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Need to Know: How will the Redskins’ running game perform in 2016?

Jul 19, 2016, 5:44 AM EDT

Matt-Jones-vs.-Saints

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, July 19, nine days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 191 days ago. It will be 55 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Falcons 23; Final roster cut 46; Cowboys @ Redskins 61

—Former All-Pro Redskins tight end, the late Jerry Smith, who played for the team for 13 seasons, was born on this date in 1943.

—Redskins Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams was born on this date in 1988.

How effective will the Redskins’ rushing game be in 2016?

We’re down to single digits in the countdown to training camp. Before they start stretching for the first practice let’s take out the imaginary casino chips and use them to predict how various facets of the Redskins offense are going to perform this season.

We’ll start with the rushing offense. The numbers for the quartiles are from the 2015 season, rounded to the nearest 100.

Bottom quarter (1300-1500 yards), $20—Teams that rank this low generally don’t even try to run the ball, either because they’re frequently trailing (Chargers, Ravens) or they have a passing game so effective that it makes no sense to run (Patriots). The Redskins should be competitive and while they will favor the pass, perhaps heavily, the run will still be an important part of the game plan.

Lower middle quarter (1500-1700 yards), $45—This is where they were last year, 20th with 1,566 yards. They could easily have fewer carries (429 in 2015) and accumulate more yards by improving on their 31st ranked average of 3.7 yards per rushing attempt. If they can bump that up to the league average of 4.1 yards they could rush 400 times and post around 1,659 yards.

Upper middle quarter (1700-1900 yards), $30—This is up to Matt Jones. If he puts it together and makes handing the ball off to him such an attractive options that Jay Gruden and Sean McVay will have to ignore the team’s attractive passing options. Jones has the size and speed needed to become a top-notch back but he needs to put it together. I’ll give him a shot at doing so but it would take quite a turnaround from last year.

Top quarter (1900+ yards), $5—I just don’t think that the Redskins are going to run often enough to get here. They would have to have 475-500 rushing attempts and with Cousins having Reed, Jackson, Garçon, Crowder, and others to throw to, well, you add up the targets needed to take advantage of the team’s investment in pass catchers. There aren’t enough football to go around.

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  1. colorofmyskinz - Jul 19, 2016 at 6:18 AM

    Last year once we gave up the try run first to set up the pass and went with pass first to set up run, things worked for us. We learned that last year. Once teams did not know we were running on first down, our first down run attempts got better.

    This year our pass offense will be so potent, it will flat out open up the run. With a fully functioning TE group, the run increases much better.

    I am calling a Matt Jones show and the NFL will be taken by storm by the talent of Matt. Our run game will look completely different.

    HTTR!

    • colorofmyskinz - Jul 19, 2016 at 6:23 AM

      Last year when Reed took the field everyone knew pass. When Compton took the field everyone knew run. It was plain as day. Now with Paul, Davis, and Reed. It will be hard for D to read pass vs run. This will make a huge difference.

      • Jimmy kubas - Jul 19, 2016 at 7:15 AM

        Agree completely

      • wvredskins - Jul 19, 2016 at 12:50 PM

        good point.

      • bangkokben - Jul 19, 2016 at 1:28 PM

        This is WAY too simplistic. Compton was in on a ton of pass plays and Reed was in on a ton of run plays. Who do you think was called for holding the most on run plays? What the opposition knew was that Compton wasn’t going on any pass routes and that Reed is a liability as a run blocker. Compton’s not here anymore but Reed continues to need to improve on not extending his arms away from his body.

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:34 PM

          Bang: My thoughts exactly. Compton and Reed contributed to the running woes but not how Color said. If Reed could block like Gronk we would have been just fine.

          We can run two-TE sets all day but it’s not going to be as effective until Reed improves his blocking. That’s the simple truth. What’s the point of running if you get a holding penalty a quarter of the time and you average 3 yards per carry? And the other TE will need to show he’s a capable blocker AND receiver too. Niles Paul is the key in my opinion. I like Davis but I believe Paul is a better receiving threat at this point. I wonder how often we’ll see Paul and Davis out there together. There’s no reason we can’t just line Reed up in the slot or even out wide. The Saints used to line Jimmy up as a WR all the time.

          But this will all have minimal impact of our OLine doesn’t block better. It starts there. We know Williams is great. We’re assuming Moses and Scherff will improve but we still need to see it. The biggest unknown, however, is center and LG. Hopefully Kory can get back to form and whoever wins at LG can be better than last year. I still think Lauvao is the better run blocking option but maybe Long will make that second year jump too.

      • John - Jul 19, 2016 at 7:29 PM

        Far to simplistic an explanation. Reed was out there the vast majority of times.
        When they went 2 tights after losing Carrier which was what, the Chicago game, then Compton was the 2nd/blocking tight end.
        Prior to that, they had Reed and Carrier and that Rookie, who ended up on the practice squad or was cut loose.

