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Redskins Bye Week Grades: No clear leader among a scuffling group of running backs

Redskins Bye Week Grades: No clear leader among a scuffling group of running backs

Redskins bye week grades: Running backs

At times the Redskins look like a team that could make some serious noise in the playoffs and at other times they look like a team that will struggle to make the playoffs. At 4-3-1, they’re still in the thick of things as they catch a breather at the bye. It’s been an interesting couple of months, indeed, and over the next few days CSN Mid-Atlantic reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will hand out their first half grades, position-by-position.

Tandler: The Redskins’ rushing attack has been strong on rare occasions, adequate at times and completely ineffective in other spots. The question here is how much of the credit/blame goes to the running backs and how much goes to the line, play calling, etc. I don’t think it’s fair to put it all on the rather inexperienced trio of running backs employed by the Redskins this year but they do get the majority of the blame.

The Redskins are 14th in rushing yards per game. As I noted yesterday when grading the offensive line, Football Outsiders has them as the third-best run blocking team. That indicates that if the backs are holding up their end of the deal they should have a top five or at least a top 10 rushing attack. Yet as noted they are 14th in the raw measurement and 13th in rushing DVOA if you want to go by the more sophisticated analysis of FO.

Matt Jones is the target of most of the heat the running backs draw and he has earned it to an extent. While he has had a couple of strong games he also has left a lot of yardage on the field. Add in three fumbles in a three-game span, two of them lost, and you have a back still struggling. Rob Kelley is thought to be the savior but he has a lot to prove. While his average per carry is 5.0 yards, it drops to 3.8 if you discount the 45-yard run against the Eagles. Chris Thompson has been the best of the bunch, a consistent and reliable performer running the ball, receiving, and pass blocking. Overall it’s a below-average group of running backs.

Grade: D

Finlay: Anybody that listens to CSN's #RedskinsTalk podcast knows that Tandler and I disagree here. My colleague continues to defend Matt Jones, despite the fumbles, while wanting to remove Robert Kelley's one long run from his statistics. Well, flip that equation, remove Jones' 57-yard run that ended the Eagles game, and his YPC drops nearly a half yard.

Further, the biggest problem with Jones for the Redskins (beyond the fumbles) is the negative plays. Often, Jones gets bottled up behind the line of scrimmage and the team loses one or two yards on simple design runs. The same does not seem to happen with Kelley; he is more elusive in the backfield and turns negative plays into no gains or often falls forward for a yard or two. The difference between 2nd & 12 and 2nd & 8 may not show up too often in the stat sheet, but guarantee Kirk Cousins and Sean McVay notice. 

Numbers support that assertion: Looking at Pro Football Focus' Yards-After-Contact-Per-Attempt stat, Kelley averages nearly a full yard more than Jones after contact. Now the derivation between the two is impacted somewhat by Jones having more than double the attempts of Kelley, but just watching both runners, the undrafted rookie out of Tulane avoids negative plays better than the second-year man out of Florida. Per Pro Football Reference, it's also clear: 13 percent of Kelley's runs have gone for zero or negative yards. For Jones, that percentage jumps to 19 percent. 

That said - Jones is the better pass receiver and a more capable home run threat. Also, to agree with Tandler, Chris Thompson gives the Redskins their most dependable back, yet his size keeps him from being on the field for too many snaps. The grade for Redskins RBs collectively won't look good, but could trend upward over the second half if Kelley continues to emerge.

Grade: C-

Consensus Grade: D+

Tandler and JP grade the Redskins at the bye:

Click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes or press play below.

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Adrian Peterson continues surprising run in Redskins' win over Cowboys

Adrian Peterson continues surprising run in Redskins' win over Cowboys

LANDOVER, Md. -- With 22 starters comprising offensive and defensive players, plus another faction handling special teams, football is the ultimate team sport.

Now imagine where the 2018 Washington Redskins find themselves if the front office never brings in Adrian Peterson for that mid-preseason workout. Even Jamie Lee Curtis finds that frightening.

Peterson’s return to football glory continued with 99 rushing yards on 24 carries in Washington’s 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys Sunday evening.

“I won’t say we wouldn’t be as good in the run game, but, yeah,” left tackle Trent Williams said of his former University of Oklahoma teammate.

“Obviously having [Adrian], I won’t say it’s everything, but it’s almost everything,” Williams continued. His eyes widened as the Pro Bowl lineman pondered the potential downside of this offense without the future Hall of Famer. That’s a dark timeline.

Peterson’s Redskins career now spans six regular-season games. Sunday’s display of power in tight spaces and speed when daylight exists wasn’t a one-off. In those six games, Peterson rushed for at least 96 yards four times including the last two games despite playing with a painful shoulder.

“I’m feeling good, man, we just got a W,” the smiling running back said from behind the podium inside the media room at his newish home stadium. “That makes everything feel a lot better. I feel better than I did last week, I’ll say that.”

Washington felt concerned enough about its running attack following the second preseason game to scour the free agent market. Peterson arriving at Redskins Park in August generated the expected “Whoa” from the casual NFL fans, who picture the player hammering silly defenders daring to tackle him. That player no longer existed. At least that’s what many assumed.

Peterson last topped 1,000 yards or 4.0 yards per rush in 2015. Injuries and inefficiency headlined his 2017 stops in New Orleans and Arizona. Running backs capable of carrying an offense aren’t just lying around for the taking like a rogue penny on a sidewalk. Yet, there was Peterson, waiting for a team to show interest. After losing Derrius Guice with a season-ending knee injury and recognizing the in-house options were not enough, the Redskins called.

 “We didn’t have many expectations,” Jay Gruden said after the Redskins improved to 4-2 and took a 1 ½ game lead in the NFC East. “We weren’t expecting him to be on our football team until we had a couple of injuries. Then we got him. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I know he looked great in that workout.”

That workout led to a signing and almost simultaneously, the starting gig. Now it’s hard contemplating anyone else in those early down and short yardage scenarios. Peterson had runs of 23 and 20 yards against the Cowboys. The latter help set up one of two Dustin Hopkins field goals. His overall production helped move the chains in yet another game where the Alex Smith-led passing game lacked oomph.

This random road to Redskins Park is why Peterson’s renaissance feels shocking to many with one significant exception.

“No, not at all. I think everyone else around is surprised. I’m not,” Peterson said. “I expect greatness from myself. That’s why I put the work in. God has blessed with me this talent. A lot of people see, and a lot of people don’t. … Just keep confidence in myself. When I’m presented with my opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it every Sunday.”

Peterson is taking advantage of this opportunity with the Redskins because necessity is the mother of invention. It turns out Washington’s running attack needed a reboot more than the running back required a makeover.

“There are not many guys like [Adrian] walking around the street,” Williams said, “and luckily, we found a diamond in the rough.”

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Josh Norman rocks Bobby Boucher jersey following Redskins' win over Cowboys

Josh Norman rocks Bobby Boucher jersey following Redskins' win over Cowboys

Josh Norman just took the jersey game to a whole new level.

Prior to the Redskins' gutsy 20-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys, Norman showed up to FedEx Field repping a Bobby Boucher Bourbon Bowl jersey from the iconic Adam Sandler movie "The Waterboy." 

He also repped the jersey following the win in the locker room with the media.

Many believed it was a shot at Giants' Odell Beckham Jr., who made comments this week about disliking water. But according to Norman, he just really likes the South Central Louisiana Mud Dogs.

Norman is known for repping a soccer jersey or two following a game, but he has everyone else beat this week.