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BR- Where Can the Washington Redskins Improve Most in 2013?

McKissic for the win

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Finally. A piece about, among other things, actual Griffin/Redskins offensive weaknesses that are backed by research. Not the "Luck is better because he threw the ball further on average", or the "Wilson and Kaepernick are better because their teams went further in the playoffs" crap. Real and apparently glaring weaknesses.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1700505-where-can-the-washington-redskins-improve-most-in-2013

BY SCOTT KACSMAR

After not knowing what to expect from the Washington Redskins last season, expectations are just as puzzling in 2013 following a 10-6 season that saw the team win the NFC East for the first time since 1999.

Mike Shanahan and his son, Kyle, experimented with the pistol and read-option offense. Robert Griffin III was the perfect quarterback for the experiment, winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after breaking the rookie record for passer rating (102.4) and rushing for 815 yards.

Running back Alfred Morris was just a sixth-round pick but became the latest to shine in Shanahan’s system, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns. He had the third-most rushing yards by a rookie in NFL history.

The Redskins averaged 7.20 yards per pass and 5.22 yards per rush, which makes them one of the most efficient, balanced offenses since the merger.

Yet even with that offensive freedom, the Redskins started just 3-6 prior to the bye week. The defense managed to turn things around as Washington won its final seven games.

The 2012 Redskins are just the fifth team to ever start 3-6 and make the playoffs. Like most of those teams, the Redskins lost their first playoff game, 24-14 to Seattle. It was an especially crushing defeat given Griffin tore his ACL and LCL in the fourth quarter, putting the start of his 2013 season in doubt.

With a team looking to stay innovative and have better health this year, the Redskins remain a contender in the NFC, but they must correct some flaws to establish themselves as an elite team.
Offense Must Get Better in Obvious Passing Situations

We know the Redskins took the play-action passing game to a new level last year with Griffin’s advanced play-fakes freezing defenses to create wide-open receivers downfield. There was a fear he could keep the ball and run out of the option.

According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins used play action 42 percent of the time, which is the highest for any team since they started charting it in 2005. They were extremely successful on it, producing a 66.7 percent DVOA.

However, the alarming stat is just a 5.0 percent DVOA on regular passes without play action. Pro Football Focus’ (subscription required) play-action data also supports these findings. No quarterback saw a bigger decline in yards per attempt than Robert Griffin III when using play action (11.8 YPA) versus not using it (5.8 YPA).

This gets down to the core of the problem with this offense.

If you can control the game so that the Redskins cannot use so much play action, you have a very good chance of shutting down the offense, which was putrid on third down. In fact, the Redskins were dead last at converting on third down early in the season when their record was so poor.

By season’s end, the Redskins converted 35.8 percent of their third-down plays, which ranked 24th in the league.

Griffin in particular was not impressive, especially compared to the standards of past rookie quarterbacks and his 2012 peers. These stats include everything for the regular season except for spikes and kneel downs:

Griffin only had 47 conversions on third down (35 passing, 12 rushing). His 32.64 conversion rate is not up to par at all. Andrew Luck was great on third down last year while Wilson came on strong in the second half.

The “%Cmp1D” is the percentage of completions on third down that resulted in a first down. Griffin’s 56.5 percent is the worst I have seen in over 100 different seasons from some of today’s best quarterbacks.

Griffin had 27 completions on third down that did not pick up a first down. That’s considered a failed completion, and it’s a high total for someone with just 62 completions on third down.

This is why Griffin’s 93.9 passer rating on third down is irrelevant. He padded his numbers with insignificant gains and did not move the chains enough. The conversion rate is what matters.

What Griffin’s passing stats on each down do show is something rather remarkable. On first, second and fourth down, Griffin averaged an incredible 8.98 yards per attempt on passes. Though, on third down, that number shriveled up to just 5.84. That’s the statistical proof of Washington’s reliance on play action.

I looked at the passing stats by down for 23 rookie quarterbacks since 2004 with at least 224 pass attempts. You would expect yards per attempt to decline on third down since it’s an obvious passing situation.

Griffin’s decline of 3.14 yards per attempt is easily the worst of them all.

Each of the three groups is filled with good and bad players. Of the 23 quarterbacks, seven actually had a higher passing average on third down compared to the rest of downs, including Luck. Eight declined by more than half a yard with the sample’s average quarterback declining 0.33 yards on third down.

Part of Griffin’s big drop is because he was so good on the other downs. Only Ben Roethlisberger (2004) was better. But we see that Roethlisberger and Wilson still did very well on third down as well, both at converting and with yards per attempt.

It’s a problem for Griffin, so I looked at all 105 of his third-down passes from the regular season. I wanted to make note of when he used play action, since that’s rarely done on anything that’s not a third-and-short play. All runs and even sacks were excluded, as I just wanted to see what he did in what is often an obvious passing situation. Here are the findings (not all categories are additive):

Shanahan may want to dump the shovel pass and some of the screens as well. The screens are easy to complete but usually don’t pick up the first down. Santana Moss did however score a 26-yard touchdown against Philadelphia on one.

Without play action, Griffin is converting just 28.42 percent of his third-down passes. We can see they only used 10 play-action passes here, and it was very successful. It should often work on 3rd-and-short, though rarely does it work as well as this 29-yard touchdown to Niles Paul on 3rd-and-1 in Dallas on Thanksgiving:

Dallas might want to cover Niles Paul. The closest Cowboy was 12 yards away.

