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Fixing offensive red zone woes critical for 2017 Redskins

Fixing offensive red zone woes critical for 2017 Redskins

Yesterday, I took a broad look at the three areas that Jay Gruden said that his team was “terrible” in during the 2016 season, issues that cost the team a chance at the playoffs.

Today I’ll take a closer look at one of those areas, the struggles the offense had in the red zone.

The 2016 Redskins moved the ball up and down the field.

They were third in the NFL with a team-record 6,454 yards of offense. But they did not put points on the board to match their impressive yardage total. They were 12th in scoring, putting up just 396 points.

RELATED: TEN MOST MEMORABLE REDSKINS MOMENTS IN 2016

There are many reasons why the Redskins’ point total was not in the same league as their yardage total but primary among them is their lack of productivity in the red zone. They had 61 drives with at least one snap inside the oppositions’ 20 yard line. They scored 28 touchdowns on those drives. That comes to a 45.9 percent success rate, 29th in the NFL.

It’s difficult to quantify what those problems cost the Redskins in terms of points and wins. But we can take a stab at it anyway.

Let’s say that their red zone efficiency had remained about where it was last year when the put the ball in the end zone 61 percent of the time. They would have scored 37 touchdowns rather than the 28 that they actually did tally this year. They didn’t get a field goal every time they didn’t get a touchdown in the red zone but since we’re estimating here, for the sake of simplicity let’s say they would have traded nine field goals for nine touchdowns. That would be an additional 36 points scored which would give them 432 for the season, tied for fourth in the NFL.

What matters, of course, is not how many points they score but when they score them. Here are some hand-picked games where the Redskins had red zone problems in losses.

Opponent:Red zone TD’s/Red zone chances — Result

— Week 2 vs. Cowboys: 2/6 — lost 27-23
— Week 8 @ Bengals: 1/4 — tied 27-27
— Week 12 @ Cowboys: 2/5 — lost 31-26
— Week 15 vs. Panthers: 1/3 — lost 26-16
— Week 17 vs. Giants: 1/2 — lost 19-10

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS' MOST IMPORTANT FREE AGENTS

The first Cowboys game seemed to touch it all off.

The worst red zone failure in that game came in the fourth quarter when Kirk Cousins threw an interception in the end zone with the Redskins up 23-20 early in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys responded with a game-winning touchdown drive.

Many have theorized that the end zone interception, the first red zone interception thrown by Cousins in his career save for a garbage time pick the previous week, made him tentative in the tight spaces near the goal line. That can’t be proven one way or the other but something happened with Cousins; the numbers don’t lie.

In 2015 he completed 64 percent of his red zone passes with 22 touchdowns, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 113.5.

This year the numbers were 47.5 percent completions, 14 TD, 2 INT, and a rating of 84.6.

Since I know you’re wondering, the Redskins actually ran better in the red zone this year than they did in 2015. Last year they had 61 carries and averaged 1.8 yards per attempt. This year it was 62 tries and an average of 2.8. It should be noted that they did have more red zone trips this year (61 to 49) so they ran less frequently per red zone trip.

You can do the math on the games listed above and see that the Redskins could have won some of them with decent red zone production. It’s easy to take the 36 “missing” points calculated above and spread them out to come up with a few more wins.

What happened is one thing. How to solve it is another.

Whether it’s with personnel (Josh Doctson?), scheme, play calling (more running?), or some combination of all of the above they will need to be more efficient in the red zone or they could really be in trouble.

Their 61 red zone trips this year were the most the team has had since the NFL started tracking the stat in 2000. As noted above, the total yardage they compiled set a team record, one that had stood for 27 years. These were rare accomplishments and chances are they won’t be getting to the red zone as often in 2017 as they did in 2016. If they don’t improve their efficiency their scoring could drop and they could find themselves in negative point differential territory, not a place where winning teams are usually found.

Or maybe the defense can fix its issues and get them back on the plus side of the points ledger. We’ll take a look at what went wrong with red zone defense next.

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 13 and 17 vs. Eagles

Redskins schedule preview: Weeks 13 and 17 vs. Eagles

We’re previewing every game of the 2018 season with a look forward and a look back. Up today, it’s the two games against the Eagles. 

Week 13 December 3 (Monday night), Lincoln Financial Field

Week 17, December 30, FedEx Field

2017 Eagles: 13-3, First in NFC East, Super Bowl champions 

Projected 2018 wins per Westgate SuperBook: 10.5

Early line: Week 13, Redskins +7.5; No lines established for Week 17

Key additions: DE Michael Bennett, WR Mike Wallace

Key losses: DE Vinny Curry, WR Torrey Smith, RB LeGarrette Blount, DT Beau Allen

Notable: Quarterback Carson Wentz is aiming to be ready for Week 1 after suffering a torn ACL late in the season.  

Biggest questions: 

  • If Wentz isn’t ready, the Eagles have Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles ready. Is the real Foles the one who has been a journeyman or the one who starred in the playoffs? And will Wentz continue the freewheeling style that helped make him successful after the injury?
  • After winning Philadelphia its first Super Bowl, will the Eagles suffer from a hangover? 

