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Need to Know: Redskins couldn’t take advantage of fumble recoveries

May 29, 2016, 5:59 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 29, 60 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.


—The Redskins last played a game 140 days ago. It will be 106 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Redskins training camp starts 60; Preseason opener @ Falcons 74; Final roster cut to 53 97

I’m enjoying a vacation week in the Outer Banks. While I’m gone I’m presenting a few of the most popular posts from earlier this offseason (Note: A few details may not be updated) as well as some posts looking back at some of the team’s best performances of 2016. Thanks for reading, see you again on Monday, June 6.

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 in the division-clinching game 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 practice forcing and recovering fumbles 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 sports 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. If it was skill the same teams would be good at picking up fumbles year after year.

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 - May 29, 2016 at 6:28 AM

    It was really sad watching this last year and frustrating. Besides the running games struggled after Lauvao & Kory went out this was my biggest issue with the offense last year. It must be fixed, if we are going to go from mediocre to good. IMO Gruden & McVay must take a deep shot to Djax on first down after a turnover. We need an element of surprise to our offense and we need to try to catch the defense flat footed.

    • Trey Gregory - May 29, 2016 at 5:08 PM

      I understand what you’re saying. But don’t you think teams would catch on after once or twice and expect that? We have to be more dimensional than just throwing the ball over the top to Desean. This team either will or won’t be able to sustain long scoring drives. If we can’t, we’re kind of screwed. Fumbles aside.

      Plus, don’t those kind of deep plays have a pretty low success rate? I’ll have to look it up but I think a 40% completion rate is very, very good. So there’s a decent chance we’re just throwing the ball away on first down. I would like to be a little more calculated. I think Reed and Doctson (when he’s ready) will allow us to open the playbook and throw more high % plays on 1st down.

      • abanig - May 29, 2016 at 5:46 PM

        We are more than one dimensional. Last year we tried to run the ball even though we couldn’t after Lauvao & Kory L were lost for the season.

        The coaching staff has our receivers run every route in the route tree. Two of our tight ends (Paul & Reed) are capable of running every route in the wide receiver and tight end route tree.

        Desean is often times used as a decoy to clear space for our running backs, Crowder, Garcon and Reed to work the middle of the field. It shouldn’t be a shock to anyone that our passing game and Kirk got better when DeSean returned from injury for the second half of the year.

        The running game is better when we have our most experienced interior OL healthy and when our blocking TEs are healthy. We didn’t have a blocking TE last year until we signed Alex Smith in December.

        • Trey Gregory - May 29, 2016 at 6:10 PM

          Yeah man. I completely agree with everything you just said. Maybe I wasn’t being clear, or maybe I misunderstood you. I was saying, shouldn’t we use that dynamic passing attack instead of just a deep ball to Desean?

          And please don’t get me wrong, I’m all about taking a shot downfield from time to time. It just seemed like you were saying they HAD to call that play on first down after every turnover. I was just saying that we may have better passing plays than that. We have to be able to sustain long scoring drives. And the short to intermediate passing game need to be a part of that.

          But I was frustrated with the running game too man. I was frustrated and running into brick walls three times in a row after a turnover too. But I have confidence, perhaps naively, that the offense will progress and develop from last year. I think it was all a part of developing and building confidence.

  2. redskins12thman - May 29, 2016 at 7:02 AM

    Have a great vacation! Looking forward to your return.

    I agree that the Redskins need to have more takeaways and than giveaways to do well this year.

    Hopefully the Redskins can buck the trend and again lead the league in forced fumbles and fumble recoveries. I’ve always thought that coaching can make a difference in a team’s ability to force fumbles and I hope this area remains a priority of the coaching staff. I would expect that the secondary will pick off more interceptions than last year too.

    In his second full year as the starting quarterback, Cousins should do better in leading drives after turnovers.

  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - May 29, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    I think Doctson will help in the redzone and thus all drives, fumble-generated or not.

    Have a great week, Rich!

  4. Brenton - May 29, 2016 at 8:05 AM

    Rich , there is a quaint little seafood restaurant in Corolla called North banks. My wife and I visit atleast twice each time we go to The beach.I strongly recommend. Enjoy your vacation , because before we know it , football shall be upon us!

  5. garg8050 - May 29, 2016 at 9:38 AM

    The play calling was very conservative, really for the first 12 games, after turnovers. It was almost like Gruden and McVay didn’t trust Cousins to not turn around and give the ball right back. Maybe they didn’t trust him. Think back to the end of the Atlanta game; granted, that was an INT by Breeland and and not a fumble recovery. But the play calling was ultra conservative.

    I expect we’ll see a far more aggressive offense this season, especially after turnovers.

    • Trey Gregory - May 29, 2016 at 5:16 PM

      We had a massive conversation about this in another story. But basically, everyone agrees that is true. But we debated its value as part of Cousins’ development. I personally think it was a good thing. It was about long-term development and not one season. I do not think Gruden trusted Cousins. I do not think Cousins trusted Cousins. So he had to see and prove that he could go throw an entire season without being an interception machine. It was a good thing to build his confidence.

      But basically, I think that step has passed. They’re not suddenly going to be careless but they will open it up a bit. This is a long-term process.

  6. Mr.moneylover - May 29, 2016 at 12:34 PM

    They never had plays ready to go when they got the ball back quick they want to run the ball so they could figure out if the defense giving them a different look so it would be pass pass pass thats why jay gruden said fixing the running game will be the #1 thing they focus on fixing this summer along with the D-line

  7. Mr.moneylover - May 29, 2016 at 12:42 PM

    We found out later why the play calling was average it was because of lack of communication and giving the young guys on the line a chance to grow and get better… The last 3 or 4 weeks they turn the heat up the play calling was very aggressive and kirk cousins could not be beat…I expect that in the beginning of the season instead of at the end of the season this year

  8. Mr.moneylover - May 29, 2016 at 12:48 PM

    Let arie kouandjiou learn next to Trent Williams and they will see how effective the line can be arie kouandjiou is very powerful I think he should be ready to start this year…I’m sorry but Spencer long had so many chances to steal that job last year by improving week to week but he didn’t I would rather let arie kouandjiou and takoby Coldfield battle it out for the starting LG position along with Shawn Lauvao I’ll rather get my young guys involved more then a vet whose been average since he sign with the redskins

    • Trey Gregory - May 29, 2016 at 5:23 PM

      There’s a decent chance that will happen. I think we would all love to see Kouandjo rise up and take that spot.

      There’s also a decent chance Long ends up out starting center. I’m not going to bet, for a second, that he ends up a better center than Kory in technique. But he should be more powerful, and I’m not sure Kory’s health will hold up. It may not be the worst thing to start developing a new young center.

  9. wncskinsfan - May 29, 2016 at 4:22 PM

    Things should gel more this year, and these kinds of opportunities should prove more fruitful for it. I think Cousins working with the firsts and gettting all that time and confidence will help, not only for him, but the entire offense, including the coaches and the game time play calls. We have added some pieces, granted just year two of a re-build, but sometimes the stew must simmer. The team faces a tougher schedule next year, should make for some good games, but I am not expecting magic, just yet, but there will be improvement. Archives

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