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Which Redskins did we over and underrate prior to the season?

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Which Redskins did we over and underrate prior to the season?

On the list of words that one could use to describe the season had by the 2015 Washington Redskins, "unexpected" is at or near the top. The team finished with an unexpected 9-7 record, picked up an unexpected division title, and received contributions from many unexpected sources. But it's the third item on that list — the fact that the Burgundy and Gold had contributors from all sorts of places — that's inspiring this post.

Prior to training camp, our CSN Redskins Insiders ranked the 53 players who were supposed to make up Washington's roster from worst to first, in order of expected impact. However, due to the hectic, injury-filled natured of the campaign that was just completed, many of the guys near the bottom of the list stepped up and totally blew away their anticipated performances. They were the players who were very underrated prior to the year's start.

Of course, on the flip side of that discussion, there were also some names who didn't match up with the hype they were given early on. For whatever reason, whether it be someone else taking away their spot, missing games because they were hurt, etc., these were the players who were overrated and proved to not be as important as initially thought.

So, since the book has recently been shut on the 2015 'Skins, it's time to review our rankings and admit where we went wrong and where our estimations were a bit off, starting with the offense.

Who did we underrate on offense?

  • Keep in mind that, when the rankings were created, things were different on this side of the ball: Instead of leading franchise record-setting comebacks and notching 300-yard games on a weekly basis, Kirk Cousins (No. 25) was still the backup. Obviously, he's now somewhere in the top five of the most important players on the team, and will likely be cashing out thanks to his breakout year quite soon.
  • Jordan Reed (No. 20) also looks criminally underrated on the list, but can you blame the Insiders? Before the season, he was a skilled tight end that was about as reliable as cell phone service in the mountains. We now know, though, he's a linebacker-destroying, corner-shaking pass receiver who is about as valuable as it gets.
  • Putting Morgan Moses at No. 42 made a lot of sense then, but now, the thought-to-be project is actually the starting right tackle for the foreseeable future after developing at a much quicker rate than anyone thought he could. 

Who did we overrate on offense?

  • Let's keep it simple. Robert Griffin III was No. 3 on the list. After not playing a single snap in all of 2015, he probably could be put at No. 53 if we did the same thing today.
  • Alfred Morris (No. 7) just kept declining, even though it looked like running behind a bolstered offensive line being coached by Bill Callahan would help spark his production. Now, it looks like both he and Griffin, the two jewels from the 2012 draft class, will be on the move.
  • Interestingly enough, Niles Paul (No. 17) actually checked in three spots ahead of Reed. His season-ending injury in the preseason prevented him from showing whether that was an appropriate ranking or not (remember, he was in line to be the starter ahead of #86 before going down), but it is hard imagining him coming close to the numbers Reed posted this year.

Click here to view the full rankings and see which Redskins over and underperformed this season

Who did we underrate on defense?

  • Kyshoen Jarrett (No. 48) probably deserves an apology. The sixth-round selection out of Virginia Tech was thought to be — at best — a solid special teams option. Yet, he soon inserted himself into nickel situations, and eventually lined up just about everywhere for Joe Barry's unit. An argument could be made for him being a top-15 choice now.
  • Like Jarrett, Chris Baker (No. 34) ended at least 25 spots too low looking back on things. The charismatic defensive lineman set a career-high with six sacks, and was in the opponent's backfield so often it felt like he was a member of the opposite team's offense.
  • Will Compton (No. 31) showed in 2015 he is more than just a depth-provider, after finishing the year as a starter at inside linebacker. He's always been fun to watch on social media, but now we know he can do some things between the lines, too. Preston Smith (No. 22) also didn't get as much respect as he should have.

Who did we overrate on defense?

  • David Amerson (No. 23) lasted one regular season contest before being cut by Washington. He went on to bounce back with Oakland, but for someone who was supposed to solidify the secondary, not even making it to Week 2 means he was very overrated.
  • Stephen Paea (No. 12) and Chris Culliver (No. 8) were two pricey free agent acquisitions that were paid to be stars on this year's defense. Both, however, struggled with injuries and with doing their job, and now need much better 2016's to justify their contracts.
  • Those other guys pale in comparison, though, to Keenan Robinson (No. 6) who didn't really make a single impactful play during the season and was eventually benched in favor of more productive options. He may not be here by Week 1 of 2016, a sharp drop for the talented but underwhelming linebacker. 

As you can see, trying to project who's going to come up big and who will play a minor role during the course of an NFL season is tough. In a sport where so many injuries occur and players are constantly moving up and down the depth chart, hindsight almost always proves to be 20/20.

MORE REDSKINS: CULLIVER SAYS HE'LL BE READY FOR WEEK 1

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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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