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Redskins rumble to victory over Eagles behind Matt Jones, run game

Redskins rumble to victory over Eagles behind Matt Jones, run game

LANDOVER, MD— The Redskins jumped out to a 14-0 lead over the Eagles, allowed them to come back, and then they retook control and held on for a 27-20 win at FedEx Field. The win is their fourth straight after an 0-2 start to the season

The Redskins got a big day out of Kirk Cousins, who passed for 263 yards and two touchdowns, and out of their running game. Matt Jones rushed 16 times for 135 yards and Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley also chipped in with 59 and 37 yards, respectively.

The home team got out to a 14-0 lead and appeared to be ready to put the game on cruise control in the second quarter.

The trouble started innocently enough. Vernon Davis caught his first touchdown pass as a Redskin and it gave his team a 14-0 lead. The veteran celebrated by using the football as a basketball and “shooting” it over the goal post. That drew a 15-yard penalty on the kickoff from the enforcers of the NFL’s “no fun” edict. With the kickoff pushed back Wendell Smallwood fielded the kickoff at the 14 and rolled down the left sideline 86 yards for a touchdown.

The Redskins were moving on their subsequent possession but Kirk Cousins threw an ill-advised pass under pressure. Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins picked it off and cruised 64 yards to tie the game at 14.

The Redskins regained control, scoring on back-to-back possessions in the second and third quarters to take a 24-14 lead. The teams exchanged field goals and the Eagles got the ball back trailing by seven at their own 30 with 4:05 to go.

The Eagles got moving into Redskins territory. A sack by Ricky Jean Francois set up a third and 16 at the Eagles 49. Another sack, this one by Trent Murphy and Preston Smith, forced the Eagles to punt and try to play defense. But on third and seven at the 26, Jones had a huge hole and he bolted 58 yards down to the 26. One kneel down later the game was over.

Scoring drives:  

First quarter            

Crowder 16 pass from Cousins (Hopkins kick)

Drive: 3 plays, 71 yards, 1:31

Drive summary: The Redskins’ stagnant offense got a spark when Kirk Cousins found DeSean Jackson open on the right side for 35 yards down to the Eagles 31. After Matt Jones powered for 15 yards, Cousins hit Crowder with a beautiful pass in the left corner of the end zone for the touchdown.

Redskins 7, Eagles 0 0:51            

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Second quarter

Davis 13 pass from Cousins

Drive: 9 plays, 90 yards, 5:31

Drive summary: The Redskins started in a hole at their own 10. Cousins got the initial first down with a nice scramble for nine yards on third and seven. Rookie Robert Kelley then headed left, got through the line, cut back to the right, and rumbled 45 yards to the Eagles 33. Runs by Kelley and Chris Thompson set up another first down at the 18. Three plays later on third and five, Cousins found Vernon Davis all alone in the middle of the end zone for the touchdown.

Redskins 14, Eagles 0 7:48          

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Smallwood 86 kickoff return (Sturgis kick)

Drive: --

Drive summary: After a celebration penalty on Vernon Davis’ touchdown the Redskins kicked off from their own 20. Smallwood took it at the 14 headed straight up the left side and bolted 86 yards for the touchdown

Redskins 14, Eagles 7 7:37

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Jenkins 66 interception return

Drive: --

Drive summary: The Redskins had a nice drive going until Cousins tried to throw to Davis under duress. Malcolm Jenkins was all over the receiver and picked off the pass. Cousins was the only obstacle between Jenkins and the end zone and he easily eluded the quarterback for the 64-yard return.

Redskins 14, Eagles 14 3:55       

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Jones 1 run (Hopkins kick)

Drive: 13 plays, 75 yards, 3:49

Drive summary: The Redskins got going with a 22-yard run by Matt Jones. Then Jones ran for another six and Robert Kelley fought for six more and another first down. On third and five at the 32 Cousins found Garçon open for a gain of 13 to the 19. Then Cousins went to Garcon over the middle for 15 yards to the four. On third and goal from the four, Cousins threw incomplete but the Eagles were flagged for roughing the passer. It took three plays to get it in from the two but Jones went wide left on third and goal at the one for the touchdown.

Redskins 21, Eagles 14 0:06

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Third quarter

FG Hopkins 32

Drive: 12 plays, 66 yards, 6:20

Drive summary: The Redskins got going when they converted a third and eight with a short Cousins pass to Pierre Garçon that the receiver turned into a 22-yard game. A screen to Thompson gained 10 yards to the Eagles 42. Matt Jones followed that up with a 16-yard run to the 19. Washington lost 10 yards on an illegal block penalty but got it right back when the Eagles committed a facemask to set up first and 10 at the 13. On third down from there, Cousins was pressured and threw high for Garçon. Dustin Hopkins came in and booted the field goal to extend the Washington lead.

