskins’ opponents scored five touchdowns and three field goals. Only one team, the Bucs, gave up more touchdowns following lost fumbles and seven teams gave up more field goals.

One note on this that you can take however you’d like. Half of the scoring drives against the Redskins following fumbles came in one game. They had a bad day against the Panthers, giving up two touchdowns and two field goals after fumbles. You can’t throw out the bad game when analyzing the numbers but beware that even a 16-game season is small enough of a sample size that one ugly performance on one Sunday can skew what the other 15 games look like.

One other fumble almost certainly cost the Redskins some points. In Week 3 against the Giants Jones appeared to be headed to the end zone but he lost the ball and it went out of bounds in the end zone. That wasn’t a critical situation—at the time the Redskins trailed 25-6 with less than 10 minutes left to play—but it still was a symptom of Jones’ ball security problems.

What can be done to solve the issue going forward? There is no magical solution. Jones needs to learn better ball security. That is something that can be learned. Alfred Morris fumbled nine times in his first two seasons in the league (1.4% of touches) while in the last two years he fumbled just twice (0.4% of touches).

The other end of it is to improve the defense so that they can stonewall the other team after a turnover. Joe Barry and the defensive players will tell you that they needed to stop the Cowboys after Jackson’s fumble and hold them to at worst a field goal. That’s not an impossible task.

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Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown may want to power through his myriad of injuries but he won’t be able to do it this week.

Brown is one of two Redskins who have been declared out for the game against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden listed his injuries as toe/ankle/Achilles/hip. This will be the first game that Brown has missed with the Redskins and his first since he was with the Titans in 2014.

Also out is safety Montae Nicholson, who will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion.

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

Listed as questionable are OT Morgan Moses (ankle), OT Trent Williams (knee), OLB Ryan Anderson (ankle), WR Ryan Grant (ankle), WR Maurice Harris (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), and C Chase Roullier (hand).

Williams’ status for Sunday is very much in doubt. His usual pattern since sustaining a knee injury in Week 4 has been to sit out the first two days of practice and then participate in the third. However, he was not on the field on Friday during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Jay Gruden said that he did join the team at some point but he didn’t indicate that he took part in any football activity.

He has missed three games and it would not be surprising if he missed a fourth on Sunday. If Williams can’t go, Ty Nsekhe will start at left tackle.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Roullier has been out the last three games with a broken right (snapping) hand. He has had the cast off of it for a couple of weeks now and he could be ready to go on Sunday.

Harris was out of the game against the Chargers last Sunday with a concussion. He has been practicing on a limited basis all week. The chances that he can pass the concussion protocol seem good, although with concussions it is always difficult to know for sure.

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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Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

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Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday, putting doubt into his availability for the game against the Cardinals.

Brown is leading the league in combined tackles and, probably, in injuries.

The team’s injury report says that he is dealing with four of them—toe, Achilles, and ankle with an illness piled on top of those.

“They’re hindering him quite a bit,” Jay Gruden said of Brown’s laundry list of ailments.

“Sickness is starting to clear up a little bit but he’s still a little sore. We’ll see if he makes any progress tomorrow. It’d have to be pretty significant, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

The illness might clear up but the other injuries are unlikely to go away until a few weeks into the offseason. He is getting treatments that include massage, laser, and acupuncture but rest is the only thing that will get rid of the problems.

Some have wondered why Brown persists with multiple injuries and the team now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. For one thing, playing is what he does.

“I like to play the game,” said Brown last week.

RELATED: WEEK 15 POWER RANKINGS

“I like to play the game with passion and I hate to lose. I try my best to help people do better, just trying to help some of the young guys. At the end of the day, you rest when the season’s over.”

There are financial considerations as well, on a couple of different fronts. Brown will be a free agent in 2018 and he is risking further injury that could lower his value on the market. He says that does not factor into is thinking.

“Last two years I was on the free agent market, it’s the way I play,” he said. “If that was the case I would have just shut it down already.”

There are other, more immediate financial considerations as well. Brown has per-game roster bonuses of $15,625 that are paid if he is on the list of 46 active players. And he has incentive bonuses of up to $2.3 million according to Over the Cap. It’s safe to say that at least some of those bonuses will be attainable only if Brown is able to play effectively in all or nearly all of the scheduled 16 games.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Brown hasn’t spoken about the incentive bonus money being important and, given his answer to the free agency question, he probably wouldn’t. But this is not a player who has made a ton of money in his career. According to Spotrac, if he hits on his roster bonuses and on his likely to be earned incentives this year he will have about $7.7 million in career earnings. That’s a good chunk of money but once you take away taxes, a cut to his agent and other various and sundry expenses it’s not “set for life” money. It’s likely that his bank account would notice whatever he can collect in incentives.

Gruden has said that Brown is a player who could go on Sunday even with only one practice under his belt. We will know a lot more about his status this afternoon when his practice status for Friday and his game status for Sunday will be announced on the injury report.