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Redskins’ second-half TD drought can be traced too many third-and-long situations

Redskins’ second-half TD drought can be traced too many third-and-long situations

The Redskins are 2-1 and in their two wins they put together some impressive first halves. Washington put up 21 points in the first half of the season opener in Arizona. They bettered that in Week 3 against the Packers, scoring 28. 

The Redskins’ offense earned those points. They didn’t get any short fields following opposition turnovers. Their shortest TD drive this season went for 73 yards. They have had two that went over 90 yards, including a 98-yard march against the Packers, the team’s longest touchdown drive since 1999. 

However, in the second halves of those games. The offense has come to a grinding halt. They scored a total of two field goals in those two wins. 

A win is a win, but quarterback Alex Smith realizes that they are playing with fire. 

"I don’t think you can ever expect to go out there and not score any touchdowns in the second half and win ballgames, against anybody, certainly against good offenses and good quarterbacks like Drew [Brees],” he said. “Need to be better moving forward, need to learn from it, and grow from it absolutely."

Smith couldn’t point to any one reason either on why the Redskins are struggling to move the ball in the second half.

"I mean probably a ton of things but in the end, it's coming down to execution,” he said. “There were a lot of times I think in both game you look at self-inflicted things, uncharacteristic things, got us off schedule, putting us in tough situational football, third and long, things like that and things that are hard to convert.”

Smith is on to something with the third-and-long situations. In the first halves of all three of their games, the Redskins have faced 19 third-down situations and their average distance to go was 4.7 yards. They had a solid 57.9 percent conversion rate. 

It’s been a different story after the come out of the locker room after the half. There have been 20 third downs and the average has been seven yards to go. The Redskins’ conversion rate plummeted to 25 percent. 

A closer look shows that in the first half the Redskins have had just one third down where they have more than 10 yards to go. In the second half, they have seen nine such situations. 

The third down issue likely is related to problems running the ball in the second half. On first-down runs in the first half, they average a healthy 5.8 yards per carry. In the second half that drops to 3.6 per carry. That is setting up third-and-long situations. 

Smith wasn’t there the last time the Redskins played in New Orleans. That loss wasn’t exactly a textbook case of problems scoring in the second half. The Redskins did put up 14 second-half points, expanding their 17-13 halftime lead to 31-16 with six minutes left to play. The issues with the collapse most centered on the defense but it still illustrates the notion that you can’t have too many points when you face a quarterback like Brees. 

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Former All-Pro LB Aldon Smith reportedly signs with Cowboys after four-year absence from NFL

Former All-Pro LB Aldon Smith reportedly signs with Cowboys after four-year absence from NFL

After a four-year absence from the NFL, former All-Pro pass rusher Aldon Smith is back. According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, Smith has signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys worth $4 million. 

Selected by the 49ers with the seventh pick in the 2011 draft, Smith quickly became one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL, tallying 14 sacks as a rookie and 19.5 sacks the year after in 2012. He and Colin Kaepernick were the main reasons the 49ers went to the Super Bowl that year. 

Unfortunately for Smith, it was mostly downhill from there. He recorded 8.5 sacks in 11 games, but his season was derailed after he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. Smith voluntarily entered a rehabilitation facility after Week 3 and missed the next five games.

Then in 2014, Smith was suspended nine games for violating the league's substance abuse policy and recorded just two sacks in seven games. He was arrested the following summer for a third DUI and the 49ers released him. 

The Raiders took a flier on him in 2015 and he played in nine games, but the NFL then suspended him for one-year following a hit-and-run in 2015. Smith applied for reinstatement but ended up sitting out 2016 and 2017. The Raiders released him in 2018.

Smith still needs to be reinstated before playing a game for the Cowboys, though according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Dallas is confident the league will reinstate him. 

The now 30-year-old will now attempt to revive a career that showed an immense amount of promise early on, only to be hampered by off-the-field issues. If he can reclaim a portion of his San Francisco form, it'll be bad news for the Redskins and the rest of the NFC East teams who will have to face him twice a year. 

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New Redskins RB JD McKissic wants to 'create a hazard' for opposing defenses

New Redskins RB JD McKissic wants to 'create a hazard' for opposing defenses

The Redskins signed running back JD McKissic with a pretty specific role in mind, but the wide receiver turned runner might have bigger designs than just being a third-down back. 

"I love to run between the tackles," McKissic said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. "I want to create a hazard for the defense."

That's great, but it's not why Washington brought in the fifth-year back out of Arkansas State. In college, McKissic played wide receiver and played it well. In four seasons for the Red Wolves he caught 289 passes for nearly 3,000 yards with 11 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he had more than 100 catches and 1,000 yards.

He was a very legitimate receiving threat in the Sun Belt Conference, but in the NFL, that just wasn't in the cards, particularly at 5-foot-10 and 195 lbs. So he switched to running back and has stuck in the league since 2016, when he signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent. 

Now in Washington, McKissic is focused on being a running back but won't let his roots go. 

"I will always feel like I'm a receiver just because I've done it my whole life," he said. "I never want to lose my receiver ability. I feel like it's kept me in the league to do something different. That's what sets me apart from a lot of other guys."

In new Redskins offensive coordinator Scott Turner's scheme, receiving ability has a lot of value for a running back. Throwing to backs has always been a staple of the Turner offense, even when Scott's father Norv Turner ran it throughout the 1990s and 2000s. It's a way to create mismatches against the defense and get more defensive backs on the field, which can in turn open up more room to run the football. 

McKissic spoke with Turner about the offensive plans and liked what he heard. 

"The running back position is very important to him," McKissic said of Turner. "He mentioned Christian McCaffrey had 100 catches [in 2019]. He told me I'll get a couple but I won't get that many."

Last season in Carolina, McCaffrey cooked.

He didn't just catch 100 passes, McCaffrey caught 116 passes. He accounted for nearly 2,400 yards of total offense through the air and on the ground, and that was with Norv and Scott Turner running the offense. 

Now, to be clear, McKissic isn't McCaffrey. Last year with the Lions, McKissic caught 34 passes for 234 yards and accounted for about 440 yards of offense.

There will be a similar McCaffrey role available in the new Redskins offense though. 

Of the Redskins running backs under contract, and there are a lot, McKissic has a similar body type to McCaffrey and is best known as a pass-catcher. There will be competition for that job, and the position group has a lot of options. As far as third-down back though Adrian Peterson is unlikely to be in the running, which leaves McKissic, Derrius Guice and Bryce Love. The Redskins also signed Peyton Barber this offseason but the former Bucs running back has never been much of a pass-catcher in his four-year career. Guice and Love are coming back from significant knee injuries, so McKissic could have a leg up on the competition, and he's certainly the only back that used to play receiver.

When new Redskins coach Ron Rivera took over the top job in Washington, he promised competition at every position on the field. By adding two free agent running backs to a group that already included Peterson, Guice and Love, Rivera's got plenty of heat in the backfield. 

"That's what's it all about, competition man," McKissic said. "We understand the business, we know the game."

While he said he's "honored" to be in the same group as Peterson, the best way for McKissic to make an impact is through the air. 

"I got to keep my route running up. I can't let them forget that I was a wide receiver."

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