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Callahan discusses primary cause of Redskins' red zone woes

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Callahan discusses primary cause of Redskins' red zone woes

Among the many woes the Redskins had on offense last year was scoring in the end zone. On drives that reached inside the opponents’ 20 yard line they scored a touchdown 47.9 percent of the time. That performance ranked 26th in the NFL.

Bill Callahan came in as both the offensive line coach and as someone who can give his perspective on the offense as a whole using the knowledge built over 35 years of coaching offenses, 16 of them in the NFL. He was asked what could be done to solve the Redskins’ red zone problems. Callahan didn’t have a specific answer but he did point out a major issue the Redskins had in that area of the field last year.

“It really comes down to your efficiency on third down,” said Callahan. “Those are tough downs and your ability to convert on third down in the red zone comes up rather big . . . That makes the difference on if you are going to convert sevens or kick threes.” 

As you might guess, the Redskins were not very efficient on third down in the red zone in 2014. They had 34 such plays and gained an average of 1.5 yards per play, scoring just three touchdowns (8.8 percent). They were able to get a first down without scoring a touchdown 20.6 percent of the time.

How does that compare to the rest of the NFL? As a whole, the league had 1,055 third-down snaps in the red zone (33 per team). The average gain per play was 2.85 yards, the touchdown conversion rate was 23 percent, and the first down without a touchdown rate was 16.4 percent.

To sum that up, the average NFL team either scored a touchdown or got a fresh set of downs after 39.4 percent of its third-down red zone plays. The Redskins scored seven or got a first down 29.4 percent of the time.

As anyone who followed the team knows, the Redskins’ problems on third down were not isolated to the red zone. They were 30th in the NFL with a third-down conversion rate of 31.5 percent. If Callahan can help improve that stat all over the field the issues in the red zone might disappear as well.

One other note: The Redskins’ defense was even worse than the offense on third down in the red zone. Opponents ran 11 plays and scored six touchdowns and got five third downs. If you add that up you get 11 for 11, 100 percent. Without looking it up I can tell you that is at least tied for the worst in the league. 

MORE REDSKINS: HOW LOW IS THE BAR SET FOR THE SKINS?

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NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

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NFL implementing significant changes to kickoff rules in 2018 season

The NFL is not eliminating kickoffs altogether for the 2018 season. But at the NFL spring meetings in Atlanta, Ga., owners did agree to make significant changes to the third phase of football.

The NFL's new kickoff rules begin with having five players on each side of the ball (previously they could line up six on one side). Also, they cannot line up more than 1-yard from the restraining line, which is the line where the ball is placed on the tee. This prohibits the kickoff team from getting a running start downfield. 

At least two players must be lined up outside the yard-line numbers and at least two players lined up between the numbers and the hash mark. In years past, three players had to be lined up outside the inbounds line with one outside the yard-line number. At least eight players need to be in the 15-yard "setup zone," leaving three players outside of the "setup zone." Before, all kickoff return players had to be behind their restraining line. These changes will place players closer to where the ball is kicked in order to reduce speed and the amount of space on the play. 

Wedge blocks are no longer allowed. Players who were initially lined up in the "setup zone" are the only ones who can now come together for a double-team block. In the past, only 2-man wedge blocks were allowed and could take place on the field anywhere. The purpose of this change is to limit the possible blocking schemes by the kickoff return team. 

No player on the receiving side of the ball can cross the restraining line or block in the 15-yard area from the kicking team's restraining line until the ball is touched or hits the ground. Before, the receiving team could move past their restraining line and block as soon as the ball was kicked. This change gets rid of the "jump-set/attack" block.

Finally, a ball will be considered dead if it's not touched by the receiving team and touches the ground in the end zone. In the past, the ball was dead once it was downed in the end zone by the receiving team. This change means there's no requirement for the kickoff returner to down the ball in the end-zone. 

If that was a lot to dissect, check out the video below. 

In addition to new kickoff rules, ejections are now reviewable. In March, a rule passed that officials can make an ejection after a replay, but not they can also undo an ejection after a replay. 

The league also adjusted the official language for Use of a Helmet rule. 

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

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Need to Know: What to look for at Redskins OTAs

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, May 23, 65 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What to look for at OTAs

Redskins OTAs started yesterday. The no-contact drills are the first time during the offseason program that the offense and defense are permitted to line up against each other. The-no pads aspect of it does take off a lot of the edge but the reality is that this will be the closest thing to football we will see until training camp starts in late July. 

Here are some things that I will be looking for during today’s practice.

Who’s in? Jay Gruden told us earlier that we should expect to see some injured key players not participating as they continue to recover from 2017 injuries. Specifically, OT Trent Williams (knee), OT Morgan Moses (ankles), and TE Jordan Reed (hamstring/toe) will only be spectators if they are at Redskins Park at all. Other players who may sit out or participate only in light drills are RB Chris Thompson (leg), and ILB Mason Foster (shoulder). The Redskins have been relatively healthy the past few offseasons so we will see how they deal with the aftermath of the injury scourge that hit the team last year. 

Seven-on-seven—Sure, it’s fun to watch the full team drills with 11 on each side but since blocking and tackling is limited by the rules about contact, there isn’t much to be gleaned from watching an off-tackle run. But when they eliminate the guards, tackles, and interior defensive linemen it’s all passing and then we can watch how well Alex Smith and his receivers are connecting. One thing I’ll keep in mind is that Smith decided not to get the receivers together for a “passing camp” before the offseason activities started. He said that he wanted to get to know the playbook first. Because of that they can be forgiven if they are not quite as sharp as they might be. Also, how natural does Derrius Guice look coming out of the backfield to catch passes? His primary job will be to carry the ball, but if he is a legitimate pass-catching threat, the whole offense will be harder to defend.

Rookies vs. pros—In rookie camp two weeks ago we saw Trey Quinn putting defensive backs on the ground with some moves and Troy Apke showing great makeup speed on some long passes. But those tryout defensive backs and quarterbacks are no longer around. How will Quinn look against veteran Orlando Scandrick or second-year corner Josh Holsey? Will Smith’s ball placement negate Apke’s speed? In the one-on-one pass blocking drills, which emphasize technique over power, can Daron Payne get past Brandon Scherff?

The big guys—With Williams and Moses out, who will line up along the offensive line? Does Payne line up at nose tackle or is he used more as an end with Tim Settle in the middle? Is Ziggy Hood in the middle or will he work outside? How is Phil Taylor looking after a quad injury ended his season in training camp? As noted, the rules make it hard to tell much about linemen before Richmond but we try to glean what we can. 

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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My reaction to this tweet from the NFL illustrating the changes to the kickoff rules:

Timeline  

Today’s schedule:Redskins OTA practice 11:30; Jay Gruden and Alex Smith press conferences, players available coming off the field, after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 20
—Training camp starts (7/26) 65
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 79

The Redskins last played a game 143 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 109 days. 

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