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2015 Redskins led NFL in fumble recoveries but didn’t take advantage

Feb 10, 2016, 12:50 PM EDT


Tale of the turnovers

Plenty will be written over the next six months or so about what the Redskins need to do to take the next step and become true Super Bowl contenders. But the biggest factor in determining if they rise up NFL power rankings or slide back into their losing ways is their ability to take the ball away on defense and to protect it on offense.

Washington did pretty well in turnover margin in 2015 they finished at a plus-five, with 27 takeaways and 22 giveaways. That was tied for 10th in the NFL. As Scot McCloughan tries to build the team’s talent base, the Redskins will have to continue to be on the plus side of the turnover ratio in order to stay competitive.

Today we’ll look at the takeaway side of the equation, specifically fumbles recovered, how they performed in 2015 and what they’ll need to do going forward. Later this week we’ll look at interceptions by the defense the giveaway side of the equation.

The Redskins’ 16 fumble recoveries were tied for the most in the NFL. Here is their record broken down by how many fumbles they recovered during the games.


So they were 5-5 in games where the recovered at least one fumble. That’s not what one might expect but you don’t have to look real deep to find out why they didn’t do better when recovering fumbles. They drove for just two touchdowns after recovering fumbles all year. That doesn’t count DeAngelo Hall’s fumble returned for a TD against the Eagles but it’s still a pretty meager output. A total of 20 teams that recovered fewer fumbles than the Redskins drove at least as many touchdowns off of them as did Washington and nine scored more.

The alarming aspect of the Redskins’ takeaway total is that so many of them came on fumbles They led the league in both forced fumbles with 36 and fumble recoveries with 16. If you asked Joe Barry about that he would say that it was because they worked so hard in training camp and in practice during the season at stripping the ball and fighting for it when it came loose.

Certainly they did that but so does every other NFL team. Generally speaking, fumble recoveries have a great deal of luck attached to them. As they say in the stats business, fumble recovery totals aren’t “sticky” meaning they don’t tend to hold up from year to year. Teams that are good in fumble recoveries one year are often bad at it the next and vice versa.

An example to illustrate the non-sticky aspect: In 2014, five teams recovered 13 or more opponents’ fumbles. Last year seven teams recovered at least 13 fumbles and none of them were on the list of the five from the year before. Similar results year after year show indicate a strong element of luck was involved in averaging one fumble recovery per game In short, the Redskins can’t rely on being able to get as many takeaways via the fumble in 2016 as they did last year.

The league average for fumble recoveries for the season is 9.7 per team so the Redskins can expect to see their fumble recover total gravitate towards that number. If they are going to maintain their takeaway total they will have to get more interceptions. We’ll take a look at that next.

  1. abanig - Feb 10, 2016 at 1:10 PM

    One word… Sad!

  2. skinsdiehard - Feb 10, 2016 at 2:01 PM

    Why do these articles have an overtone of “well, the Redskins did something well but beware”? 10th is turnover margin is not pretty good….it is excellent! Every team needs to stay on the positive side of the turnover margin if they want to stay competitive and have a good season, not just the Redskins. Stop insuating that the Skins roster is so bereft of talent. It’s nauseating. They do have good players. And, the roster will get better. Good grief. Give them some credit some of the time. It won’t kill you.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 10, 2016 at 4:00 PM

      Sorry, if you want just the sunny side you’re in the wrong place.

  3. skinsdiehard - Feb 10, 2016 at 2:10 PM

    I understand the point of the article, but forcing fumbles takes some skill and desire. I agree that you cannot predict where the ball will bounce. I appreciate that the Skins try to strip and put hats on the ball. Orakpo would drive me crazy with his lack of instincts to strip the QB while coming from the blind side. His football IQ was very low.

  4. skinsdiehard - Feb 10, 2016 at 2:11 PM

    Kerrigan doesn’t strip sack as much as he should either. Is it in the water at Redskin Park?

  5. goback2rfk - Feb 10, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    DeAngelo Hall – I hope they keep that guy in some form or fashion. He has had his downs but has definitely been a big contributor to the Redskins defense for quite a few years now. And when he took his helmet off on the field to confront the ref thats when I knew Hall was a Redskin I could be proud to support.