Redskins 24, Eagles 14 8:40       

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Fourth quarter

FG Sturgis 38

Drive: 9 plays, 70 yards, 3:50

Drive summary: It looked like the drive was done before it got started but Wentz hit Jordan Matthews with a long bomb on third and 14. That was good for 54 yards to the Redskins 26. But they went nowhere after that and Sturgis came in and booted the field goal to make it a one-score game.

Redskins 24, Eagles 17 12:56     

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FG Hopkins 50

Drive: 7 plays, 58 yards, 3:13

Drive summary: The Redskins got another long drive rolling with Matt Jones picking up 13 yards to the 23. Then Cousins dropped a perfect pass into Vernon Davis’ arms and the tight end scampered up the left sideline for 37 yards to the Eagles 40. An offside penalty got another first down but they could get no further and Hopkins came in a booted the field goal.

Redskins 27, Eagles 17 9:43       

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FG Sturgis 28

Drive: 8 plays 69 yards, 4:23

Drive summary: The Eagles executed a quick drive to answer the Redskins’ score. Ryan Matthews bolted for 22 yards and then Wentz passed to Dorial Green-Beckham for 23 yards and to Zach Ertz for 22. Darrel Sproles ran 12 yards to set up first and goal at the 10. But they couldn’t punch it in and Sturgis kicked the field goal to again make it a one-score game.

Redskins 27, Eagles 20 5:20       

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 MORE REDSKINS: Vernon Davis penalized for "excessive" celebration

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

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Need to Know: Tandler's Take—Drafting a running back early not a cure-all for Redskins' ground game

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 18, 24 days before NFL free agency starts.

Tandler’s Take

The topic for today’s post comes from Twitter:

When I asked for topics for this post, the subject of the running game came up with several of them. And since John brought up the draft, let’s look at that as a potential solution.

Let’s first establish that the Redskins’ running game was not good enough last year. I don’t need to spend a bunch of time on this but here are some numbers. They were 28th in rushing yards and 29th in yards per carry. If you like to weigh more complete metrics, they were 28th in rushing DVOA. If you want to look at a key situation, they were last in the league in yards per first-down rushing attempt. Last year a team gained 100 yards rushing or more 274 times. The Redskins got there five times.

I’m going to leave it at that here since, again, if you’re reading this you probably watched a lot of their games and you don’t need to be persuaded that the running game was largely unproductive. Yes, there were injuries that had the offensive linemen playing snaps just days after being signed and the broken leg suffered by Chris Thompson and Rob Kelley’s various ailments. But the Redskins haven’t ranked higher than 19th in rushing yards since Jay Gruden became the head coach. Rushing game struggles are an ongoing issue.

I am going to work on the premise that those who advocate having the Redskins improve their running game via the draft are talking about drafting a running back in the first or second round. That may be overgeneralizing but that gives me a good-sized chunk of data to work with and still be able to analyze it in the 1000 words or so I am allotted here.

I’m also going to call a 1,000-yard season the minimum that would be expected out of a back drafted in the first two rounds. There are other ways a back can contribute, of course, and we can deal with them separately.

From 2010-2017, there were 45 thousand-yard rushing seasons by players who entered the league during those years (all data via the indispensable Pro Football Reference unless noted). Twelve of them were accomplished by players drafted in the first round. Six came from second-round picks, six from third-rounders, four from the fourth, three from the fifth, four from the sixth and none from the seventh. Oh, and there were 10 thousand-yard seasons that came from undrafted players.

It should be noted that four of those seasons from undrafted players came from the Texans’ Arian Foster. And two each came from LeGarrette Blount and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. So those 10 thousand-yard seasons should not be seen as an indication that there is a treasure trove of running back talent going undrafted every year.

Back to the first and second rounders, the combined 16 thousand-yard seasons doesn’t mean much in isolation. How many backs were drafted in the first two rounds in that time? How many opportunities have they had to post big seasons?

In the past eight drafts, 34 running backs were drafted in the first and second round. That group has had 170 opportunities to post a 1,000-yard season. What I mean by opportunities is the number of seasons that have elapsed since the player was drafted. The six backs drafted in the first two rounds in 2010 have each had eight chances to gain 1,000 yards in a season so they have combined for 48 opportunities (6*8). There were five backs drafted in the first and second seven seasons ago, so there have combined for 35 opportunities, and so on. Through the eight years that adds up to 170 seasons.

