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Dolphins getting the 'Hard Knocks' treatment

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Dolphins getting the 'Hard Knocks' treatment

Afterahalf-dozen reportedly passed on being the subject for the documentary-style series "Hard Knocks", HBO has found a destination.The premium cable channel will be taking its talented film crew to South Beach.Miami Dolphins coach Joe Philbin told reporters on Monday that the team will be the subject of the behind the scenes series. Of course he did so right after I piggybacked on an NFL.com post where the site asked its cadre of analysts and writers to come up withtheir ideal team for the 247-esque show. Whether intentional or not, nineselectors led to nine different final selections. Nobody picked the Dolphins.Even though this could be a trying season for Miami, there are some interesting angles. The Dolphinshave their own first-round quarterback in Ryan Tannehill. Too bad he has almost no viable receivers to play catch with. Reggie Bush looks topost a second straight solid seasons (plus there will be the gratuitous Kim Kardashian references). Year onewith a new head coach, sure, why not.For me,I'd love the Patriots, but I cannot fathom Bill Belichick agreeing to have cameras follow him around; there are only so many ways he can say nothing. Beyond the dream of having 247 access with the hoodie and the hair (Tom Brady),my preferred list was as follows...3) Jaguars - I agree, if you're going to go with a Florida team, better Miami over Jacksonville. However, after hearing the Jaguars were openly pushing for the show,it seemed logical for theleague to get its least popular team some press.Spending a few weeks in Jacksonville, even on television, does not soundterribly appealing, though in this caseI blame that mostly on a roster devoid of starsoutside of the human bowling ball Maurice Jones-Drew. Then again, this level ofcoverage would bump up the team's Q-rating and likely my interest in checking their regular season games outduringthe season for reasons beyond fantasy football or the generic office pool. Personally, I am intrigued aboutthe quarterback battle between Blaine Gabbert, Chad Henne and DavidGarrard. Guess I'll have to monitor the internet for such things.2) Colts - Even though owner Jim Irsay recently said onTwitter his team may not be ready for the spotlight, this could have worked.The post-Peyton Manning world shouldmake for terrific TV, with the madcap Irsay leading the way. There isAndrew Luck's first NFL training camp. A brand new coach is taking over and thisone (Chuck Pagano) appears to be alive unlike his predecessor, the zombie-facedJim Caldwell. Plus, I am dying to know why on earth Reggie Wayne chose to stayin Indy.1) Lions - From historically inept to playoff contender. The Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnsonconnection. Jim Schwartz (hopefully) chasing down more NFL head coaches headedto their postgame locker room. Nick Fairley's growing rap sheet. JahvidBest's recovery from a serious concussion. Betting on whether Eminem or KidRock makes the first Motor City bad boy singerrapper cameo. Ndamukong Suhdoing Ndamukong Suh things. Seeing if by the time preseason ends the team'stotal number of offseason arrests is greater than the number of Matt Millenjokes made during the series. The Lions were the team for me, but you never heard anyone complain about hanging in Miami over Detroit. I won't be the first.Ben Standig blogs about the Redskins, Wizards, Hoyas and the D.C.area college basketball scene for CSNwashington. You can reach him by email at bstandig@comcast.net, follow him on Twitter @BenStandig and catch his musings at the D.C. Sportalist.

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Are the Redskins running the ball too much on first down?

Are the Redskins running the ball too much on first down?

After one loss, the play calling of Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is already under fire. After years of being criticized for abandoning the running game, some are saying that he is now running too often, at least on first down. 

The decision of what to do on first-and-10 is one of the basic quandaries of play calling. Running the ball is likely to get you ahead of the sticks but if the play gets stuffed you are facing second-and-8 or 9. Defenses often are geared to stop the run on first down so that affects the success rate. 

Passing on first down can be a more attractive option. Even a quick pass with a few yards after the catch can get you into second and short in a hurry. But passes are incomplete about a third of the time and that leaves the offense looking at second-and-10. The occasional sack or holding penalty can quickly kill a drive. 

This season, Gruden has leaned heavily towards taking the lower risk, lower reward route of running the ball on first down. The Redskins 39 first-down runs are the most in the NFL, one more than the Texans and considerably more than the NFL average of 27 first-down runs. (The numbers here are from Pro Football Reference and are complete through Sunday’s games.) 