    And sometimes fumbles are not luck at all. It could be because the other team does’nt go for the ball like when Cam Newton got scared and jumped away from the ball sacrificing a chance to win the SuperBowL.

  6. smotion55 - Feb 10, 2016 at 2:23 PM

    I would like to know how many drops we had that should have been INTs compared to the rest of the League and there drops. I am not sure if it is overtone or just stats. I will take 10th every year for sure . I am sure our points per turnover will improve with a full complement of players on offense. early in the year we had to many people playing without having much experience but it got better later on. Trying to force the run early stalled some for sure.

    • Trey Gregory - Feb 11, 2016 at 1:36 AM

      Yeah I don’t mean to state the obvious, but doing something with the turn overs are key. It’s fine if we get less turnovers but do more with them.

      Granted, I hate the argument that the turnover was a waste if they don’t result in points or only a field goal. It stopped the opposing offenses’ drive. It stopped them from scoring and maybe shifted momentum. If nothing else, hopefully, it helped with the field position battle.

      But yeah, getting more TDs from these turnovers would hopefully result in more wins and I agree that the team should be better equipped to do that next year. More experience and confidence. Also, even if it’s just Niles Paul in a 2 TE set or a low round/undrafted free agent receiver with length, I hope we have more big RedZone targets on this team in 2016. I think we struggled in the redzone because Reed was really the ONLY guy with the length to be a big threat in that part of the field. Then if we can manage to get any kind of a better run game, yeah, I agree things should be better.

  7. bangkokben - Feb 10, 2016 at 4:05 PM

    Fumble recoveries ARE a result of luck but forcing fumbles is not – that is effort and emphasis. Recovering fumbles is a coin-flip so the fact that the Redskins recovered less than half of the fumbles they created indicates that perhaps the Redskins were UN-lucky in recovering fumbles. They could’ve just as easily recovered 20 of the 36 they forced. Bottom line, it is finally good to get more than lip service from defensive coaches talking about creating turnovers. Then again, maybe Barry got lucky and didn’t do anything different than Haslet or any of the other 31 D-coordinators. Lastly, if the Redskins can force fumbles next year at a similar rate, then they might just be able to create some “sticky” stats.

    • goback2rfk - Feb 10, 2016 at 4:30 PM

      This defense is atleast 2 drafts away from being competitive. Missing some major pieces, hell missing just about everything. Surely, this defense will not be in the top10 next season. The hallmark of any defense can be the pass rush and the Redskins pass rush is awful, abysmal. As Cam Newton called the Redskins defensive front line and Hatcher “No Threat.” The Redskins defense is no threat to anyone. Gunna need to make some major moves.

      • bangkokben - Feb 10, 2016 at 5:57 PM

        Washington WAS ranked 8th in adjusted sack rate by Football Outsiders:

        If you’re going on how the Redskins finished the season or how they compared to Carolina, I get your point. Then again, no team including Arizona and Seattle (damn good defenses) threatened Carolina except for Denver. Also, the Redskins WILL look much different next season on defense. Will they be top five? Probably not. Top ten? Who cares, as long as they provide pressure and create turnovers.

        • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 10, 2016 at 6:32 PM

          I’ll be so bold as to predict that a healthy Galette on the ROLB, a healthy Kerrigan on the LOLB, Big Swaggie playing a second year at RDE, and a slightly bulked up Preston Smith on the LDE during passing situations will generate enough pressure to elevate the team into the top 10 on defending the pass.

        • goback2rfk - Feb 10, 2016 at 7:26 PM

          Will see what happens, 6 or 7 months away at this point. Definitely hate the long grind between the offseason.

      • Trey Gregory - Feb 11, 2016 at 2:01 AM

        I agree that this defense has a long way to guy but I just completely disagree with that the Washington pass rush is abismal.

        Ryan Kerrigan, Junior Galette and Preston Smith are three very good OLBs/edge rushers. I’m assuming that Smith picks up where he left off and keeps improving here. But even if you just look at Kerrigan and Galette as bookends, that is about as good a pair of bookends as you could hope for. Neither are the very best, but they’re both very good. There aren’t a lot of teams with a better pair of edge rushers than the two of them.

