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Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Strategery

Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Strategery

Michael Wilbon may be a Bears fan but he does know football and the Redskins pretty well. He hit it right on the money in his column on Monday morning:
They should have been doing this all along. The Washington Redskins should have committed to pounding people with their running game from Week 1. Throwing is nice if you've got Peyton Manning tossing it to Marvin Harrison or Carson Palmer pitching it to Chad Johnson. But when your starting linemen are from the likes of Michigan, Auburn, Texas and Wisconsin and when your $50 million running back stands on the sideline pestering the coaches for more carries, it's clear the personality of the team is screaming, "Let us run !"
The long bomb, which was supposed to be the new thrust of the offense going in to the season, certainly has its appeal. It's quick it's easy, you really don't have to work for your seven points. It fits with the instant-gratification tone of our current society. It became even more appealing after Mark Brunell unloaded a pair of them to Santana Moss in Dallas and the Redskins got a win after having been outplayed for 55 minutes.

After that, however, the long pass became more of a novelty. Much of the passing yardage came on yards after the catch by the likes of Moss. Although the passes weren't long in distance they were high in number compared to runs. Against Denver Joe Gibbs called 57 passes and 22 runs (note that sacks and Brunell runs are counted as passing plays as that was the play call). In that case, the Redskins did trail by 11 midway through the third quarter so there was some reason to throw more, although Clinton Portis was having a good day against his old team, gaining 100 yards on 20 carries. It was the next week in KC that many started to question the play calling. In a game that never had more than a seven-point spread in the score, there were 47 pass plays called to 28 runs.

It was during the November three-game losing streak, all agonizing, close losses, that the play calling really came into question. Yes they did have to play catch up against Tampa Bay for part of the game but Clinton Portis had 107 yards on 12 carries in the first half but after the Redskins tied the game at 21 early in the third quarter he got only eight more carries.
The term “abandon the run” was thrown around even more after the next game. With Washington up 13-3 at the half, Portis had 17 carries for 70 yards. Portis got five carries for 22 yards in the second half as the lead slipped away and the Redskins lost.

It was against the Chargers that Gibbs decided that if this team was going to turn it around it would be doing so via the ground game. For the first time all year Portis had more rushing attempts than Brunell had passing attempts. It almost worked, but they couldn't get some clock-killing first downs when they needed them and they couldn't hold the best running back in the game down for all four quarters.

Against the Rams the game plan was in full throwback mode with a ratio of runs to pass of nearly two to one. Certainly, the game plan was influenced by the fact that the Rams have one of the worst run defenses in the NFL but the Chargers have one of the best so it's apparent that it wasn't merely a case of taking what the defense gives them. It was an attempt to establish an offensive identity.

Wilbon asks why it took three-fourths of a season to establish such an identity:
If the linemen wanted to run all along and there are three quality running backs to carry the ball, why did it take until the 12th game of a 16-game season to get with the program, to commit completely and totally to the run?

"What lessons do we ever learn early?" Jansen asked with a smile. "With the defense we have, we should be able to do this every week. That has to be the personality of the offense. "
The view here is that rushing attempts will be in the thirties and passes in the teens against Arizona and perhaps even against Dallas. While the Cowboys are in the top 10 in total rushing defense, they are 25th in average yards per carry, giving up 4.2 per rushing attempt. Against the Giants a more diverse offense will be a necessity, but that's a few weeks away. If the run is firmly established by then, the passing game will come.

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

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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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

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!