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Need to Know: What has to happen for the Redskins to go run heavy on offense

May 18, 2015, 5:11 AM EDT

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, May 18, 73 days before the Washington Redskins open training camp in Richmond, VA.

Question of the day

A few days a week 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.

It certainly seems like that is the plan, or something close to it. Jay Gruden has consistently talked about running the ball all offseason as has Scot McCloughan. The GM drafted two power blocking offensive linemen in Arie Kouandjio and Brandon Scherff and took running back Matt Jones, who McCloughan has compared to none other than Marshawn Lynch.

To figure out if they can transform into the Seahawks, at least in terms of overall offensive philosophy, let’s look at what each team’s play selection last year. The Seahawks were one of four NFL teams that ran the ball more than they passed it, with 32.8 rushing attempts per game and 28.3 passes per game, a 46%-54% pass to run ratio. That just about flipped the NFL average, which was 26.7 runs and 34.9 passes (57%-43%).

The Redskins’ ratio was about the same as the league average, with 34.1 passes per game and 25.1 runs, coming to a 58%-42% pass to run.

To flip their play calling ratio to something more like that of the Seahawks Gruden would need to call seven more runs per game and seven fewer passes. That sounds easy but, of course, it’s not. We could slice up the numbers in dozens of different ways to demonstrate why but let’s look at just a couple.

On first down the Seahawks ran the ball 317 times and picked up an average of 5.0 yards/carry. The Redskins called 248 first-down runs and gained 4.0 per play.

There is a big difference between second and five and second and six. The 2014 Seahawks faced another running down after their typical first down run, especially since they averaged 5.3 yards on all of their running plays. Gruden had to think about passing on second and six with his rushing attack that averages 4.3 per carry.

The other factor that makes it easier for the Seahawks to run the ball last year was their defense. It was the best in the NFL in terms of both yards and points allowed. If they ran the ball a few times and didn’t get anywhere they could punt the ball away knowing that their defense was likely to get it back for them soon.

The Redskins were 29th in points allowed and 20th in yards given up. They didn’t have to score on every possession but with the defense giving up an average of nearly a touchdown per quarter (27.4 points/game) they were desperate to score more often than not.

If the Redskins want to flip their pass-run ratio around it will take more than Gruden altering his game plan. They will need to improve their rushing game and their defense. Then that would take the pressure off of Robert Griffin III or whoever is at quarterback to win games single handedly. It doesn’t seem that any of the three are capable of doing so at this point so it’s the smart way to go.

Timeline

—It’s been 141 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 118 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 29; Redskins training camp starts 73; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 129

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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  1. troylok - May 18, 2015 at 6:16 AM

    I think Gruden likes the idea of being able to run when he needs it, but from what I have seen, he will have his team passing more than running. An interesting thing to me is that he says he would like a power running game but he is willing to settle for little-ish tight ends. This seems counter intuitive.

    • bangkokben - May 18, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      When the Patriots run power, they bring in a sixth linemen. They have been crushing the Colts with this strategy game after game.

      • troylok - May 18, 2015 at 12:45 PM

        It’s called a jumbo offense and Gibbs used it quite a bit. When Scherff takes over at right tackle, having a sixth lineman would be the perfect job for Compton. Unfortunately, this telegraphs what you are going to do to the defense, whereas an every down big tight end can either run block or run a route and gives nothing away by being out on the field.

  2. Tom - May 18, 2015 at 6:47 AM

    Gruden, said he abandoned the run too early many times last season. Then when out and didi it again the next week. If as a team you average 4 yards on first down runs, and average 4.3 yards per run overall, 8.3 yards on 1st and second down, I’d take that.
    Too often the Skins would not complete a pass or take a sack on second down putting them in third a long.
    Even 7 yards running on first and second down is better than most of what we did last year. And, if you stick with the run, those run averages go up in the fourth quater. That is where the overall average can get up to the 5 yards a carry range.
    Seattle probably wasn’t averging 5 yards a carry in the first quater of most games.
    Same as the Redskins in the Hogs era.

