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Need to Know: Did the Redskins need to run more on third and short?

Jan 16, 2015, 5:07 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, January 16, 104 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock for the first round of the NFL draft.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from right here in the comments section here on Real Redskins.

In the DAL game i know I saw it because rg3 threw a pick on 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1. But how many times on 3rd & 4 or less did we pass? If u can’t run the ball and get a yard like against DAL you aren’t supposed to win. With all of the qbs struggling and a hb that had 1600 yards a couple seasons back and is healthy why not run? Our 3rd down convo rate was horrible i have to believe someone is going to pull Grudens to the side and say run the ball right?

OK, let’s look at the numbers first. In 2014, on third or fourth with three or four yards to go NFL teams ran the ball 14 percent of the time. The Redskins reflected the league average here, running 14 percent of the time.

Looking at one or two yards to go, we see the Redskins running less often than the league as a whole. The NFL ran 57 percent of the time on third and short while Washington ran just 47 percent in those situations.

They were not very successful when they ran the ball. They ran 20 times on third and one or two and converted 12 times, a conversion rate of 60 percent. The league as a whole converts 68 percent of the time.

But, then again, they weren’t that good passing the ball with a yard or two to go. They converted 11 of 23 times, 48 percent. The league was successful passing on third and short 57 percent of the time.

So, perhaps they should have run the ball more on third and short give that they were more successful doing that. But the thing that strikes me here is that we constantly heard from Jay Gruden, Sean McVay, and others was that the Redskins poor third-down conversion rate was due to them always being in third and long. But they couldn’t get it done in the situations where they did find themselves in third and short, so it really didn’t make that much difference.


—It’s been 19 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 240 days until they play another one

Days until: NFL Combine 35; NFL free agency starts 53; 2015 NFL Draft 104

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In case you missed it

  1. manilarizzo - Jan 16, 2015 at 7:47 AM

    We should do everything differently in 2015 than we did in 2014 with the exception of what we told Tress Way to do with the ball (save for his one run).

  2. gasngo14 - Jan 16, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    Looks as if this is a reason Gruden likes the power scheme vs zone with smaller lineman.

  3. mr.moneylover - Jan 16, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    I think jay gruden realize that mike shanahan scheme is out of date and hes gonna run things his way now…hes gonna get bigger players thats gonna come in and get the job done his way

    • abanig - Jan 16, 2015 at 12:32 PM

      The zone running plays are not out of date. Some of the best running teams in the NFL still use the zone blocking scheme. The redskins in 2012 & 13 were successful in the zbs. Seattle runs a lot of zbs, Dallas runs some zbs.

      • Joe Greene - Jan 16, 2015 at 4:32 PM

        Cincinnati ran a healthy dose of ZBS with Gruden as their OC.

  4. Charles Puryear - Jan 16, 2015 at 8:52 AM


  5. celticsforever - Jan 16, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    What’s the point of trying to run when your line cannot get a push for even 2 yards. Unless you are 100% committed to the zone run, ditch it. Zone linemen (typically smaller and quicker) fail to get the “push” on the behemoth DL’s who are there to stuff the run. Although Alfred Morris is a bruising pounder, the zone run scheme is by design a finesse scheme. That’s why so often when push comes to shove, it doesn’t work that well.

    • redskinscaio - Jan 16, 2015 at 11:20 AM

      I agree 100%. I want to see our linemen go north, not west or east.

    • Joe Greene - Jan 16, 2015 at 4:33 PM

      Nonsense. A lot of teams with larger linemen still use ZBS plays as part of their running game. I doubt you can find anyone who doesn’t use it at least part of the time.

  6. timtowe - Jan 16, 2015 at 9:25 AM

    Rich- question for Need to Know

    It’s been said becasue Andy Dalton cannot win a playoff game, his days may be numbered with the Bengals. Is there any chance that the Redskins pick him up if he becomes available and let RG3 walk? If he’s not available, what veteran “system” QB would be available after next year and could work in Gruden’s offense?

  7. timtowe - Jan 16, 2015 at 9:29 AM

    The problem ultimately was we very rarely were in third and short. It usually went– Run, SACK third and long, punt. The offensive line could not sustain their blocks, RG3 wasn’t where he was supposed to be on his drops and it was a clustercluck of epic proportion. I agree- get some monster OL, and pound the rock. If we do that, I am not sure we have the need for Garcon and Jackson. I’d cut Garcon, draft a WR and take my chances.

    • gasngo14 - Jan 16, 2015 at 9:57 AM

      You would ” CUT ” Garcon

      • timtowe - Jan 16, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        I would- yes. Not that I WANT to, but he has a higher cap number than Jackson. I’d use that money on the OL and DL line, or DB. I’d draft a WR…and/or play Ryan Grant. If you cannot keep your QB upright, it doesn’t really matter who you have at WR…you can’t get him the ball consistently.

