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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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An ankle injury has ended Terrelle Pryor's first, and probably last, season with the Redskins

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USA TODAY Sports

An ankle injury has ended Terrelle Pryor's first, and probably last, season with the Redskins

As high hopes for the Redskins season seem to be slowly slipping away, the high hopes for wide receiver Terrell Pryor can now officially end.

Jay Gruden announced Monday that Pryor will undergo ankle surgery and be placed on the injured reserve. That means Pryor will not be eligible to play for at least eight games, and considering it’s already late November, that closes the book on Pryor’s 2017 season.

When Pryor signed with Washington this offseason, fans grew quite excited. The 6-foot-5, 240 lbs. wideout went for more than 1,000 receiving yards last year on a terrible Browns team, and most expected that production to increase playing with Kirk Cousins.

It never happened.

MORE: KIRK COUSINS ISN'T THRILLED WITH NFL'S APOLOGY FOR MISSED CALL

In nine games for Washington, Pryor grabbed only 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown. What made matters worse for the former quarterback-turned-receiver, Pryor displayed subpar hands, and drops plagued him throughout the season. He was targeted 37 times, and barely caught more than 50 percent of those passes.

As things deteriorated for Pryor, he maintained a respectful professionalism. Eventually his ineffective play led him to the bench and reduced snaps, and in his final game of the season against the Vikings, Pryor did not even land a target.

Signed to a one-year deal, Pryor rolled the dice on a season in Washington to boost his free agent profile in 2018. It didn’t work, and now after surgery, it seems unlikely either the player or the organization would pursue a second contract.

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After awful collapse, NFL apology on bad call little more than hollow gesture for Kirk Cousins, Redskins

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After awful collapse, NFL apology on bad call little more than hollow gesture for Kirk Cousins, Redskins

NEW ORLEANS — Collectively, the Redskins squandered a great road win on Sunday.

The team coughed up a 15-point lead in the fourth quarter, and allowed Drew Brees and the Saints to pull off an incredible, unbelievable comeback win. 

The Redskins deserve the blame. The players and coaches. But they're not alone. 

The referees made a terrible intentional grounding call late in the fourth quarter that cost the Redskins precious time and real estate.

Kirk Cousins very obviously threw the ball away to stop the clock, and the quarterback was very obviously not under duress from the Saints pass rush.

In no fashion was the throw grounds for a flag.

None. 

RELATED: WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LOSS TO SAINTS

Yet, the refs penalized Cousins and the Redskins. As much as replay bogs down the sport, Jay Gruden had no recourse, the flag could not be challenged, and the 'Skins were thrust out of field goal position.

Late Sunday night, a report showed that NFL officials contacted Redskins team president Bruce Allen to say the call was wrong. Whoop de do. That means nothing, and Cousins knows it. 

"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.," Cousins said Monday speaking on 106.7 the Fan

And he's right.

RELATED: DEAR FANS, STOP WITH THE 'FIRE GRUDEN' TALK

"This is our careers, this is our livelihood," Cousins said. "It is frustrating when a letter is really all you get when it has such a major impact on the direction of our lives."

Cousins' future, Gruden's future, countless other players and coaches, they don't get to hang a sign that says, "The NFL blew a call."

For the third straight offseason, Cousins will be without a contract, and a long-term deal remains anything but certain. This loss, and that call, could impact those contract talks. 

This loss, and that call, could impact coaching changes or draft strategy too. By dropping to 4-6, the Redskins seem unlikely to push for a playoff spot now. Might the organization think differently of their franchise QB if the team fails to make the playoffs for consecutive seasons? Sure, that could definitely happen. Should it happen? Probably not. Could it happen? It could. 

Don't misunderstand: The Redskins blew a 15-point lead in three minutes. That's abysmal. That's absurd. One penalty flag didn't change that. 

But it was a huge penalty, and it was a terrible call. 

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Cousins played nearly flawless in New Orleans, connecting for three touchdowns and more than 300 yards. His most important pass, however, was one that was harmlessly into the ground, with no intended receiver. 

"I'm thinking, well [Jamison] Crowder and [Josh] Doctson are over there. If I literally throw it over their heads, they're in the area, they're eligible receivers. Not to mention, if I'm not under pressure, it's not intentional grounding," Cousins said. 

It's not intentional grounding. Cousins knows it. The NFL knows it. But it doesn't matter now. 

"The difference between a team that’s patting everybody on the back at the end of the season and a team that everybody gets fired, the difference can be a few plays, it can be a call by a referee," Cousins said. "It's a very fragile thing."

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