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Redskins' Morris was frequently stopped before he could get started in 2014

Redskins' Morris was frequently stopped before he could get started in 2014

You don’t have to look very deeply into Alfred Morris’ numbers to realize that 2014 wasn’t a banner year for him. He averaged just 67 yards per game, quite a decline from the 101 yards per game he gained as a rookie in 2012. Morris did have 70 fewer carries in 2014 than he did in 2012 but he also averaged 4.1 yards per carry last year compared to 4.8 as a rookie.

There has been plenty of talk that Morris needs to be more productive this coming season, which also happens to be the final year of his contract. The team spent a third-round draft pick on running back Matt Jones and it appears that he will be give plenty of opportunity to make his case to be the No. 1 back in 2016.

But Morris can’t do anything without help and I found one article that indicates that he didn’t get nearly enough of it. Earlier this month Pro Football Focus ran a post looking at which running backs were hit in the backfield the most often in 2014. And right there near the top of the list was Alfred Morris.

According to the analysis, Morris took a handoff and was contacted before he reached the line of scrimmage an astounding 70 times, 26.4 percent of his rushing attempts. That was sixth in the league on a percentage basis. Although they don’t rank the raw numbers, it’s hard to imagine many backs getting hit in the backfield more than 70 times.

This feeds into the notion that the Redskins’ offensive line was a mess last year and that anyone from Jim Brown to Adrian Peterson would have struggled to put up impressive numbers behind that group.

And there is no question that the line needed to get better. That is why the Redskins paid premium dollars to bring in Bill Callahan, one of the best O-line coaches in the business. That is why they spent the No. 5 overall pick on right tackle Brandon Scherff and drafted two other linemen in the later rounds. The organization also decided to move on from right guard Chris Chester and promote Spencer Long to the starting spot there.

But getting hit in the backfield on a running play isn’t always the fault of the five offensive linemen. Sometimes tight ends, receivers, and the fullback don’t execute their assignments. The defense could load the box at times and have more defenders than the offense has available blocker. The loaded box frequently happens when the quarterback is struggling; the Redskins had a trio of QB’s who went through extended rough patches.

And sometimes the blame goes on the runner. Morris did say last year that he was not always hitting the right spots all the time. If the runner is going to one place and the offensive line thinks he’s supposed to be in a different place the play will frequently break down.

It should be noted that runners getting hit in the backfield is a common occurrence in the NFL. The running back who got hit early the least was Jamaal Charles of the Chiefs and he got hit 13.2 percent of the time. The PFF article doesn’t give complete data so it’s impossible to say with accuracy what the NFL average is for backfield hits. But eyeballing the top 10 and the bottom 10 I’d say that 20 percent is a reasonable estimate. If that’s the case and the Redskins were an average team in this regard then Morris would have been hit early on 53 of his 265 carries.

Like most areas of concern with this year, fixing just one aspect of the problem isn’t going to get done. For Morris to get a better chance at gaining positive yardage several areas need to improve, including the runner himself.

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2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

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2018 NFL Draft order has Redskins pick nearing top ten as losses stockpile

LOS ANGELES — Some years, the December talk is of playoff tiebreakers.

Other years, it’s about draft position.

This is one of those “other” years.

The Redskins’ current skid of four losses in their last five games has knocked them out of playoff contention but into more favorable position in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is scheduled to take place in late April.

The Redskins' record is 5-8 through Week 14,  and if the season ended today, Washington would be picking either 11th or 12th in the first round.

Here’s the big picture: As of Monday, there are eight teams that have fewer wins than Washington. All of them would be picking ahead of the Redskins. 

The Bengals and Jets also have eight losses so the one and only draft order tiebreaker would be applied.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

This does not work out well for the Redskins.

The NFL Draft tiebreaker is strength of schedule with the teams with the weaker schedules getting the better picks. I am sure you have heard about how tough a schedule the Redskins have all year long. It was a point of pride for many fans. But now it comes back to bite them.