        Plus, if we move to a power running scheme, his ability to block on the edge becomes less of a factor.

        • abanig - Jan 16, 2015 at 12:30 PM

          They should restructure Garçon, not cut him

    • bangkokben - Jan 16, 2015 at 10:26 AM

      Garcon actually helps blocking in the running game. #11 not so much

      • timtowe - Jan 16, 2015 at 11:02 AM

        If we move to a power running scheme, edge blocking is not as important. We have too many holes to have his contract. As I said above, I don’t WANT to cut him, but I’d rather spend those dollars elsewhere.

        • bangkokben - Jan 16, 2015 at 11:27 AM

          It’s only not as important if you are content with 5 yard gains. If you want those 5 yard gains into 17 yard gains you better have receivers that can block.

  8. red - Jan 16, 2015 at 10:46 AM

    Thanks for answering my question Rich. I hated we didnt run more. Its not good to pass as much we did on 3rd it just increases turnover risk and the way our qbs were getting plowed i know we were moved out of fg range a couple times. I know gruden wants a dropback passer who gets rid of it quickly does not throw picks or takes sacks. That sounds like brady. Last i checked its only onourse of him. So why not run a qb draw on third and short. Even brady does a sneak and i bet his convo rate running beat our rate. Use what u got gruden!

    • abanig - Jan 16, 2015 at 12:28 PM


  9. redskinscaio - Jan 16, 2015 at 11:17 AM

    In my opinion, the problem started with the personnel and formation. A majority of those 3rd downs, the SKins would come out in a pass formation with Helu on the field. You gotta put in Alfred in the game. It was so frustrating to see Alfred not in the game on the most important plays of the drive. Time after time, 3rd and 4 would come up, and guess what? Alfred averages over 4 yards a carry! Even if you’re going to pass, give the defense something to think about. Great question by the fan though. Thanks Rich, for posting it!

  10. abanig - Jan 16, 2015 at 12:27 PM

    Of course they did! And in the redzone! I never understood why since 2012 they haven’t run the read option a lot on 3rd & short or in the redzone, especially with Griffin.

    I see other qbs around the league, even guys like Andy Dalton running zone read and going for first downs or touchdowns and Gruden won’t call it for Griffin.

    Tell me, does that make sense to anyone?

    Griffin scored 7 rushing Tds as a rookie and I think he’s had 1 rushing TD since and our scoring on offense has suffered. It just doesn’t make sense to me. Griffin can almost always get 1 or 2 yards on short yardage in the zone read or on a keeper and he can score in the redzone also.

    I know they want to develop him in the pocket but we shouldn’t do that at the chance of winning the game! Griffin is great at finding the endzone in the redzone and the Redskins need to give him the chance to score more by running the ball inside the 10.

    Also, if we’re running the ball with Griffin on short yardage or in the redzone more, it opens up more running room for Morris as well

    • shermanp79 - Jan 16, 2015 at 3:19 PM

      It’s because since then RG3 refuses to do it. He failed to keep the ball on so many read options last year. He is the one pushing to be a pocket passer. I agree he could really help the offense but he won’t do it. Morris truly benefitted from RG3 being a threat to run. It is what made him a really good back. Since then he has not been the same.

    • Joe Greene - Jan 16, 2015 at 4:35 PM

      Bob and his daddy are the ones who went to Snyder and forced the team to stop running the read option with him after he got injured repeatedly as a rookie.

  11. alextwrs - Jan 16, 2015 at 1:25 PM

    I remember Alfred getting hit in the backfield before he could get a head full of steam usually due to Lich, Chest, and Laov, allowing a penetrator. IMO this happenened alot therefore causing a lack of run plays to be called, no matter what down it was.

  12. Joe Greene - Jan 16, 2015 at 4:31 PM

    They needed to run more, period. Gruden abandons the run at the firs sign of a deficit no matter how the run is working or what time of the game it is. He’s an Arena League coach who doesn’t understand the value of the running game, especially for a team that is built to run first.

  13. wildbill1952 - Jan 24, 2015 at 2:36 PM

    Zone running game, power running game, any running game. Short yardage, goal line, first down, third down. Passing game. Every play, every scheme requires you have OL who can block and beat their man.. One OL failing on one play means the play fails. The Skins have lacked talented OL for a while. They can’t even get in the way of the DL half the time. Running on third and short, they couldn’t even get to the league average. That stat falls on the OL – not the coaching staff, the scheme, the play called, the QB, the refs, the WR, and especially not on a Pro Bowl running back. No matter who the Skins get in the draft or FA outside of the OL, next year’s won-loss record will be the same or worse if the OL isn’t improved. Archives

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