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Redskins running the ball more but not as much as perceived

Oct 8, 2015, 12:27 PM EDT

Morris-vs.-Dolphins

There is a fine line between being perceived as pass happy and fans having confidence that you like to run and pound the football.

Jay Gruden should know. After being labeled as a coach who wanted to throw the ball too much last year, he has talked all offseason about the importance of his Redskins being able to run the football and how that would be the emphasis of the team’s offense. The perception now is that he is Ground Gruden, utilizing what is now a three-headed rushing attack with the reliable Alfred Morris, powerful rookie Matt Jones and intriguing scatback Chris Thompson. But the play calling has not been dramatically different.

Let’s look at first down plays because those calls are the least controlled by circumstances such as distance to go. The Redskins have run 54 times and passed 67 times, a 55 percent-45 percent run to pass ratio. Their play calling favors the run more than most teams; the NFL as a whole this year runs 51 percent of the time on first down and passes 49 percent.

But last year, when Gruden was supposedly throwing the ball all over the place, the Redskins ran on 53 percent of their first downs, compared to the league average of 52 percent. If this year plays out at its current pace, the Redskins will end up running the ball on 268 first-down plays compared to 248 last year. So on about 30 first-down snaps per game, the 2015 Redskins trade a run for a pass on one of them compare to last year.

Zooming out to all plays, the 2015 Redskins have run 126 times and passed 158. That’s 44 to 56 percent in favor of the pass. It’s still more run heavy than the league as a whole. So far in 2015 the NFL runs 41 percent of the time and passes 59 percent.

If the Redskins keep up their current pace, they will have just over 500 rushing attempts in 2015 compared to 402 last year. That would be about 6.4 more runs per game, about 10 percent of the plays, a significant increase. You could print up the “Ground Gruden” T-shirts if that happens.

But Gruden still has a way to go before he would be among the most run-oriented teams in the league. Although the Redskins are second in the NFL in rushing attempts with 126 they are like most of the rest of the teams in the league in that they pass more than they run. There are currently five teams—the Panthers, Bengals, Packers, Bills, and 49ers—who have more running plays than passing plays.

The reality is that the Redskins’ shift to running the ball more often, however subtle, may be related more to game scores than to a grand philosophical shift. Last year they were outscored by 137 points, about nine points per game. They lost nine games by double digits. In short, they were in a lot of passing situations.

This year they have played with the lead a lot and have faced a double-digit deficit in just one game. Those are running situations.

Game situations dictate play calls as much as a coach’s does. That’s important to keep in mind when trying to figure out what Gruden is happy to do.

  1. jonevans511 - Oct 8, 2015 at 2:12 PM

    Not being a grammar/content police officer whatsoever, but did you mean 67 runs and 55 passes instead of the other way around? You mentioned a 55-45 run to pass ratio but the numbers in your article state 55 runs and 67 passes…. Or maybe it’s just a rough afternoon for me. Either way, good stuff Rich.

    • brucefan1 - Oct 8, 2015 at 2:59 PM

      Guess I’m having the same rough afternoon as you, jon. ;^}

      • jonevans511 - Oct 8, 2015 at 4:12 PM

        At the end of the day, even when I’m just about positive I’m correct about something I still second-guess it, haha. Better to second-guess and make sure we’re right than to half-a$$ it and be wrong I suppose.

  2. Tom - Oct 8, 2015 at 3:17 PM

    You need to proofread your articles. They are often filled with mistakes, but this one I think you messed the numbers up–check it

    • brucefan1 - Oct 8, 2015 at 3:39 PM

      Watch it ,Tom!

      You wanna end up in the dreaded “spam folder”, or what? LOL

  3. Superfld - Oct 8, 2015 at 3:26 PM

    Your numbers don’t make sense in paragraph 3. According to your figures, they RAN the ball 45%, which is less than league average on first down. Did you get that backwards?

  4. goback2rfk - Oct 8, 2015 at 9:28 PM

    Rich do not listen to these jabronis. Your articles are fine and we all get the drift and know what you meant. This blog is not English class fellas

    • Superfld - Oct 8, 2015 at 9:56 PM

      Hey go back,

      What are you talking about? We are not coming down on Rich. He is awesome. But the entire premise of his assertion about the run/pass ratio is not only wrong, but way off, unless he messed up his numbers. I am sure I am not the only person that loves stats and I just want to hear the actual run ratio. No one was being beligerant. Chill.

  5. cmehustle - Oct 9, 2015 at 2:58 PM

    To be a running team, you have to have a lead. To get a lead you have to pass. To pass competently, you have to have a QB who your confident in. Right now, we have a game manager, which isnt a bad thing as long as you can stay in the game. To stay in the game, we need to be excellent on D and special teams. We are not, especially not on special teams. In other words, this team has a long way to go, before we can consider ourselves a pound the rock type team. Besides thats just going backwards from the rest of the league. We’re going to be mediocre until we can get that special QB, who we’re confident in and can actually WIN the game, not just manage it. I dont know who that is, there’s a couple of guys coming up in College now, maybe the guy from Cal. Our problem is we’re never bad enough to get up that high. Never ending cycle of mediocrity…..

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