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Redskins' third-down conversions critical vs. Rams

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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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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

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Brandon Scherff confirms that he and the Redskins have 'been talking' about a contract extension

Bruce Allen identified getting a contract extension done for Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff as one of the Redskins biggest priorities of the 2019 offseason. To this point, however, nothing has happened. 

That doesn't seem to have Scherff concerned. 

"We've been talking, but I'm not really worried about that," he said after OTAs on Monday. "I'm here for another year, so that's all I'm worried about right now. Everything will take care of itself."

Scherff, the fifth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, has played at an elite level since his rookie season. He's made two Pro Bowl teams in four years, and until last year, had been remarkably durable. 

In 2018, Scherff's season started very strong. 'Skins coach Jay Gruden described the former Iowa Hawkeye as the best pulling guard in the NFL and it was well-earned praise. Then, in a Week 8 loss, Scherff went down with a torn pectoral muscle. His season was over. 

At OTAs, however, Scherff was a full participant with no brace or apparent encumbrances from the injury. 

"I'm feeling really good, just taking it slow and making sure I'm 100 percent," he said. 

Expect the free agent market to be quite bullish. Once a lesser-paid position than tackle, guards have recently started pulling in significant cash. Zach Martin's recent contract extension in Dallas pays him more than $14 million per season, and Jacksonville is paying Andrew Norwell more than $13 million this year. 

For Scherff, expect top of the market money. He has the talent, pedigree and ability that if Washington won't pay in the neighborhood of Martin and Norwell, he can wait for free agency. 

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Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

Reuben Foster's season-ending injury hurts the Redskins from a contract perspective, too

There are a lot of questions stemming from Reuben Foster's injury at Redskins OTAs, which looks to be a season-ending one.

Where does Foster, whose career has really yet to take off due to other injuries as well as numerous off-field troubles, go from here? What are Washington's options at inside linebacker now, since they were counting on him to produce?

And then there's this: How does Foster missing this year affect his contract with the 'Skins?

The answer, according to salary cap expert J.I. Halsell, is not much.

"When a contract tolls, that means basically the pause button is pushed and whatever you were supposed to make in 2019 carries over to 2020. That's not the case for Reuben Foster," Halsell said Tuesday while on the Redskins Talk podcast.

"Reuben Foster will earn his $1.29 million salary regardless of if he plays this season or not. While he'll probably spend his entire season on injured reserve, he'll make his $1.29 million in 2019."

Essentially, everything proceeds as normal. And that in and of itself is a decent setback for the organization.

One of the reasons the Redskins dealt with the controversy and backlash when they claimed Foster last November was because they were adding a first-round talent on his rookie contract. The team was hoping they could secure two years of elite play out of him at a bargain price, and then potentially exercise the fifth-year option on him to keep him in D.C. through 2021.

Now, however, they're losing one of those precious seasons and will have to make that decision on his fifth-year option next offseason without any tape or experience to really base that decision on. That's an important choice, and one that will carry significant financial implications as well.

"The fifth-year option for the 2021 season will be pretty expensive," Halsell said. "The long and short of it is it's going to be a lucrative dollar amount and given his injury history, his current injury, you would think that when they have to make that decision by the 2020 Draft, they will decline that option."

Haslell's right. The likelihood of the Burgundy and Gold committing big money to a guy with literally one rep in their uniform — and it's not like he was proven for the 49ers, as a linebacker or as a person, either — feels unbelievably slim. 

Yet — and now we're looking pretty far down the line — if he is able to return from this injury and contribute in 2020, the franchise could still look to keep him beyond that. There's a ton of time between now and then, but it's certainly possible.

"Theoretically, even though you don't have the fifth-year option for 2021, you can work on a contract extension for Reuben Foster assuming he comes back to full health," Haslell explained.

Still, not only does the injury hurt the player as well as the unit the player was going to start on, but it limits the team's potential payoff from claiming the player. The situation, from every angle, is an unfortunate one. 

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