Those are the raw numbers. When you break it down into first-down rush percentage, the Redskins are fifth in the league at 58.2 percent. Still, that leans heavily towards the run in a league that passes on first down (51.7%) more often than it runs (48.3%).

In looking at just 2018 we are dealing with a small sample size. The two Redskins games were very different. In their first game, they never trailed, and runs were called on 69 percent of first down plays (25 of 36). Against the Colts where they never led and ran on 45 percent of first downs (14 of 31). 

Looking at a larger set of data covering games from the start of the 2017 season through Sunday’s game, Gruden called runs on 58.5 percent of first-down plays. That was the fifth-highest percentage in the league. The league average seems to shift to more running as the year wears on as over the last full season plus two games teams ran on first down 52.4 percent of the time. 

Looking at the big picture, you might wonder why Gruden ran it so often on first down last year with such a poor (27thin NFL) rushing game. They averaged 3.16 yards per first down run. That was the worst average in the league.

We will track this occasionally as the year goes on. This year, again a small sample size, they are averaging a respectable 4.3 yards on first-down rushing attempts, 10th in the NFL. Let’s see if the strategy shifts, if the defense adjusts and keys to stop the run on first down, and/or if they are having trouble consistently moving the ball. 

Redskins analysis

-Running game struggles: No immediate answers
-Shuffling the receivers: Redskins acquire Floyd after signing Perriman

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

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Packers

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Need to Know: First look at Redskins vs. Packers

Here is what you need to know on Wednesday, September 19, four days before the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers  

Talking points

The Redskins are taking on the Packers on Sunday and here is a look at what I found out taking a first look at them. 

It’s all about Aaron Rodgers

You can argue about who the best QB in the game is, but you can’t argue that the Packers are a Super Bowl contender with Rodgers and a sub-.500 team without him. No player carries his team to the extent that Rodgers does. We will see what pops up on the injury report regarding Rodgers after that Week 1 knee injury, but it would be foolish to expect anything other than him taking every snap. 

The Packers’ offensive line is a notch below that of the Redskins

They have a pair of quality tackles in LT David Bakhtiari and RT Bryan Bulaga. But they don’t have a Brandon Scherff equivalent on the inside. Between the line and Rodgers’ mobility (which is somewhat in question due to the condition of his knee), they manage to avoid sacks so don’t look for a pass rush that has been struggling to get better against Green Bay. 

Green Bay’s leading rusher is averaging 3.4 yards per carry

Jamaal Williams in the only Packer who is has more than seven rushing attempts. In two games, Green Bay’s 2017 fourth-round pick has 31 carries for 106 yards with a long run of 11. They use converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery as a change of pace back; he has seven carries for 38 yards (5.4 ypc). 

There are solid players on every level of the Packers’ defense

At age 32, Clay Matthews is not the player who made six Pro Bowls and posted double-digit sacks four times from 2009-2015. But it would be inaccurate to say that he’s a shadow of his former self. He has had trouble staying on the field the last couple of years but when he’s healthy, which he is now, he gets pressure. The Redskins wanted to sign DL Sheldon Richardson, a top-notch run stuffer, this offseason but he went to Green Bay. At safety, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix has 12 interceptions in four-plus years in the league, including one off of Kirk Cousins last week. 

Ball control will not be enough

The conventional wisdom when it comes to beating the Packers is to control the ball with runs and short passes and keep Rodgers on the sideline. Well, that formula didn’t work for the Redskins against Andrew Luck and the Colts. Washington had the ball for 33 minutes, but red zone problems doomed them. They will have to score touchdowns to win on Sunday. Since the start of the 2016 season, the Packers have only one loss in a game that Rodgers started and finished where their opponent scored fewer than 30 points. As the fight song goes, the points will have to soar if the Redskins are going to have a chance to hail victory. 

Injuries of note

RB Rob Kelly was put on injured reserve with a toe injury. He is a candidate to return from injured reserve after he misses at least eight games. 

The agenda

Today: Alex Smith press conference 12 noon; Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Upcoming: Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 4; Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 19; Cowboys @ Redskins 32

In case you missed it

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