The Redskins threw 555 passes in 2015. They could throw more this year.
A lot more.
Last year 19 teams passed more often that the Redskins did. The league average was 572 pass attempts or 35.7 per game. Washington averaged 34.6 passes per game.
For one thing, the Redskins’ offensive talent is strongly tilted towards the air attack. It starts with Kirk Cousins, the $20 million franchise tag holder. The best overall player on offense is probably Jordan Reed, who broke out in a big way last year. If Reed’s not the best skill player then it’s DeSean Jackson, the best deep threat in the game. Pierre Garçon, Vernon Davis, Jamison Crowder, and top draft pick Josh Doctson round out what many analysts believe is one of the best pass-catching groups in the NFL.
The offensive line also is built for the passing game. Last year they gave up sacks on 4.6 percent of drop backs. Only four other teams protected the passer better. The same line cleared the way for the Redskins to rush for only 3.7 yards per carry, 29th in the NFL.
Speaking of the running game, the Redskins’ running back corps is loaded with question marks. Matt Jones is the starter and he comes off of a league low 3.4 yards per rushing attempt and four lost fumbles last year. Behind him are Chris Thompson, a good third down back but not someone you want taking 20 carries in a game. Seventh-round pick Keith Marshall has to prove he can stay on the field and undrafted back Robert Kelly has a lot to prove.
There is plenty of talk that the Redskins will at some point add a veteran running back like Pierre Thomas or perhaps Arian Foster. But even if they do it seems unlikely that a player who still is on the street in late June will suddenly transform the running back corps into a strength.
It adds up to a likelihood that Cousins will be dropping back more simply because that will prove to be the best way for the Redskins to move the football. How much more will he pass? Something around 600-625 attempts seems about right, which would be an increase of three or four per game. If the offense is more efficient and they run more offensive plays (they had 63.1 snaps per game last year, just below the NFL average of 64.4) Cousins could throw a little bit more often.
In any case, look for more footballs in the air this fall. Throwing will give the Redskins their best chance of winning.