The Redskins moved up and down the field a lot in 2016 but too many of their drives did not end in touchdowns.
When I posted about this last week, the number that struck me was that the Atlanta Falcons gained 199 more yards than the Redskins, but scored 157 more points than Washington.
Since we’re talking about offense, it should be noted that the Falcons did rack up five return touchdowns while the Redskins had just one. Still, Matt Ryan and company scored 58 offensive touchdowns and Kirk Cousins led the Redskins to just 42.
The Redskins’ offensive touchdown output was better than the NFL average of 38.4 but not by much.
The team’s well-documented red zone issues were certainly part of the problem. They got into the end zone on 28 of their 61 trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. That comes to 45.9 percent, 26th in the league.
The Redskins believe that they addressed the problem in the offseason, signing the 6-4 Terrelle Pryor and 6-3 Brian Quick to the team with holdovers Josh Doctson (6-2) and Maurice Harris (6-3) to give Cousins bigger targets in the crowded red zone environment.
There are some who think that the Redskins need to improve their running game to punch the ball into the end zone from inside the 20. But the numbers say that the Redskins ran the ball effectively in the red zone.
They ran 62 times for an average of 2.8 yards per attempt in the red zone last year. The attempts match the NFL average and the league gained 2.5 yards per carry.
It’s difficult for the “pound the rock” advocate to complain about the Redskins’ play selection, either. They ran on 61.3 percent of their first down red-zone plays compared to the league average of 52.7 percent.
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Perhaps the Redskins would like to get a little more out of starting running back Rob Kelley in the red zone. He had 32 of the team’s 62 red zone rushing attempts and he averaged 2.4 yards per attempt. Of those attempts, 11, nearly a third, went for one yard, no gain, or a loss.
Kelley will work on learning how to run in the tight spaces inside the 20. Perhaps fourth-round pick Samaje Perine can help there, too.
But the real weakness in the red zone was the passing game. On plays that started outside of the red zone, Cousins had a passer rating of 96.3, much better than the overall NFL rating of 83.2.
Inside the 20, however, the numbers flip. Cousins’ passer rating dropped to 84.6 in close while the NFL averaged went up to 94.7.
It should be noted that Cousins had a passer rating of 113.5 in the red zone in 2015 with essentially the same group of receivers he had last year so he can produce there.
I’ll also point out that the Redskins played eight games the top 12 teams in terms of red zone defense so perhaps there should be a return to the norm this season.