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Redskins' third-down conversions critical vs. Rams


Redskins' third-down conversions critical vs. Rams

It was well known that one of the things that the Redskins had to fix this year was their dismal inability to convert on third downs. The NFL said that their 31.5 percent conversion rate was the third worst in the league. The guys at Football Outsiders went further, saying that all things considered they were one of the worst third down teams since they have been tracking such numbers.

It’s only two games into the new season but the Redskins are off to a good start in fixing such issues. Through two games they have converted 46.7 percent of their third downs, good for ninth in the NFL. The secret to their modest success really is no secret. They are running the ball early, often, and well and that is helping them on third down.

Against the Rams yesterday, the Redskins converted eight of 16 (50%) third down situations. The NFL average for the full season last year was around 40 percent so anything better than that is pretty good.

All eight of their conversions were in situations where they had eight yards or fewer to go. And they start off six of those eight sets of downs with a running play.

They did a pretty good job of staying ahead of the chains all day. Only three of their 16 third down situations yesterday were from more than eight yards to go. Last week against the Dolphins they had six such situations.

The third down conversions weren’t mere window dressing stats. They mattered. The Redskins had two touchdown drives that covered 12 plays, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth. Two conversions came during the first one, including the touchdown on a third and goal pass from Kirk Cousins to Pierre Garçon from the four. That put the Redskins up 17-0 at halftime.

The other TD drive came in the fourth quarter after the Rams had closed it to 17-10. The Redskins converted three third downs in this drive. Cousins threw to Chris Thompson for the only time all day to get 10 yards on third and eight. Then on third and five Cousins found Jordan Reed down the middle for 29 yards. Perhaps the most impressive conversion came a few plays later when Cousins just handed it to Matt Jones on third and eight and watched the rookie rumble for nine. Two plays later Jones was in the end zone and the competitive phase of the game was over. 

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Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Associated Press

Redskins OTA practice report—QB Alex Smith sharp

Even though it was a bright, warm Wednesday in Ashburn the Redskins held their OTA session in the practice bubble because recent rains have left their outdoor fields to soggy to use. Here are my observations from the practice:

—A few Redskins were not present and a few who were there were not participating in the drills. Jay Gruden said that OT Trent Williams is rehabbing in Texas and that LB Zach Brown is in the process of relocating to the Washington area. RB Chris Thompson and OT Morgan Moses were present, but both were spectators. 

— It should be noted that even though Moses didn’t practice and is still rehabbing after ankle surgery, he still participated in the sideline-to-sideline running the team does at the end of practice.

—At rookie camp, RB Derrius Guice was first in line to do every drill. Today, he gave way to the veterans to all take their reps and then he went first among the rookies. 

— “Fat Rob” Kelley never really was fat but he is now lean and mean. He also seems to be a half step quicker than he was in the past. Added competition in the form of second- and fourth-round picks being added at your position will do that to a player. 

—The “starting” offensive line from left to right was Geron Christian, Shawn Lauvao, Chase Roullier, Brandon Scherff, and John Kling. The interior could well start the season; the tackle position awaits the returns of Williams, Moses, and Ty Nsekhe. 

—RB Byron Marshall, who was on the team briefly last year before getting injured, looked very quick with good acceleration.

—CB Josh Norman was back with the group fielding punts. I seriously doubt that he will handle any kicks in games, even preseason games, but perhaps with DeAngelo Hall being gone he wants to be available as an emergency option. Also back with the punt returners were CB Danny Johnson, CB Greg Stroman, WR Maurice Harris, WR De’Mornay Pierson-El, and, of course, WR Jamison Crowder.

—S D.J. Swearinger spent most of the special teams practice on the sideline working on catching passes with his hands extended away from his body. A little while later, he had a chance to make an interception with his arms extended. Of course, he dropped it. 

—It seems like QB Alex Smith and Crowder have some good rapport built already. Once on the right sideline and a few minutes later on the left, Smith threw a well-placed ball into Crowder, who was well covered on both occasions. 

—Eventually, CB Orlando Scandrick caught on and he swatted down a quick out to Crowder. 

—With Brown out, Josh Harvey-Clemons was with the first unit at inside linebacker. He’s still skinny but less so than he was last year. The second-year player was impressive in coverage, staying with Crowder step for step on a deep pass down the middle.

—The play of the day was a deep pass down the right side from Smith to WR Paul Richardson. Stroman was with the receiver step for step on the 9 route but Smith laid the ball out perfectly and Richardson made a lunging catch. Even though it doesn’t have to under the new rule, the catch did survive the ground. 

—WR Cam Sims had a few impressive plays. On one, QB Colt McCoy lofted one high in the air down the right side. Sims kept his focus on the ball while two defenders lost it and made the catch. 

—WR Trey Quinn had his moments. He made a good grab while being bumped by Scandrick. But a while later he dropped a fairly easy one. 

—The running backs all looked good but Guice looked the best of all of them. He had an ability to cut and maintain his speed that not many have. With the warning that they were playing with no pads with no contact and not at full speed, Guice’s vision appeared to be outstanding. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy


NFL owners unanimously approve new national anthem policy

NFL owners have unanimously approved a new national anthem policy that allows players to remain in the locker room if they prefer but requires players to stand if they are on the field during the performance.

This new policy subjects teams, but not players, to fines if any team personnel do not show appropriate respect for the anthem. 

Teams will also have the option to fine any team personnel, including players, for the infraction separately though. 

The NFL Players Association released it's own statement after the news was made official.