The combined 16 thousand-yard seasons in 170 opportunities comes to a success rate of 9.4 percent when it comes to reaching the bar that most fans would set as the minimum.

A couple of things need to be pointed out here. There are some backs like Giovani Bernard, Shane Vereen, and Christian McCaffrey who do not have any big rushing seasons on their resumes but have been valuable catching passes out of the backfield. And some like Dalvin Cook, who was injured after a promising start last year, and McCaffrey seemed destined to have 1,000-yard seasons in their futures. So all of the backs who have not gained 1,000 yards in a season are not necessarily draft busts or failures.

But here are first-round running back busts, just like there are busts at every position. There were 12 running back picked in the first round of the past eight drafts. Javid Best, David Wilson, and Trent Richardson clearly were disappointments (the former two struggled with injuries). Doug Martin, Ryan Mathews, and C.J. Spiller have had some success but perhaps not enough to justify being first-round picks. It took Mark Ingram a while, but he got rolling in his sixth NFL season. I want to see more out of McCaffrey before judging him and Melvin Gordon needs to continue his upward trajectory. It’s safe to say that even with small sample sizes of data in the books on Ezekiel Elliott and Leonard Fournette they were home runs. So was Todd Gurley.

So out of 12 first-round backs in the last eight years, you have three clear busts, three moderate disappointments, four top-level performers (including Ingram) and two TBD.

In any case, it’s clear that just drafting a back early is not a panacea for a struggling running game. Blocking (from both the line and the receivers and other backs), play calling, scheme, and some intangible factors like attitude (as Brian Mitchell will tell you) all play into the success and failure of moving the ball on the ground.

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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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Costly cornerbacks, offseason blueprint

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, February 17, 25 days before NFL free agency starts.

The Redskin week that was

My weekly look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics on RealRedskins.com and NBCSportsWashington.com.

An offseason blueprint for the Redskins—Should the Redskins focus their free agency money on keeping their own? In addition to unrestricted free agents Zach Brown and Trent Murphy, they need to consider extensions for Brandon Scherff, Preston Smith, and Jamison Crowder. That could chew up a bunch of the approximately $31 million of cap space that they have. They may get some help on the market but most of their improvement should come from the draft and from within.

Redskins offseason will hit warp speed soon—With the exception of the Alex Smith trade, which actually hasn’t happened yet, there hasn’t been much going on with the Redskins. That is going to change soon, check out the post for the calendar and how the events matter for the Redskins.

No mixed messages from Alex Smith—In a radio interview, Alex Smith said that he was “jacked” to be a part of the Redskins. Now, the phrase often repeated here is that you shouldn’t listen to what they say, you should watch what they do. And the moment that he signs the reported four-year extension that he has negotiated with the team, a deal that likely would put him in Washington for the rest of his career, we will see his actions backing up his words. Then we will know.

What we know, and what we think, of the Su'a Cravens situation—This will be a true test of the acumen of the front office. It’s a very tricky situation. The Redskins have to decide if they want to keep Cravens. Should they decide to keep him, there will be a lot of smoothing over of ruffled feelings that would need to be done over and trust in Cravens would have to be restored. If they don’t want him around, they have to make it look like they are willing to go into the season with him in order to be able to trade him. Otherwise, teams may just wait for them to cut him and sign him as a free agent. Again, don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.

Tweet of the week

Quarterback is not the only NFL position with rising salaries. The players teams hire to try to stop opposing QBs, cornerbacks, are getting expensive, too. Bashaud Breeland is a good cornerback, not a great one. His coverage skills are solid, he’s a good team player (if a bit of a hothead at times) and his work ethic is not questioned. For a fourth-round pick who everybody thought left Clemson a year too early, he has done well for himself But he hasn’t made a Pro Bowl and he hasn’t even come close enough to be considered a snub. Breeland has eight interceptions in four years in the league with a high of three in 2016.

The price tag for good at cornerback is likely to be in the vicinity of $10 million per season. And good for him if he gets it. But with the Redskins employing Josh Norman, who has cap hits in the range of $14.5 million-$16.9 million over the next three years, it would be difficult to fit him in. Truth be told, Breeland has probably been destined to leave as a free agent ever since Norman signed his contract in April of 2016.

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) 12
—NFL Draft (4/26) 68
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 204

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