        Now, the interior pass rush needs helps. But, Like Redskinsname said, if Baker also picks up where he left off then we have a pretty damn decent DE too. Maybe Smith moves inside and helps there. I kind of hope not, I hope we use the draft to fill that role and add some depth in free agency. I want Smith to keep refining his game as an OLB to help insulate us from injury to Kerrigan and Gamette. But Paea and Francois are very good as rotational players if we end up with another DE to start. My main concern is nose tackle, but they’re not usually relied upon to be a pass rush presence.

        So, yes, I agree this defense needs a lot of work. But the pass rush is in a pretty decent spot. I’m sure McCloughan will need 2016 and 2017 before he can really assemble the line he wants. But we’re not in a bad spot there.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 10, 2016 at 8:11 PM

      Sorry, forcing fumbles is not a sticky stat either. Top 5 in FF in 2015 and in 2014 have one team in common, the Panthers. And recoveries are not usually 50-50 because not all recoveries are contested i. e. a quarterback mishandling a shotgun snap will get it back almost every time. That tilts it in favor of the offense. The Redskins offense lost 11 of 26, about 42%. I seem to remember that defensive recovery of about 40 percent is typical although I can’t find the source.

      • bangkokben - Feb 11, 2016 at 9:59 AM

        True, Rich, about the top five in FF but three of the top five (Denver, Arizona, and Washington) had new defensive coordinators. Perhaps a reason. As for the luck factor, I did some math regarding it. I used the forced fumble stats from here: These are different than the stats you used – perhaps total fumbles and not just forced fumbles.

        There were a total of 502 forced fumbles throughout the league with 306 recovered by the team forcing the fumble – just under 61%. As for the Redskins they recovered 15 of the 23 fumbles they forced for 65%. So they were lucky in two counts: better than average recovery rate in fumbles forced and an extra thirteen fumbles not created by the Redskins. If my supposition is correct, they were one for thirteen in these fumbles – vastly unlucky.

        Bottom line, they couldn’t capitalize for the most part on these turnovers. Perhaps, the Redskins being in the top five in FF was an aberration or perhaps opponents recognize teams that strip the ball and are more careful when playing them for why FF isn’t “sticky” in the team sense; but I suspect that the Redskins can continue to force fumbles in the future when you consider that certain individual players are often among the league leaders. Ryan Kerrigan, for example, has been among the league leaders in three of his five seasons but not this past year with just 2 FF. Then again, the Redskins got 3 FF from Will Blackmon and that’s not likely to continue.

  8. redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 10, 2016 at 6:24 PM

    The right place at the right time may best explain the trend on fumble recoveries.

    This is a very informative article and a bit alarming to see the team didn’t capitalize with more point production from those recoveries. I’d be curious to know how many fumbles recovered were on the opponents side of the field. An example would a fumble recovered in the red zone by the defense. It could very well be that what didn’t show on the scoreboard is revealed more by a reduction in potential scores yielded by the defense.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Feb 10, 2016 at 6:25 PM

      “I’d be curious to know how many fumbles recovered were on the opponents side of the field. ”

      rephrased to

      I’d be curious to know how many fumbles recovered were on the Redskins side of the field.

      • Rich Tandler - Feb 10, 2016 at 8:01 PM

        Just looked this up. The Redskins recovered one fumble on a snap when the opponent was in the red zone, a total of six on plays that started in Redskins territory.

        The Redskins’ average field position after recovering an opponent fumble was their own 28.4 yard line.

  9. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Feb 10, 2016 at 10:00 PM

    The Giants began what could be a massive, offseason overhaul when they released three high-priced but injury-prone players on Wednesday morning, according to multiple sources, clearing about $12 million in salary cap space they can use to rebuild their 6-10 team.

    Guard Geoff Schwartz, tackle Will Beatty and linebacker Jon Beason were the first to go, sources said, getting their release just three days after Super Bowl 50. Cutting Beason cleared about $5.1 million in cap room. Cutting Beatty cleared $4.175 million. And cutting Schwartz cleared about $3 million.

    Big rebuild beginning there. They could sign Albert Haynesworth!
    ~ Archives

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