The Jets (opponents winning percentage .488) and the Bengals (.444) have faced weaker schedules than the Redskins (.574). That pushes Washington back to 11th.

RELATED: FEW UPS, MANY DOWNS VS. CHARGERS

But there is a Week 14 game pending. The Dolphins, who have seven losses, play the Patriots on Monday Night Football. If they lose and join the eight-loss group, they would jump ahead of the Redskins based on the SOS tiebreaker, pushing Washington back to 12th.

Of course, the season doesn’t end today and a lot can happen.

But if the bottom doesn’t completely fall out it seems likely that they will end up somewhere between 10th and 12th in the first round.

We will be looking at what that might mean for the Redskins in the coming days and weeks as the offseason comes early for the Redskins one more time.

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NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

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USA Today Sports

NFL Playoff Picture: NFC bracket projection starting to come into focus

The NFC Playoff picture is no clearer in Week 14 than it was in Week 8.

Throughout the 2017-18 NFL season, the NFC in particular has been a gauntlet. So much of a gauntlet that one of the league’s best in the past five years, the Seattle Seahawks, sit outside of the postseason with an 8-5 record.

As of the conclusion of Week 14’s action, only the Philadelphia Eagles (11-2) have locked up a postseason spot.

The Eagles claimed the NFC East for the first time since 2013 with a win over the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday. The will clinch a first round bye with a win and losses by the Saints and the Panthers this weekend.

The Minnesota Vikings (10-3) with their loss remains second in the conference, still within striking range over the overall No. 1 seed.

With losses to the two teams ahead of them, the Rams (9-4) have a tough hill to climb to claim a first-round bye, but first they need to get back in the win column.

For the WildCard berths there was a wrench thrown into many teams plans with the Atlanta Falcons (8-5) defeating the New Orleans Saints (9-4) on Thursday night. Atlanta owns a tiebreaker over pretty much every team chasing them for the final playoff spot.

For the five remaining unclaimed spots in the postseason, 10 teams are still alive.

After Week 15 though, that number could dwindle down significantly.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT 3.0

NFC Playoff Picture Week 15

NFC PLAYOFF BRACKET PROJECTION:
— #1 Philadelphia Eagles* (11-2) vs. BYE
— #2 Minnesota Vikings (10-3) vs. BYE
— #3 Los Angeles Rams (9-4) vs. #6 Atlanta Falcons (8-5)
— #4 New Orleans Saints (9-4) vs. #5 Carolina Panthers (9-4)

NFC TEAMS IN THE PLAYOFF HUNT:
— Seattle Seahawks (8-5)
— Detroit Lions (7-6)
— Green Bay Packers (7-6)
— Dallas Cowboys (7-6)
— Arizona Cardinals (6-7)

NFC TEAMS ELIMINATED FROM PLAYOFF PICTURE:
— Washington Redskins (5-8)
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-9)
— Chicago Bears (4-9)
— San Francisco 49ers (3-10)
— New York Giants (2-11)

SEEDING NOTES:
— Eagles own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Panthers.
— Vikings own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Rams, Saints, and Falcons.
— Saints own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Panthers.
— Rams own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Saints.
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Vikings.

WILD CARD NOTES:
— Panthers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
— Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions, Packers, Cowboys, and Seahawks.
— Lions own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.
— Packers own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Seahawks, Cowboys.
— Cowboys own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Cardinals.

Week 15 NFC Games With Playoff Implications:

Sat., Dec 16: Bears at Lions (4:30 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Bengals at Vikings (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Jets at Saints (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Eagles at Giants (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cardinals at Redskins (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Panthers at Packers (1:00 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Rams at Seahawks (4:05 p.m.)
Sun., Dec 17: Cowboys at Raiders (8:30 p.m.)
Mon., Dec 18: Falcons at Buccaneers (8:30 p.m.)