    • redskins12thman - Jul 19, 2016 at 6:57 AM

      I would put most of my chips in the lower and upper middle quarter — split them 45 / 45 between them with 5 each on the remaining two categories.

      As colorofmyskinz points out, the ability for the Redskins to be unpredictable — the opponent not knowing whether the Redskins will run or pass on the play — is a key contributing factor as to whether the play will be more successful. The Redskins need to be better at disguising plays and adjusting at the line of scrimmage as necessary.

      Also, the offensive line needs to improve on its run blocking. The best combination last year was when Lichtensteiger and Lauvao played with Williams, Moses and Scherff. I suspect this will be the strongest pairing this year too as long as Lauvao has fully recovered from his injuries.

      • ET - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:23 PM

        Not just the OL, but the TEs and WRs as well. The lead blocking was generally poor and/or ill-conceived last season. I don’t want to let the OL off the hook, but they were hardly the only point of failure in the run game. And in 2016, for once, we should see the pass game set up the run game, instead of vice versa.

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:37 PM

          That’s true and blocking from TEs, RBs, FBs, and WRs is often overlooked when a team has run blocking issues. But it really does all start with the line. All those other guys will have minimal impact of the line isn’t doing a good job.

          Hopefully they get a better push, especially from the LG and C, and everything else comes together from there.

  2. garg8050 - Jul 19, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    This team will definitely use the pass to set up the run. I see more draw plays, especially out of the pistol. Though it’s not a running play per se, Jones was also very effective in the screen game. I also see a few more zone reads with Cousins keeping the ball, which will eventually help hold the DE from crashing down hard on the backside. If healthy, I can see Jones approaching 1,000 yards with 6-8 TDs.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:43 PM

      Well you bring up a good point that they’ll most likely do a lot of plays that are LIKE running the ball. Like screens and draws. We say that last year with decent results. And, if that works, it has a similar impact on the game.

      Your prediction for Jones isn’t unreasonable. Remember Trent Richardson’s rookie season? 950 yards and 11 TDs by basically just being a tough runner. There’s no reason Jones can’t come close to that. Especially if we’re talking catching and receiving. I thought Cleveland had an underrated OLine the past few years but you could argue Jones has more to work with in that department too.

  3. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jul 19, 2016 at 7:41 AM

    At least our expectations for the running game have been lowered.
    ~

  4. sidepull - Jul 19, 2016 at 9:28 AM

    As long as the Redskins remain healthy on offense they should be able to run the ball. I just do not see that stable of running backs staying healthy. Sorry. They need to show they are durable before i believe the Matt Jones and Chris Thompson show can be effective throughout a full season. Thye line can block great all day but if a back cant avoid the injury bug than what? More passing. I think there is a lot up in the air this season with regard to RB and QB. I hope it all works out. Mean time they ought to find some RB to sign that can move the chains and take a hit.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Jul 19, 2016 at 12:06 PM

      Health is my major concern for both those two, too.

      I still expect to see Pierre Thomas in a Redskins uniform this year.
      ~

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:45 PM

      At least the Arian Foster talk is over. The Niles Davis speculation probably won’t die until we sign Thomas.

  5. abanig - Jul 19, 2016 at 10:55 AM

    Lower middle quarter IMO. With the added depth to our tight ends and they’re all good blockers but Reed, that should help our running game.

    I think the rushing offense will resemble what it did in Gruden’s first year where Morris was good, but not as great as he was in 2012:

    Jones: 275 carries; 1,200 yards and 10 tds between rushing and receiving.

    Thompson: 50 carries, 250 yards, 2 tds

    Keith Marshall or Mack Brown: 40 carries, 150 yards

    Cousins: 20 carries, 50 yards, 5 tds

    • ET - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:34 PM

      If Jones can produce that much—let alone the others—I’d consider the run game a success in 2016. I do think this position group will rack up more receptions this year as well.

      • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:47 PM

        Hit would be a success. We could drastically improve and still be below average.

        But all we need to do is hover around average for this offense to be lethal. Scot is building this team from the outside in on both sides. We will rise or fall with the pass.

      • abanig - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:47 PM

        I don’t want to say it’s a sure thing that Jones goes over 1,000 yards but the OL was a mess last year on the interior after injuries and we never had either one of our good blocking tight ends all year.

        If you add up Jones & Morris’ stats from last year they rushed for 1,241 together. My thought is that Jones will be the workhorse this year and so he should be able to get around that many yards just by himself.

        Thompson is a clear change of pace and so is Marshall. Thompson’s role should double this year.

        Last year Thompson touched the ball 5 times a game, this year I think he’ll touch it 10 times a game.

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 8:19 PM

          Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It’s probably more about the yards per carry than anything else. And that should go up with improved line play.

          McCloughan obviously saw something in Jones to take him in the 3rd. Hopefully he realizes his potential this year and we can get improvement all around.