    • Rich Tandler - May 18, 2015 at 8:30 AM

      They abandoned the run because the defense was giving up a TD per quarter on average. Game situations often dictated the play calls.

      And, actually, Seattle averaged 5.3 per carry in the first quarter and 4.9 in the fourth.

      • bobwilliams4 - May 18, 2015 at 12:59 PM

        Rich, you’re a professional sports commentator – you should know better than to publish bad statistics. I’m not saying that the D was good – they were definitely below average. But the Defense wasn’t giving up a TD per quarter on average – the whole team was. When the Offense and Special Teams combine to give up a TD almost every other game, it’s going to make a somewhat subpar defense look horrible. The offense gave up 4 touchdowns and special teams gave up 3 last year, to say nothing of the bad field position they left for the defense to deal with. Maybe you know a stats guru who can tell you (and hopefully you can share it with the rest of us) how the defense compared to other defenses in situations where the O & Special Teams weren’t handing the ball to the other team already in field goal range.

        • Rich Tandler - May 18, 2015 at 1:55 PM

          I should have said “defense and special teams”. Yes, the offense gave up a few on turnovers but if you have a competent defense those should even out. I’m also not factoring in bad offensive field position due to the defense giving up so many yards.

          I don’t know if you come by here often but there are times to go into stats in great detail. I made the judgement call that pointing out the number of points the other team was scoring last year was sufficient in a 500-word post to illustrate that the score had an effect on the play calling and the ability to stick with the run.

        • bobwilliams4 - May 18, 2015 at 3:11 PM

          I read here all the time, but this was the first time I posted.

          An average defense will even out the turnovers of an average offense. But the offense didn’t just “give up a few” on turnovers – last years offense was a turnover machine.

          The other thing is, the defense isn’t giving up “so many yards”. The Skins defense was just below league average in yards per drive. Digging into the numbers, the Skins offense was also just below league average in yards per drive. So any field position problems sit at the feet of offensive turnovers and special teams, not the defense.

          I agree with your judgement call about the play calling, and that with Seattle’s defense, they can afford to run the ball more. But because of the way you phrased it the first time, and then left the blame firmly on the defense in your response to Tom, it gives the impression that you think last years defense was pretty near the worst in the league. With the offense giving their opponents an extra drive or two per game, it made the defense look worse than they actually were (which certainly wasn’t great).

        • bangkokben - May 18, 2015 at 4:47 PM

          bob,

          Your defense of the defense is borderline offensive. Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink.

          Giveaways by year
          2014 31
          2013 34
          2012 14
          2011 35
          2010 31

          Takeaways by year
          2014 19
          2013 26
          2012 31
          2011 21
          2010 27

          The offense has consistently turned the ball over the past 5 years with 2012 being an exceptional outlier. The defense was not up to task. Last year Philly gave the ball up 36 times. As Joe Gibbs used to say, “:We’re all in this together.” The defense stank, horribly and yards had little to do with it.

  3. skinsgame - May 18, 2015 at 8:05 AM

    I’m surprised QB play didn’t make the short list of what needs to improve in order for the run to be successful. With little to fear from the QB, defenses could gear up to shut off the run as an option. It’s not a coincidence that Alfred’s best year was when the QB position was better executed.

    • Rich Tandler - May 18, 2015 at 8:27 AM

      Chicken or egg? Would a more solid rushing game help the QB succeed?

      • skinsgame - May 18, 2015 at 8:37 AM

        In this particular instance though, the drop in QB play and execution has been remarkable. Drastic even.

        • bangkokben - May 18, 2015 at 11:31 AM

          I’m with Rich in this one especially when you consider 800 rushing yards from the quarterback position in 2012 another significant chunk in 2013.

