Redskins

Offseason questions: With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

Redskins

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past.

The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players.

In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS

With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run more?

Tandler: You can look at a whole pile of stats that indicate that Sean McVay should have called more running plays in 2016 but let me pull out just a few. When they ran, they did well. They averaged 4.5 yards per rushing attempt, ninth in the NFL and according to the guys at Football Outsiders their rushing game was ranked fourth in DVOA. But they were 21st in rushing yards because they ran only 379 times, 27th in the league.

As the season went on, the press conferences with McVay saying something along the lines of, 'yeah, we should have run it more, it just got away from me' became nearly a weekly affair. Now that McVay is gone and Jay Gruden is taking over the play calling duties, will the Redskins run the ball more often?

 

Gruden has a reputation for being pass happy but that is not necessarily accurate. His first year here the Redskins averaged 25.1 rushing attempts per game, less than the 26.7 that the league averaged but certainly in the ballpark. Actually, considering that the Redskins were 4-12 and were playing from behind far more often than not, Gruden called runs more often than you might expect him to.

Going back further, Gruden was the Bengals’ offensive coordinator for three years and in all three seasons Cincinnati’s rushing attempts were very near or above the league average.

With all that said, projecting rushing attempts in 2017 is tricky. It will largely depend on personnel. On one extreme, if both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson return and Kirk Cousins is back in form, Gruden will lean on his passing attack more. If one or both receivers are gone and the Redskins either draft a dynamic back or if Rob Kelley or Matt Jones becomes a top back, Gruden will ground and pound. I’ll put the early over/under at 410 attempts, within one or two of the league average.

Finlay: The stats make the case here fairly simple. Washington will run more in 2017 because it would be hard to run much less. For all his strengths, McVay got away from the run far too often.

Perhaps the best example came in a loss at Arizona. Rob Kelley was gashing the Cardinals for 4.5 yards-per-carry, and Chris Thompson had great success to the edge, taking two carries for 24 yards. Yet the 'Skins ran only 16 times in a tight game where Cousins was not his best. The quarterback completed just 56 percent of his passes that day and was under heavy pressure all game. 

Speaking with 'Skins coaches, expect Kelley to get the opprotunity to cement his role as the No. 1 runner. And expect the offense to give him the ball more. 

More offseason questions: 

What are resonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!