Series history

The Redskins lead the all-time series 82-75-6; the Eagles won both meetings last year after Washington had won five straight. 

Series notables

The first time: October 10, 1937, Griffith Stadium — With the Redskins trailing 7-0, rookie Sammy Baugh twice led the Redskins deep into Eagle territory. Washington couldn’t push it across the goal line either time, though, and Philly got out with a 14-0 win.

The last time: October 23, 2017, Lincoln Financial Field — The Redskins took a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter, but Wentz and the Eagles took over after that, scoring 21 unanswered points. The Redskins got it back within a touchdown and on a third and eight play early in the fourth quarter, it looked like they had Wentz sacked. However, he scrambled out of trouble and ran for the first down. That drive ended with a touchdown pass and Philly went on to win 34-24.

The best time: January 5, 1991, Veterans Stadium — After getting pummeled by the Eagles in the Body Bag Game (see “The worst time” below), the Redskins qualified for the playoffs and got their shot at revenge. The seedings called for the Redskins to return to the scene of the crime, Veterans Stadium, for a first-round playoff contest.

A near turnover that wasn't was the game's turning point. The Redskins had taken a 7-6 lead and were driving for more when the ball popped loose from Earnest Byner's grasp when he was tackled at the Philadelphia six. CB Ben Smith scooped the ball up and ran 94 yards for an apparent TD. 

Fortunately for the Redskins, instant replay showed that the ground caused the fumble and the call was reversed, with the Redskins retaining possession. The reversal became a 10-point turnaround as Chip Lohmiller connected on a short FG and instead of a six-point deficit, the Redskins had a four-point lead. The Eagles' offense never could get untracked and the Redskins won 20-6.

The worst time: November 12, 1990, Veterans Stadium — As the Redskins went into 1990, the core players on the team, Art Monk, Joe Jacoby, Jeff Bostic, Charles Mann, Darrell Green, Don Warren, and Monte Coleman, were on or approaching the over the hill side of 30.  The team had gone from Super Bowl Champs in 1987 to a losing record in ’88 to out of the playoffs again in ’89. They were facing their last stand as they went into The Vet for a November Monday night game.

This one became known as "The Body Bag Game". Five Redskins had to be carted off of the field as Buddy Ryan's team knocked a total of nine out of the game, including both of the active QB's. The carnage induced one Eagle to yell, "Do you guys need any more body bags?'' as yet another injured Redskin was lying on the turf. The Eagles and Ryan taunted the Redskins after the game, a 28-14 Philadelphia win that was not nearly that close.

Redskins schedule series

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: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

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Various sources

Need to Know: Post-minicamp Redskins 53-man roster projection—Offense

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 18, 38 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Redskins 53-man roster projection—offense 

It may still be early to project the roster, but things are coming into focus after the round of practices in helmets and shorts. Here is my look at who I think will make it on offense; defense up tomorrow. 

Quarterbacks (2)
Alex Smith, Colt McCoy

I think that Kevin Hogan is very much on the bubble as the third quarterback. They got along with two QBs last year, and with Alex Smith having demonstrated great durability during his career, Hogan may well get bumped off. 

Running backs (4)
Derrius Guice, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine, Rob Kelley

I’d say that this is 95 percent locked in. Maybe Kapri Bibbs or Byron Marshall can make a push for Kelley’s roster spot but his history with Jay Gruden will make it very hard for him to get knocked out. 

Wide receivers (6)
Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Robert Davis, Trey Quinn

The first time I did this back in April I didn’t have Quinn on the roster. That was before he was a man among boys at rookie camp and a player who looks like he belongs when the veterans showed up. I don’t know if he’ll have the impact that many fans think he will, but he’s certainly going to get his chance. Brian Quick could steal a roster spot from Harris or Davis.

Tight ends (3)
Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle

The Redskins did not draft a tight end or sign one in free agency so there seems to be faith that Reed will be healthy. We’ve heard that before and it seems somewhat risky to leave Davis, who has Father Time nipping at his heels, and the inexperienced Sprinkle as the only two backups. They may try to make room for an undrafted rookie like Hudson Garrett.  

Offensive line (9)
Trent Williams, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, Morgan Moses, Ty Nsekhe, Geron Christian, Tyler Catalina, Tony Bergstrom

I think that Gruden is probably happy with the starters here but the depth is shaky, especially in the interior. The key could be whether Christian is ready for prime time as the swing tackle. That could allow Nsekhe to fill in at guard. Bergstrom is fine as the backup center, although I wouldn’t want to have to count on him for more than a few games. 

Offensive players: 24
Rookies (3):
Guice, Christian, Quinn
New to the organization in 2018 (5): Rookies plus Smith, Richardson 
Not on 2017 Week 1 roster (11): Rookies plus new plus Harris (practice squad), R. Davis (practice squad) and Bergstrom (not on the team). 

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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An Indiana state police officer tweeted that he pulled a driver over for going too slowly in the left lane. I believe this person is a national hero. 

Timeline  

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 38
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 52
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 75

The Redskins last played a game 167 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 83 days. 

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