        • abanig - Jul 19, 2016 at 8:50 PM

          Yes, it is about yards per carry. I expect jones to have the carries Morris had last year plus some more so he’ll end up with the same amount of carries that Morris had in 2014.

          If that happens, and the line/TE’s block better he should gain about another yard for carry times that over 275 to 300 carries and it’s around 275 to 300 more yards on the season.

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 10:15 PM

          Yeah that would be great. I appreciate your optimism but I’m thinking a whole extra yard per carry might be a little much. That would put him at 4.4 ypc. But even 3.9-4 ypc would be sufficient for us. I know you were giving a round about guestimate. That’s just where my expectations are.

          It will be interesting to see how Thompson does. Because I find it unlikely that he’ll reach 6 ypc again. So even if he gets more carries, it could have less impact. But if he can keep those numbers, then maybe he should be getting even more carries. Gruden seems to like the committee approach. So if we add what someone like (hopefully) Pierre Thomas can add, or Keith Marshal, then I’m with you. I think we’ll survive this run-game scare. It’s not all so bad unless Jones tanks or injuries ruin us.

        • abanig - Jul 19, 2016 at 11:34 PM

          Like I said, blocking has a lot to do with it.

  6. hrrcyberdemon - Jul 19, 2016 at 1:40 PM

    Let’s be honest here. You have to have a “run” minded coach in order to put up numbers worthy to be ranked higher. Since our coach is obviously a “pass happy” coach, Adrian Peterson would have low numbers in our offense. He’s just not one of those coaches. Oh, he says he is, but I beg to differ. There is/was nothing wrong with Alfred Morris. He didn’t lose a step, as other perceive it. Rich will convince you by showing you statistics, but I know that if Mike Shanahan was still the coach, that AlMo would still be the featured back (sure hands) and the zone blocking would still be used, and he’d have another 1000+ yard season. In fact, if he drafted Matt Jones, and was part of his plan, he’d too likely have close to 1000 rushing yards along with AlMo. Run first coaches are a dying breed. I totally love it when coaches wear down the defenses with the run. It’s still needed in today’s NFL, but we (the ‘Skins) won’t get much from the run game with Gruden as our coach. Still hopeful we do well of course; just realistic about our approach.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 19, 2016 at 2:55 PM

      Yes. If Shannahan was our coach the run game would probably be better and we would still have undersized linemen who couldn’t pass block to save their life. Which is not compatable with today’s NFL.

      We all love Alfred Morris but that doesn’t mean we have to be ignorant to reality. He maybe didn’t lose a step, but something was off with him last year. His vision and patience were poor and he went down way easier than he used to. RBs have also lost significant value. Get used to them hitting free agency and is drafting a new one instead of paying them more money.

      Because, while there is still a place for running in the modern NFL, it’s significantly smaller. This truly is a passing league now. That’s not just lip service and it’s not 1970 anymore. We’re still in the middle of the transition but if you don’t change you’ll get left behind. While I would love to have a stout run D and great run game; building your team to excell I’m the passing game, on both sides of the ball, is the better way to go. Just be happy our GM can see the writing on the wall and is doing this right. And remember that everything you don’t like about this team can’t be blamed on Gruden. He’s not in charge.

  7. bangkokben - Jul 19, 2016 at 9:29 PM

    RIP Chief Zee

    • goback2rfk - Jul 19, 2016 at 10:57 PM

      Chief will be missed. RIP Chief. RIP.

  8. goback2rfk - Jul 19, 2016 at 11:00 PM

    The Skins are not a fool. Cousins is not worth any big money and its the system and players that makes Cousins good not the other way around. Hell, just about anyone can do good in this short dink and dunk offense at the QB position and Scott knows it. If Kirk is worth it he will prove it this season or otherwise I say we are passing on the dude. Do or Die Kirk. Probably should of took the Skins low ball offer. When the Skins go
    8 and 8 next season that price tag will be down to 14 – 15 mil a year.

  9. Nunya - Jul 20, 2016 at 2:12 AM

    I got two words for ya…

    Keith Marshall

    If this kid does what I think he can, the Redskins will have a very special RB with blazing speed. If Matt Jones falls flat early, I expect Gruden to give Marshall a chance to shine.

    I’d estimate we’ll do a little better than last year as the OL gels. And because opposing defenses will expect the Redskins to pass which may open up opportunities for the run game.

    You will be missed Chief Zee.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 20, 2016 at 5:43 PM

      I think you’re too confident in Marshall. A late 7th round pick who really accomplished nothing in college. And already had to sit out OTAs because he was injured.

  10. John - Jul 20, 2016 at 9:14 AM

    The running game does not need to be great but it does need to be good enough so they can set up play action and bootlegs. That and to keep the defense from being able to dial up the pass rush.

    Left Guard and Center are what they are. Long is slow, so quick backers like Kuechly and Lee will be an issue.

    I still think they need a dynamic complimentary back. People keep talking about Pierre but I’d prefer Reggie Bush. A guy who could run it say 10 times and catch 5 balls and return some punts.

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