        • skinsgame - May 18, 2015 at 11:40 PM

          800 yards rushing from a QB isn’t what translated into Alfred’s bang up rookie season. It was overall execution from the QB, really. Robert was a threat to throw it accurately in 2012 as well as take off on a run and he was the focus of the defense. After that season, his downfield accuracy fell sharply and his threat to execute the offense diminished enough to affect the running game for sure.

  4. mr.moneylover - May 18, 2015 at 8:15 AM

    I think it will take alot of pressure off of rg3….seahawks dont throw as much because they have marshawn lynch…By the end of the game the other team will be tired or they will quit if you can run the ball and if you have a QB that can the ball as well its a bonus for your team…russell wilson stay killing teams running the read option on 3rd down and at the end of games… I think the redskins changing they scheme to what seashawks do and thats running the ball

  5. kenlinkins - May 18, 2015 at 8:24 AM

    IMO “AVG” is a fun way to stack rank RB’s and over-all ground games, it is not what a good coach should use to set a game plan or make adjustments to the game plan. How many times did we see the Redskins go: 1st: run left 2 yds, 2nd: run left no gain 3rd: drop pass 4th PUNT, 1st: Run left 2 yds, 2nd: run right -2 yds 3rd: sack 4th: PUNT, 1st: run left 18 yds, 1st: Run left 3 yds 2nd: run left no gain 3rd: pass middle 5 yds 4th: Punt. And have a 4.5 yds AVG running the ball and be down 17- 0! IMO the key to a good running game is 1. good defense, 2. Good QB play 3. a good O-Line 4. A good RB. 5. good Special teams play. IMO “AVG” can mis-lead the “AVG” fan into thinking that something is working when in fact it is not.

    • Rich Tandler - May 18, 2015 at 9:09 AM

      Ken, I’m going to be digging into this more between now and the start of the season. Can the Redskins win with the emphasis of the offense being on power running? A lot of angles to look at and, as you noted, slicing up the “average” gains to get a better picture of how it goes down.

    • Skulb - May 19, 2015 at 1:06 AM

      Last year the run game was consistently predictable, I agree with you there. If I can know while sitting at home that Alf is almost certainly going to run left inside then you figure the people who get paid to coach the other team will know it as well and just stuff the lane for him. And they did; over and over again.

  6. Bryan - May 18, 2015 at 10:28 AM

    I thought there were times last year we ran the ball just to say we did. We were still a outside zone team with tight ends and Wrs other than garçon who couldn’t or wouldn’t block. Going to a more power running game should be beneficial in that typically most of the running is inside tackles and then may break out or uses Darrel young to help out. Like I said should help doesn’t mean it will bc we have same right ends and wrs. But coach Callahan should help and with lavauo being better fit along with stronger long and schreff. But is rg3 is better that to will help out a lot and with that said Rich I heard of the expensive virtual passing machine he bought , have you been able to or will you ask him about said machine

    • ET - May 18, 2015 at 10:52 AM

      One of the reasons Scot likes Evan Spencer is the kid can throw a vicious block.

      Will Spencer get some game time so he and Garçon can mow down defensive backs? Will Paulsen return to form? Will Gruden use any two back sets to make use of Young and Jones’ blocking prowess? Will Gruden convert someone into an extra blocking TE? Seems like there are lots of small tweaks that could make the run game more efficient.

  7. bangkokben - May 18, 2015 at 11:48 AM

    This team has assessed the issues facing this team and addressed them as best as possible for future success. They have bolstered both lines of scrimmage. Now, lets keep our fingers crossed that they’ve got the right personnel this time and that the injury bug finds some other area to infect.

    • Dominic Hudson - May 18, 2015 at 5:03 PM

      We all have to sit back and remember what kind of defense we had these last five years. We could never get off the field at big times of the games. We had a lot of leads going into the fourth quarter of games but couldn’t make the play. For me it all starts with defense, remember, if the team can’t score they can’t win Redskins fans.

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