On Wednesday at minicamp practice the Redskins offense lined up for a third and three play. Rookie guard Arie Kouandjio jumped before the snap, setting up a third and eight. The miscue cost Kouandjio a lap around the field. A false start by tackle Bryce Quigley on Tuesday led to a similar sanction.
“When you have third-down-and-3 and you jump offside, the difference in a third-down-and-3, making the conversion rate on third-down-and-8, are pretty significant in the NFL,” said Redskins coach Jay Gruden when asked about the laps. “So it’s important for us to really hone in mentally when we break the huddle and listen to the snap count. If you do false start, you need to understand that you are really hurting the football team. That’s just a way right now to let the guys know that it’s not acceptable to jump offsides or have a false start. We’ll probably tone it down when it gets hot in Richmond, but I think the guys got the message.”
The Redskins were among the sloppier teams last year when it came to committing false starts. Among teams that played 16 games (in other words, non-playoff teams), the Redskins’ 22 false starts were second in the NFL. Only Chicago, with 27, committed more. By comparison, the team that had the fewest false starts, the Jaguars, committed only nine.
What was odd about the Redskins’ false starts is that none of them turned a third and short situation into a third and long. In fact, only two of their false starts occurred on third down. One of them came with eight yards to go and the other with five to go.
I’m not sure how this compares with the rest of the league but I was surprised to find out that 12 of the 20 false starts committed by the offense (the other two were on special teams) came on first and 10.
What did a first and 15 mean for this team? On first and 10 they ran 52 percent of the time and passed 48 percent. When they passed they were 132 of 193 (68 percent). On first and 15 they ran 33 percent of the time and passed 67 percent (small sample size warning with all of the numbers here). The quarterbacks completed three of seven passes (43 percent). Again, it’s not a large number of plays we’re talking about here but at the wrong time one of them can really kill a drive.
The other six false starts came on second down with 16, 10, 9, 9, 8, 5, and 3 yards to go.
No NFL team can afford a lot of false starts (although the Seahawks and Patriots, the two Super Bowl teams, were first and fourth in the NFL in false starts, respectively). But the Redskins, with a struggling trio of quarterbacks and a rushing game that averaged a pedestrian 4.2 yards per attempt, seemed to be especially ill suited to taking five-yard setbacks on offense. Anything Gruden or any other coaches can do to reduce them will be welcome.