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Need to Know: Did Jay Gruden call passes too often when the Redskins were leading?

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Need to Know: Did Jay Gruden call passes too often when the Redskins were leading?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 11, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

A look at how the Redskins played when they had the lead

—Last year, the Redskins ran 367 offensive plays when they were leading and 402 when trailing. That seems to be a proper breakdown for a 7-9 team. There were three games they never led (DAL, @LAC, @NYG) plus in their home game against the Eagles they held a lead for just 1:17 late in the first half. In addition to those games, there were two others that they trailed the entire second half (MIN, @PHI). There were five games that they never trailed (@LAR, OAK, SF, NYG, AZ).  

—Of those 367 plays they ran when they were leading, 192 were passes and 175 were runs. While that plays into the notion that Gruden is pass happy, the truth is that the pass was more effective than the run in 2017. They averaged 6.5 net yards per pass attempt (accounting for sacks) and 3.6 per run. When a running play is frequently going to have you in second and seven or longer, the smart move is to throw the ball more and run just enough to keep the other team honest. 

—The key is to get a good enough running game so you don’t have to make a living that way. The other three teams in the NFC East all ran more than they passed when leading. Of the six teams that made the NFC playoffs, five ran with the lead more often than they passed. The exception was the Falcons. Even the Rams, coached by the same Sean McVay who threw the ball a lot there, ran it with the lead 52 percent of the plays. 

—The point here is that last year I don’t think that Gruden passed the ball too often with the lead. The running game they had was not good enough to be relied on. You can’t base your game strategy on the talent you wish you have, you have to base it on what you actually have.

—The problem wasn’t play calling, the problem was that due to injuries and a general lack of high-impact runners – especially after Chris Thompson went on injured reserve – the running game was not up to NFL standards. Perhaps that will change if Derrius Guice lives up to expectations and if Thompson stays healthy for 16 games. In any case, it makes no sense to keep running into a wall just so that you can say you did it. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline 

Len Hauss, five-time Pro Bowler who was the Redskins’ starting center from 1964-1977, was born on this date in 1942. 

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 15
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 29
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 52

The Redskins last played a game 192 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 60 days. 

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Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

Jay Gruden deserves praise for keeping Redskins 'out of the ditches'

On paper, Jay Gruden's tenor with the Redskins is nothing to write home about. Through five seasons he holds a 35-44-1 record, good enough for a .444 winning percentage. Looking at that, some may draw the conclusion that Gruden hasn't been what the Redskins need at the helm.

But according to Pro Football Talk's Darin Gantt, that's not exactly the case. Taking into account the variables Gruden has dealt with throughout the five years, Gantt actually sees him as a "really good" coach.

"I have always come down of the side, maybe, of guys who are doing more with less," Gantt said recently on a Redskins Talk Podcast. "I think Jay has done a pretty good job keeping things in the middle."

Doing more with less and working in the middle essentially defines Jay Gruden's career with the Redskins. Besides his opening year in 2014 in which Washington went 4-12, Gruden's teams have consistently finished right around the middle of the pack.

In the last four seasons, the Redskins have not won more than nine games, but they also haven't lost more than nine. Hovering right around .500, they've always been around league average.

Part of the reason Gantt is willing to give Gruden praise for records that some coaches would get scolded for revolves around what he's had to work with. Gruden's time as head coach has been filled with injuries and other dilemmas both on and off the field. 

In those circumstances, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team completely flounder and spiral out of control. But, that hasn't really been the case with Gruden. Dealing with what he has, the head coach has kept the team competitive for the most part. The team hasn't been a perennial playoff contender, but it also hasn't been at the bottom of the league.

For that ability to keep the Redskins out of the basement despite all the problems he's encountered, Gruden is someone Gantt respects.

"They're able to keep it out of the ditches," Gantt said about Gruden and former NFL head coach John Fox, who Gantt followed during his time in Carolina.

"I think again in the NFL there's something to be said for that," Gantt added. "When things get sideways a Jim Zorn can lose control in a hurry. I feel like Jay just got sort of a steady hand on the wheel."

Until Gruden takes Washington back to the postseason, the critiques will continue to come, as they would for almost all head coaches in similar situations. But when looking at Gruden's time in Washington with a wide view of everything that has happened, Gantt believes the head coach deserves at least a little praise for keeping things afloat.

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Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

Best birthday ever? 107-year-old Redskins fan celebrates in Burgundy and Gold

When Carletha "Nana" West was growing up, she began to take an interest in football. In particular, she took notice of a certain Redskins quarterback. 

"When Sammy Baugh was quarterback I liked him and I was just learning football at that time," West said. "I was young myself."

Baugh commanded the Redskins offense from 1937-1952 and became one of West's favorite player. With that, her fandom for the Redskins grew.

Decades later, her love for the Redskins remains. So for her 107th birthday -- yes, 107th -- she, of course, celebrated it with some Burgundy and Gold festivities.

Joined by Redskins GM Bruce Allen, West took in her birthday on Thursday, July 18, at Brandywine in Alexandria, Va. Not only was she given a customized Redskins jersey with the number 107 and the name "Nana", but West also got a day named after her. In Alexandria, July 18 will now be known as Carletha "Nana" West Day.

West spent some time reminiscing about her years as a Redskins fan, singing 'Hail to the Redskins' and even sharing her advice on how to live a long, fulfilling life. Besides loving football, she shared some simple words of wisdom.

"Make friends," West said. "And keep them."

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