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Gruden aiming to stop false starts

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Gruden aiming to stop false starts

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. 

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NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

NFC East Update: The division race is shaping up very well for the Redskins

The Redskins helped themselves in the NFC East division race with a big Week 10 win over the Buccaneers, and then the Cowboys helped their rival out again with a big win in Philadelphia.

With seven games remaining and the NFL calendar starting to get serious about playoff situation and scenarios, the 6-3 Redskins are in the driver's seat in the division. 

"I think the good thing being 6-3, being in first place is we control what we have to control. We don’t have to look at the other teams, we just have to focus on what we do and if we do our job, we don’t have to worry about anything," head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. 

And he's right. The Redskins have built a cushion in the division, and if they keep winning at a .667 clip, nobody can catch them.

Here's the NFC East update:

  1. Washington Redskins (6-3, 2-0) - This team isn't winning pretty, and they certainly don't make many highlight plays on offense, but the Washington formula for victories is working. At +11, the Redskins are 3rd in the NFL in turnover margin and they own a defense that doesn't give up many points. Fans can debate if the offense is too limited, but for now running the ball and playing strong defense is piling up wins. Washington hasn't been 6-3 since 2008. Another large test looms on Sunday when Houston comes to FedEx Field, riding a six-game win streak. Up next: Nov. 18th vs Texans,1 p.m.
  2. Dallas Cowboys (4-5, 2-1) - Things have been a roller coaster in Big D. Two weeks ago it looked like the Cowboys season might spiral out of control after a blowout loss at home to the Titans. Speculation began to mount about the future for head coach Jason Garrett. A week later, after a major win in Philly on Sunday Night Football, Cowboys fans are back focused on the playoffs, not firing their coach. Dallas has built an impressive young defense, though the offensive struggles remain. Similar to the Redskins, Dallas has one of the worst pass games in the NFL but relies on running the football. Up next:  Nov. 18th @ Atlanta, 1 p.m. 
  3. Philadelphia Eagles (4-5, 1-1) - At no point this season have the Eagles looked like the same 2017 juggernaut that won the city's first-ever Super Bowl. Much of that was chalked up to injury, particularly Carson Wentz working back from a knee injury last year, and new parts on defense. The Eagles had a Week 8 bye, made a trade to acquire WR Golden Tate, and were facing the slumping Cowboys in Week 9. All signs pointed to a big Eagles win and the Philly machine getting back on track for the second-half of the 2018 season. Only it didn't happen. The Eagles haven't won two games in a row yet this season, and road games against the Saints and the Rams are still on deck. Up next: Nov. 18th @ New Orleans, 4:25 p.m.
  4. New York Giants (2-7, 0-3) - The Giants doubled their season win total with a road win in San Francisco over the 49ers. It was a good victory, but hardly impressive. The Niners are equally bad and currently starting their 3rd-string QB. Still, Odell Beckham remains optimistic for his New York squad and thinks the team could go on a undefeated streak to close out the season. It's not realistic considering the offensive line and Eli Manning's play at quarterback, but it's a nice theory. The Giants are 0-4 at home and 0-3 in the division. Up Next: Nov. 18th vs Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.

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Crazy amount of injuries piling up for Redskins 2018 draft class

Crazy amount of injuries piling up for Redskins 2018 draft class

Overall, the Redskins injury situation is again bordering on the absurd. In 2017 injuries derailed the defense, and in 2018, the same thing is happening on the offensive side of the ball. 

The big names are the most obvious losses, guys like Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff, Chris Thompson and Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson too. 

But beyond the big names, an even more absurd injury trend has emerged, and it's wrecking the Redskins' 2018 draft class.

First-round pick Daron Payne has been terrific for this team, but after that, the Redskins rookies have all landed in the trainers room, and eventually, the injured reserve. 

  • Derrius Guice - 2nd round pick - IR - Out for year in preseason
  • Geron Christian - 3rd round pick - IR - Played two games before going to IR Week 11.
  • Troy Apke - 4th round pick - IR - Played two games before going to IR Week 9.
  • Trey Quinn - 7th round pick - IR - Played in season opener before going to IR, eligible to come back as early as this week.
  • Cam Sims - Undrafted free agent - IR - Played in season opener before going to IR. Last update Jay Gruden said that Sims was not ready to return from injury. 
     

It's never wise to rush to judge a draft class. Players need to mature over a few NFL seasons.

For the 2018 class, however, it's hard to gauge their performance since the Redskins have gotten so little on-field production.

Payne has been terrific, but outside of his stellar play on the defensive line and the work from seventh-round pick Greg Stroman and undrafted free agent Danny Johnson, the 'Skins aren't getting much from their rookies.

Christian and Apke did not look good in the limited work they got. After flashing plenty of potential in training camp, Guice got hurt in the preseason. The Redskins could use help at WR, but Quinn and Sims haven't done it so far. Quinn will get a chance to come back, but Sims probably won't.

Beyond Payne and the two cornerbacks, other rookies Tim Settle, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Adonis Alexander are all playing small roles and helping the team. Stroman made his first career interception in Sunday's win over the Bucs, and Hamilton forced a fumble earlier this season. 

In some ways it's remarkable that Washington has performed so well this season while getting so little from valuable draft choices. It's a testament to the team's depth. And certainly rookie injuries don't mean the players won't become more valuable down the road. 

Still, add it all up, and it's astonishing that the Redskins have placed five rookies on the IR. And it's only Week 11. 

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