It was well known that one of the things that the Redskins had to fix this year was their dismal inability to convert on third downs. The NFL said that their 31.5 percent conversion rate was the third worst in the league. The guys at Football Outsiders went further, saying that all things considered they were one of the worst third down teams since they have been tracking such numbers.
It’s only two games into the new season but the Redskins are off to a good start in fixing such issues. Through two games they have converted 46.7 percent of their third downs, good for ninth in the NFL. The secret to their modest success really is no secret. They are running the ball early, often, and well and that is helping them on third down.
Against the Rams yesterday, the Redskins converted eight of 16 (50%) third down situations. The NFL average for the full season last year was around 40 percent so anything better than that is pretty good.
All eight of their conversions were in situations where they had eight yards or fewer to go. And they start off six of those eight sets of downs with a running play.
They did a pretty good job of staying ahead of the chains all day. Only three of their 16 third down situations yesterday were from more than eight yards to go. Last week against the Dolphins they had six such situations.
The third down conversions weren’t mere window dressing stats. They mattered. The Redskins had two touchdown drives that covered 12 plays, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth. Two conversions came during the first one, including the touchdown on a third and goal pass from Kirk Cousins to Pierre Garçon from the four. That put the Redskins up 17-0 at halftime.
The other TD drive came in the fourth quarter after the Rams had closed it to 17-10. The Redskins converted three third downs in this drive. Cousins threw to Chris Thompson for the only time all day to get 10 yards on third and eight. Then on third and five Cousins found Jordan Reed down the middle for 29 yards. Perhaps the most impressive conversion came a few plays later when Cousins just handed it to Matt Jones on third and eight and watched the rookie rumble for nine. Two plays later Jones was in the end zone and the competitive phase of the game was over.
The Giants shipped out Jason Pierre-Paul for life as a Buccaneer, and in turn, Tampa will send a third and fourth round draft pick to New York.
Moving Pierre-Paul comes at a curious time for the Giants. The team will eat $15 million of dead money in the move, and New York also sent a fourth-round pick to Tampa as part of the transaction.
What it definitely signals is that Big Blue looks to be moving from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 look. Additionally, with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, maybe the Giants will seriously look at NC State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb.
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For the Redskins, seeing Pierre-Paul leave the NFC East is welcome news. He has 12.5 career sacks against Washington QBs, the same amount he has against the Eagles and Cowboys combined.
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The Redskins and linebacker Zach Brown agreed to a three-year contract that will require Brown to continue to play at a high level if he is going to collect all of the $21 million the deal contains.
Brown’s camp reportedly was shopping for a contract that had some $20 million in guaranteed money. The actual deal fell well short of that.
Brown, who was leading the league in tackles before an assortment of injuries forced him to sit out the last three games, got a total of $5.5 million in fully guaranteed money. He got a $4.5 million signing bonus and his $1 million salary for 2018 is fully guaranteed.
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After that, the remaining two seasons essentially are team options. In 2019 he has a $6.75 million salary and $4.5 million of that is guaranteed for injury. His 2020 salary is $7.5 million with no guarantees of any kind.
The contract also has per-game roster bonuses available at a rate of $15,625 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster in 2018 (total of $250,000 for the year) and $31,250 per game in 2019 and 2020 ($500,000 total).
The salary cap hits per year are as follows:
2018: $2.75 million
2019: $8.75 million
2020: $9.5 million
The average annual value of $7 million ranks ninth among inside linebackers.
Brown will need to continue to play well to collect on the contract. The team will be able to save $5.75 million on the 2019 cap if they terminate the deal after one season and $8 million if they do it in 2020.
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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.