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Redskins running, stopping the run better than in 2015

Redskins running, stopping the run better than in 2015

In 2015, the rushing game was a problem for the Redskins, on both sides of the ball. On offense they gained 97.9 yards per game, a mediocre 20th in the NFL. They gave up 122.6 per game, 26th in the league.

Doing the math, they were outgained on the ground by 24.7 yards per game. It’s tough to win with a negative differential like that and it took a sizzling hot passing game led by Kirk Cousins for the Redskins to pull off a 9-7 record and get to the playoffs.

The Redskins are better both running the ball and stopping the run this year. The improvement in both categories has been modest but significant. On offense they have improved to 109.3 rushing yards per game. That puts them in a tie for 12th. That doesn’t exactly evoke visions of Riggo and the Hogs pounding opponents into submission but it still isn’t bad.

Defensively they have shaved nearly 10 yards off of their per-game average from last year. They are giving up an average of 112.8 per game, good for 22nd in the NFL. Again, that is not where they want to be. But considering that virtually no personnel assets were added during the offseason to help bolster the rushing game that’s not bad.

Their differential is still in negative territory but only to the tune of 3.5 yards.

A good goal for the Redskins next year would be to reverse the stats that they had in 2015 and rush for 120 yards per game and allow under 100. That would put them in the top 10 in both rushing offense and defense. They probably can accomplish that on offense by simply committing to running the ball when it is working and the game situation permits.

It will be harder to improve the rushing defense. That will require revamping the defensive front and then getting the new players to gel in the system. It’s not an instant fix but the Redskins do need to get the process started.

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Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Why Santana Moss believes the Redskins have 'something brewing' at wide receiver

Where you see a lack of proven threats at wide receiver for the Redskins, Santana Moss actually sees an opportunity for the team to really surprise at that position.

During an appearance on 106.7 The Fan's Chad Dukes vs. The World this week, the Burgundy and Gold legend explained that he thinks Washington's free agency approach means they're far more confident in their wideouts than anyone else is.

"They have something going on, something brewing with some of those receivers, that they're gonna do something a little differently," Moss said. "I don't know. I'm just saying that's what I'm thinking, because I see how people play chess sometimes."

Moss should know when the Redskins are up to something, considering his past. 

In 2012, Mike Shanahan and the franchise gave no real indication that they'd be running a read-option and pistol-based offense during training camp and the preseason. Then, Week 1 came around and Robert Griffin III lit up the Saints and many other opponents after that with a scheme that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Moss was a part of that roster, meaning he has a true grasp of what it's like to be among a group that has "something brewing." And he's getting those same vibes when it comes to the 2020 Redskins. 

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"I'm just looking forward to whatever they might do," he said.

Rivera and Scott Turner certainly have a lot of options to choose from. Terry McLaurin should be the star again, but after him, there's the intriguing Steven Sims, the physical Kelvin Harmon, the raw yet well-regarded Antonio Gandy-Golden (whom Moss especially likes) and then the versatile Antonio Gibson, who could get involved in many ways.

In fact, Moss believes that crew is talented enough to make up for what's maybe the weakest spot on the entire depth chart.

"I think they have something planned for the guys that they have that's going to allow them to not have to lean so much on a tight end," he told 106.7 The Fan.

Would this entire situation be better if the organization was able to land Amari Cooper? Duhhhhhhhhhh. Everything at receiver would be more definite considering how successful Cooper's been as a pro, instead of all the potential-based discussions that are happening with the current collection of pass catchers.

Cooper remains a Cowboy, though, and the Redskins will proceed with their young corps. In Moss' mind, that's completely fine. In a few months, everyone else will get to find out whether it really is.

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Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

Ryan Kerrigan will play less in 2020 but could produce much more

The Redskins drafted Chase Young with the second overall pick and reality dictates that the rookie will take snaps away from veteran pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan.

That could actually be good news for Kerrigan.

For the first nine years of his NFL career, Kerrigan never missed a game. That’s incredible. In 2019, his streak of 139 straight starts ended as a concussion and a heel injury forced him to miss four games.

Expected back fully healthy this fall, the question now becomes what will Kerrigan’s role be in a crowded group of pass rushers that includes Young as well as 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat.

"You're fired up for having all of these guys, but then they can't all go on the field at the same time," Redskins defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio said about his glut of pass rushers. "So that is part of it, like being able to deal with that aspect of it, having guys understand, 'Hey, you're not going to play all the time.' Or, 'You're not the starter.' Those are things to me, that always get settled best with competition and once guys earn what they've earned I think everybody in the room pretty much understands that."

Here’s the thing - even at 31 Kerrigan keeps himself in elite physical shape. He’s two years removed from a 13-sack season and in three of the previous four seasons he registered at least 11 sacks.

Even though he logged just 5.5 sacks last year, the four-time Pro Bowler can still play, and in the new defensive scheme Del Rio and head coach Ron Rivera intend to deploy, Kerrigan can play to his strengths too.

"We're going to ask our guys to be more penetrating and disruptive," Del Rio said. 

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For the first time in his career Kerrigan likely won’t be the focal point of the Redskins defensive front. In fact, with Young, Sweat, Ryan Anderson and a gang of talent rushing from the interior like Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis, Kerrigan might be a bit of an afterthought.

That’s a great place for him to be.

Focused just on rushing the passer and without being asked to chase running backs and tight ends downfield in pass coverage, Kerrigan can play to his strengths. And strength is his strength.

"The other part about coaching is kind of keep guys out of positions that they're not good at," Del Rio said. "Accentuate the positives and try and keep your guys out of situations that they are not good in and put them in more of the situations that they are good at."

If offensive tackles are constantly dealing with the speed and athleticism of Sweat and Young, then Kerrigan comes in for clear passing situations with his patented bull rush and rip move, the results could be formidable.

Of course 2020 has also become a contract year for Kerrigan. The previous regime might have already worked toward an extension, but Rivera has been clear since his arrival in January that things will be run differently.

It’s possible with consecutive first-round picks spent on pass rushers that Rivera does not consider Kerrigan part of his long-term rebuild. The opposite is also possible, that Rivera will want Kerrigan around for the long haul as a third-down pass rusher and veteran leader for the team. Kerrigan doesn’t say much but he works extremely hard on the practice field and in the weight room. That has a lot of value.

Questions for 2021 aren’t important yet. Kerrigan can go out and prove Washington needs him next year with solid play this year.

There will be fewer snaps, that’s obvious, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be production.

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