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Small situational sample size makes judging Redskins' play calling difficult

Small situational sample size makes judging Redskins' play calling difficult

I was doing some research on the Redskins’ run-pass ratio last year and I stumbled across a number that I found to be both stunning and very, very revealing.

I was looking into play calls in situations where the Redskins were trailing in a game by seven points or more and compared that to both league averages and to what they did when they led by seven or more.

When they were trailing by seven or more, Jay Gruden’s play selection mirrored that of the league as a whole. The Redskins passed 68 percent of the time and ran 32 percent. The league as a whole passed 68.7 percent of plays and ran on 31.3 percent.

How about when leading by a touchdown or more? In those situations the league as a whole went with the pass on 47.2 percent of the snaps and ran 52.8 percent. Gruden was a bit more pass happy, going 50.5 percent pass to 49.5 percent run.

The surprising stat that I found was that the Redskins ran just 91 plays when they were up by seven points or more. That’s pathetic. The average NFL team ran 230 plays with a lead of a touchdown or more. But the Redskins ran just about five and a half per game.

But the average is deceiving. They ran 53 of those plays with a lead of a touchdown or more in Week 2 against the Jaguars. The other 38 snaps came in two other games, the Week 3 shootout in Philadelphia and in Week 9 in Minnesota. So in 13 games they didn’t take a single snap with a lead of at least seven points.

Gruden was indeed pass happy in his play calling last year, with 60 percent passes to 40 percent runs. But given that they rarely had a substantial lead to work with, even Chuck Knox, a.k.a. Ground Chuck, the former Bills and Seahawks coach known for strongly favoring the running game, would have found it necessary to throw a lot.

This doesn’t render any criticism of Gruden’s overall play selection last season null and void. But it does make it difficult to predict what the Redskins run-pass ratio will be this year if they manage to play with a lead some of the time. If the upgraded personnel improve the defense and if special teams can become a help and not a hindrance, perhaps the Redskins will run an average number of plays with a lead of seven points or more and we can see if the stated intentions to control the game with the run actually happen.

If, on the other hand, the Redskins again run fewer than 100 plays with a lead of a touchdown or better we won’t really know what the intentions of Gruden and company were. They will be forced to throw to catch up.

And we may never find out what Gruden’s offensive model looks like. If they can’t play with a lead a substantial amount of the time there may be a different coach developing the offensive philosophy in 2015.

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

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Kirk Cousins breaks down the terribleness of FedEx Field grass

For years, the Redskins struggle with their home field as the fall turns to winter. It's been happening so long it's become an expected passing of the seasons, like the transition from Halloween jack-o-lanterns to Christmas lights dotting people's front yards. 

Well, on Thanksgiving night, the turf at FedEx Field again showed how bad it can be. On a second half interception returned for a New York Giants touchdown, replay showed that Kirk Cousins' foot got stuck on the dirt, and it played a role in his sailing a ball to the sideline. The bad turf was not the only reason for the interception, but it was definitely a reason. 

Beyond the pick, the field was just ugly. Twitter blew up making fun of the Redskins home grass, and the national broadcast showed just how unsightly the long brown patch between the hash marks looked. 

On Friday, the normally diplomatic Cousins opened up about the grass.

"It probably doesn't look like a professional NFL field should," the quarterback said on 106.7 the Fan (full audio here). "If you think the field is rough now on Thanksgiving, we've got two more home games in mid-to-late December. That's probably going to be a bigger challenge."

Asked about the field's impact on the interception on Thursday night, Cousins ignored it. But plenty of other players have suggested the field is a known problem in the second half, and something they just must deal with. 

"I don't know why it is that way or what causes it," Cousins said. "I've kind of learned to accept it and understand it's part of the deal. Playing here on the field has never been that great in the second half of the season for whatever the reason."

[h/t @BenStandig for the Cousins quotes]

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

 

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When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

When Samaje Perine got going, so did the Redskins' offense

At halftime of the Redskins’ Thanksgiving night game against the Giants, Samaje Perine had three yards rushing and his team had three points. Washington had racked up all of 113 yards.

Coincidence? Not entirely. Although the Redskins are primarily a passing team they need to run the ball to pass effectively.

“We had to get the running game going,” said Jay Gruden after the game.

In the second half, Perine and the offense did get it going. Perine ran for 97 yards and Redskins put up 210 yards and 17 points. It’s safe to say that it wasn’t a coincidence.

The Redskins didn’t make any halftime adjustments to get the ground game in gear.

“We just had to stay the course,” said Perine. “We knew they were going to come out fired up, they just came off a big win. We just had to stay the course and then things started going our way.”

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS OF THE WIN

Perine was more steady than spectacular. His longest run was 16 yards. He came out of the locker room and ran for six and 10 yards on his first two carries. Later in the third quarter the Redskins were backed up at their own 10. Perine ran four straight plays for 39 yards and the Redskins were near midfield.

Although they didn’t score on that drive they did change field position. That was part of the Redskins’ strategy playing with an injury-depleted offense.

“If you had to punt in a game like this and play field position, it’s not the end of the world because our defense was playing so good,” said Gruden.

Not only did the running game flip the field, it flipped the time of possession. In the first half, the Giants had the ball for 17:40 compared to 12:20 for the Redskins.

“We had to get on the field and control some of the clock,” said tackle Morgan Moses. “We had to give our defense a rest. Samaje put his foot in the ground and got extra yards when needed and we were able to move the chains.”

Moses wasn’t the only one enjoying seeing Perine pile up some yards.

“As a defensive player, you want to see that,” said safety D.J. Swearinger. “We say, keep running it. Keep running him. Let him keep getting those carries, put a dent in the defense. It was a good sight to see.”

RELATED: FIVE KEY MOMENTS IN RESKINS VS GIANTS

Swearinger got to watch a lot of Perine. The Redskins piled up 22:17 in possession in the second half, while Swearinger and his defensive mates had to defend for just 7:43.

Last night was the second time in four days that Perine has rushed for 100 yards or more; he had 117 in New Orleans on Sunday. No Redskin has rushed for 100 yards in consecutive games since Alfred Morris did it in November of 2013.

He will have a chance to extend that streak to three on Thursday against the Cowboys, who are ranked 17th in rushing defense. That would put him in some elite company in Redskins history, including Larry Brown (twice) and Stephen Davis.  A steak of three straight 100-yard games was last done by Morris in 2012.

It may be a little early to look forward, but the Redskins record is five straight 100-yard games, held by Clinton Portis (twice) and Ladell Betts.  

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.