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Redskins running the ball more but not as much as perceived

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Redskins running the ball more but not as much as perceived

There is a fine line between being perceived as pass happy and fans having confidence that you like to run and pound the football.

Jay Gruden should know. After being labeled as a coach who wanted to throw the ball too much last year, he has talked all offseason about the importance of his Redskins being able to run the football and how that would be the emphasis of the team’s offense. The perception now is that he is Ground Gruden, utilizing what is now a three-headed rushing attack with the reliable Alfred Morris, powerful rookie Matt Jones and intriguing scatback Chris Thompson. But the play calling has not been dramatically different.

Let’s look at first down plays because those calls are the least controlled by circumstances such as distance to go. The Redskins have run 54 times and passed 67 times, a 55 percent-45 percent run to pass ratio. Their play calling favors the run more than most teams; the NFL as a whole this year runs 51 percent of the time on first down and passes 49 percent.

But last year, when Gruden was supposedly throwing the ball all over the place, the Redskins ran on 53 percent of their first downs, compared to the league average of 52 percent. If this year plays out at its current pace, the Redskins will end up running the ball on 268 first-down plays compared to 248 last year. So on about 30 first-down snaps per game, the 2015 Redskins trade a run for a pass on one of them compare to last year.

Zooming out to all plays, the 2015 Redskins have run 126 times and passed 158. That’s 44 to 56 percent in favor of the pass. It’s still more run heavy than the league as a whole. So far in 2015 the NFL runs 41 percent of the time and passes 59 percent.

If the Redskins keep up their current pace, they will have just over 500 rushing attempts in 2015 compared to 402 last year. That would be about 6.4 more runs per game, about 10 percent of the plays, a significant increase. You could print up the “Ground Gruden” T-shirts if that happens.

But Gruden still has a way to go before he would be among the most run-oriented teams in the league. Although the Redskins are second in the NFL in rushing attempts with 126 they are like most of the rest of the teams in the league in that they pass more than they run. There are currently five teams—the Panthers, Bengals, Packers, Bills, and 49ers—who have more running plays than passing plays.

The reality is that the Redskins’ shift to running the ball more often, however subtle, may be related more to game scores than to a grand philosophical shift. Last year they were outscored by 137 points, about nine points per game. They lost nine games by double digits. In short, they were in a lot of passing situations.

This year they have played with the lead a lot and have faced a double-digit deficit in just one game. Those are running situations.

Game situations dictate play calls as much as a coach’s does. That’s important to keep in mind when trying to figure out what Gruden is happy to do.

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.

Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.

Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return. 

Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games. 

The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury. 

MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond. 

The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.

Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it. 

  1. Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come. 
  2. Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions. 
  3. Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus. 

Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-

We didn't spend last week playing checkers.

News & Notes:

  • Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
  • The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed. 
  • D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
  • Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week. 
  • Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.

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