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Need to Know: Should the Redskins have run more on third and short?

May 29, 2015, 4:36 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Friday, May 29, 18 days before the Redskins hold their minicamp.

(I’m out on vacation this week. I’ll be bringing back some of the more popular and talked about posts from the past. Enjoy the “best of” posts and if you’re in Corolla, NC give me a shout!)

Question of the day

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 152 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 107 days until they play another one

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 18; Redskins training camp starts 62; Thursday night Redskins @ Giants 118

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  1. colorofmyskinz - May 29, 2015 at 6:20 AM

    Our biggest running back issue has been the following, our running backs have been horrible with:
    – run blocking
    – picking up blitz
    – catching and receiving
    – pass protection

    Yes, morris guilty of not contributing in those areas. And then think about third downs with helu, and he was only a little better in those areas. Look at baltimores Forsett, he is everything we did not have and does all of the above very well. Then add the horrible line we had and you have a 3rd down nightmare.

    I have one thing to say, Schreff, Long, Kouandjio, Matt Jones.

    The only way to further improve this situation is get a real work hardened TE. Our TEs are horrible at run blocking, pass protection, and picking up blitz. Yes Reed included. look at the new NFL style TE. They block like linemen, pick up blitz like third down running backs, run like full backs, and catch like slot receivers.

    The line and third down back situation has been drastically improved. Our TEs are our weakest link now.


    • sidepull - May 29, 2015 at 6:31 AM

      Agreed. I was hoping they would get a TE in the draft or FA. We need one badly and yet Rome wasn’t built in a day. Next year I bet we get one! I saw AM more than once try to hit a hole that was supposed to be opened by that line, and then in front of him, the hole would close and his lineman would just get trucked or just flat out make the wrong block. It was pretty bad. Its going to get better this year. How much is anybody’s guess but I got to believe Callahan is going to get his best players in the right position to lessen the mistakes.

    • ET - May 29, 2015 at 10:17 AM

      I agree with everything you said, but my first question in last year’s 3rd or 4th and short situations is where the hell was Darrel Young? He can run, block and catch out of the backfield. He can bulldoze in short-yardage situations. Now we also have Matt Jones, but I continue to believe Young is one of the Skins most underutilized assets.

      • sidepull - May 29, 2015 at 11:09 AM

        Yup DY seemed like a forgotten man. Hes a playmaker. I hope he is not underutilized this year. That’s a very good observation ET.

    • bangkokben - May 29, 2015 at 10:58 AM

      Please tell me the names of the TEs that do what you just described. In today’s NFL there are pass catching TEs and the guys who block and get to catch the ball once or twice a game.

    • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 5:25 PM

      IMO most of the rubbish blocking seemed to come from the RBs and Young last season. Both Paul and Paulsen were decent enough defensively weren`t they? I know Logan dropped a lot of balls last season but I can`t remember being particularly annoyed with his blocking. Maybe I did and have just forgotten it though.

  2. abanig - May 29, 2015 at 8:28 AM

    Obviously, the Redskins should have run the ball more on 3rd and short over the past two seasons. In 2012 when they did, they scored more and won more games.

  3. troylok - May 29, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    I think short yardage running is where your offensive line shows its strength or its weakness. Yeah, some running backs can bull ahead for a yard in the worst of situations, but by and large, they aren’t going to get that yard if the offensive line isn’t getting any push. I’d say that was true for three fifths of the line last year. Compton, Chester and Lichtensteiger weren’t overpowering anyone. Big Trent can have his way with defensive linemen but you can’t run behind him on every play – and defenses were stacking on his side in running situations.

    It will be better this year, but Jay has to have faith in the line, too.

  4. Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 9:23 AM

    “They were not very successful when they ran the ball”

    This explains it really. No use running the ball when you can`t get anywhere. I think this is a bit of a non-issue personally though. The offense lacked coherence and execution entirely last season. Every bad passing play made the run game less effective and every stuffed run made the passing game less effective. You really need to make both work to win games.

    • berniebernard666 - May 29, 2015 at 10:45 AM

      exactly. Its amazing how many fans think that all you have to do is just run the ball. Its easy. Just run the ball. Apparently, in the minds of some fans, nobody is there to stop the Redskins so they should just run the ball time after time after time until they go all the way down the field and score a TD every single time.

      But back to reality. If you can’t pass the ball and the defense has no trouble stopping you and you have a QB who sits in the pocket staring at people then the Defense is going to line up 0-10 men within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage on every play….which is what I saw last year against the Skins. Just because there aren’t 10 men in the box does mean anything. If 10 guys are lined up all along the line of scrimmage that means its tough to pitch out, or run sweeps, or run anything.

      A passing game, especially a deep passing game, makes the running game more effective, which begs the other questions: with the best deep threat in the league, why did Gruden not throw deep to Jackson at least twice per quarter. THAT would back off the safeties.

      • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 11:02 AM

        I don`t think Gruden trusted the QBs to get the ball down there reliably. I agree though:Jackson needs at least one deep ball pr quarter, preferably two or even three if he`s on fire. And he usually is I think.

      • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 5:22 PM

        Oh and yes I also agree about the game dynamics caused by poor passing last season. The opposing teams stopped fearing the long plays and packed the box. And you typically can`t run against that. So you need at least a decent passing game in place before you can successfully run. I wonder why people have trouble understanding that. It seems fairly straightforward to me.

    • abanig - May 29, 2015 at 10:46 AM

      Alfred Morris averaged 4.1 yards per rush last year and Helu averaged 5.4. As I’ve pointed out on other articles written by Rich, the main reason the Redskins didn’t rush the ball effectively was because neither of these two players touched the ball enough. Everyone in the nfl and all fans know that especially Morris gets better as the game wears on and defenses don’t want to tackle him. Yet, he saw very little carries in the second halves of most games in 2013 & 2014 despite the fact that the Redskins were rarely out of games until the fourth quarter, if at all.

      • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 11:00 AM

        I agree that it would have been good to get Morris the ball more. But I think the problem, as Gruden has pointed out repeatedly, was that they fell behind all the time to a host of issues including turnovers, botched defensive assignments etc. I think it would be good to keep the horrible field position the offense faced much of the time. The Skins had like three short fields the entire season last year. OK I exaggerate, but it was jolly awful most of the time.
        So if you`re on a long field and you need to catch up you`re almost forced to throw to move the chains quickly.

  5. mr.moneylover - May 29, 2015 at 9:26 AM

    I gotta give trey wolfe some props his play making ability is on point I hope he can bring that to the redskins….he was good enough to be sign to the redskins practice squad last season hopefully he can make the 53 man roster this year…there definitely talent there tho….scot m. knows what hes looking for in a player….you might see more vets cut if scot m. Add more or see more college free agent talent on the market….I dont think david amerson is gonna be given that fourth CB spot on the depth chart simply cause hes not scot m. Guy and if a college standout come in and impress jay gruden and scot m. He will fall….ppl thought roy helu jr. Will get resign because of what he did last season he ended up in oakland….cant be average under scot m. Watch

  6. berniebernard666 - May 29, 2015 at 10:53 AM

    I am still laughing at all the fans who are worried or complaining that D. Jackson went to a basketball game instead of coming to an OTA to practice running his fly pattern straight down the field. LOL

    • sidepull - May 29, 2015 at 11:15 AM

      Agreed. They need to get off his jock. He will be ready to roll. Ryan Clady wishes he went to that BBall game with him I bet..

    • abanig - May 29, 2015 at 12:02 PM

      It’s the principle of it. If no one else can skip it without scrutiny then neither should Jackson. It bothers me personally that he feels hanging with Lebron James is more important than hanging with his Redskins teammates.

      • ET - May 29, 2015 at 12:34 PM

        I feel the same way, and I’m a DeSean fan.

      • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 2:03 PM

        It might be deliberate though to send a signal to the team. If I was the coach I might also have considered giving Jackson, Williams and Kerrigan a ring right before OTAs telling them they can take a few days extra off for excellent performances last year. Maybe I`d even tell the rest of the team why these three were cut some slack while they were not.
        Not that these guys should need either a carrot or a stick with the money they`re making but who knows right?

        • abanig - May 29, 2015 at 2:30 PM

          Yeah still not a fan of double standards for certain players though. If it had been a certain #10, and not a former #10 who skipped OTAs most in redskins nation would be going nuts!

          In fact, I bet your response would be an entire 180 from what it is in response to Jackson skipping.

        • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 3:40 PM

          Well no because they aren`t mandatory. I am pretty sure that an underperforming QB skipping them might have annoyed the coaches though. And the world is full of double standards. I mean just at work the rules aren`t the same for trusted staff members as for trainees or incompetent people who are one more mistake away from being fired.
          This is just the same thing on an NFL team.

        • ET - May 29, 2015 at 4:57 PM

          And the world is full of double standards. I mean just at work the rules aren`t the same for trusted staff members as for trainees or incompetent people who are one more mistake away from being fired.

          Well, when you put it that way, Skulb …

        • rtcwon - May 30, 2015 at 3:04 AM

          The locker room already knows this, no need for a coach to explain.

          Kerrigan is already out with his scope and Trent had an off year. Robinson was a stud at mike only other guy that earned R&R.

      • ajbus1 - May 29, 2015 at 6:39 PM

        It was reported that he told the team ahead of time that he wasn’t going to come to the first week of OTAs. Take it easy people.

      • rtcwon - May 30, 2015 at 2:49 AM

        He didn’t skip, he asked for permission and got it approved.

        • abanig - May 30, 2015 at 2:06 PM

          Which is just as bad! Griffin just had his first child and he’s there.

  7. hk2000 - May 29, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of one blocking scheme from another, but I do know with the same line, same QB’s and same line coach, AM ran for over 1600 yards. The only difference in 2014 was the HC who thinks he’s a great play caller. I have one questions to all the fans, actually to Rich as well: When will our OC become a real one instead of just a title holder? As long as Gruden is calling plays, the offense will not be successful regardless of who the players are. Let our offensive coordinator take charge of the offense like he’s supposed to and tell Gruden he’s not an OC anymore, time for him to let it go, b/c frankly he stinks at it.

    • bangkokben - May 29, 2015 at 1:57 PM

      Montgomery was the center; Lichtensteiger was the left guard in 2012 & 2013. Last year Steiger moved to center, Lauvou was the left guard and we had a new running backs coach. So there were some changes not to mention Chester’s continued decline. But you’re right it’s all Gruden. I don’t see how he continues to coach with a clear conscience. He should just resign.

    • Skulb - May 29, 2015 at 5:18 PM

      Give the guy a break please. I`ll agree that he made some odd calls but you`ll have to agree that his plays weren`t exactly executed properly much of the time. I mean how can you judge the play when it never materializes on the field? To go back to the infamous play against Tampa where everything was perfect: TEs and WRs ran good routes and all five got good separation at the correct moment and were wide open. The backs were blocking properly for a change and the line held the pocket for four seconds +. But the pass never came from Griffin and he ended up running out.
      I mention that one because it was a good example of a well designed play that was never executed right by all the players. And it`s not the only one either. If anything I would question the actual coaching of these plays before the game. A lot of the time it didn`t quite look as if everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing. And that`s a coaching problem and it`s not just Gruden`s fault. Hell it might even be the players not paying attention in class.
      It`s just a shame that Hard Knocks are going to Houston. It would have been interesting to see the Redskins from the inside. Archives

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