On the 10 play-action passes, the average distance to go was 3.3 yards. It was never used on anything longer than a 3rd-and-7 play against Philadelphia. It worked for a nine-yard completion.

For this offense to take the next step, it must grow out of relying on the play-action fake. For as dynamic as Griffin may be, he was just 9-of-69 (13.0 percent) at converting on third-and-long. Only five of those conversions were passes.

You have to be able to convert on third down when the fear of a run is just not there for the defense.

No one ever said the “3” in “RG3” stood for “third down,” but we need to see more in that situation from him and this offense in 2013.
Much more at the link above, including the tables with the stats he's referring to.


Tandler refers to the article in his piece, Need to Know: Redskins' third-down woes quantified.

http://www.realredskins.com/rich-ta...know-redskins-third-down-woes-quantified.html

Third down woes

What do the Redskins needs to do to take the next step in 2013? According to analyst Scott Kacsmar, who does fine work for Cold Hard Football Facts and Pro Football Reference, they need to do better on third down.

Doing better on third down usually translates into the quarterback performing better on third down. This is one of the few areas where Robert Griffin III did not excel in relation to the performances of other rookies quarterbacks over the past several years.

Griffin passed or ran on 144 of the Redskins’ 190 third down situations during the 2012 season. He converted on 47 of them, a conversion rate of 32.6 percent. Of the 11 players who were their teams’ primary starter at quarterback as a rookie since 2006, Griffin’s conversion rate beats only Vince Young’s in 2006. It is 10 percentage points lower than the best percentage in that time period, Andrew Luck (42.6 percent conversion rate).

It wasn’t as though Griffin couldn’t complete a pass on third down. His passer rating on third down was a respectable 93.9. But only 56.5 percent of his completions were good for first downs. That’s dismal. “[It] is the worst I have seen in over 100 different seasons from some of today’s best quarterbacks,” wrote Kacsmar.

One more from the mountain of revealing numbers presented in the article: Griffin averaged 8.98 yards gained on all of his passes. But on third down that average dropped to 5.84 yards per attempt. That’s a big gap.
More of Tandler's piece at the second link.
 

Terry

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"One more from the mountain of revealing numbers presented in the article: Griffin averaged 8.98 yards gained on all of his passes. But on third down that average dropped to 5.84 yards per attempt. That’s a big gap."

Perhaps, but 3rd down often isn't a balls-to-the-wall down, and teams typically try to make the distance rather than make yards. So I'd be curious to know, with the success we had with Morris, what our average 3rd down distance was. If it was, say... 3 yards, then Griffin averaging 5 yards is no biggie.

So why didn't we make the conversion? Are we calling plays that end up with a receiver still behind the LOS?

I'd also be curious to see some context - what does is the league average drop (if any) for all QBs on 3rd down?
 

Dead Money

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I think Griffin is better than these stats and the rest of the offense needs to help him out in these situations. Obvious passing means obvious pass rush. We all know polumbus was a turnstyle and this is exactly where it shows up. TE becomes a blocker maybe the RB too... reducing targets then we are left with our mostly mediocre receivers.

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These stats are not only about Griffin though, it's also about the oline. Our oline play was spotty, esp. at right tackle and guard. The play action and duel threat confused defenses and disguised weaknesses, but in a traditional third and long, our oline had to go mano y mano and that left them exposed. Combine that with Griffin's inexperience and you had a lot of problems on third down.
 

Terry

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Here's the good news - we had the fewest total 3rd down attempts in the NFL last year - 190. And we also made the 3rd most 4th down attempts.

So perhaps it balanced out somewhat.
 

philemon

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The Skins need to improve the most this year in the defensive secondary. I'm not worried about the offense at all.
 

servumtuum

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Burg, you got me curious about that-especially dealing with third down situations so I checked Griffin's sack stats based on play situation to see if any insights could be made that could relate to possible protection breakdowns. Granted sacks obviously don't tell the whole story but they do give an indicator of pressure on the QB, in this case especially if there is a noticeable difference in the numbers based on situation.

Overall, Griff's sacks by down are as follows.

1st down overall-13

2nd down overall-8

3rd down overall-8

4th down overall-1


Sacks based on 3rd down yardage-"3rd and whatever"

3rd and 5 or less-2

3rd and 6 or more-6


Two interesting splits I found involved-not specifically down related but interesting nonetheless-were defensive line sets and tight ends.

Sacks based on opposing team's number of defensive linemen in the play.

3 or fewer on the defensive line-10 sacks

4 on the defensive line-20 sacks

5 on the defensive line-0 sacks


Another involved Redskins tight end sets and sack numbers.

No tight ends-10 sacks

1 tight end-16 sacks

2 tight ends-4 sacks

3 tight ends-0 sacks

(My memory must be failing me because I don't remember any three-tight end sets being run-I could be wrong, of course.)

One more, field position based.

Inside our own 20-6 sacks

Between our 20 and midfield-15 sacks

Between midfield and the opponent's 20-4 sacks

Inside the opponent's 20-5 sacks.

I'll provide a link to the source at the bottom.

One note-there are way too many variables operating here to assign dominance to any one in particular but this may give some hints as to combinations of them at work.


Link: http://espn.go.com/nfl/player/splits/_/id/14875/robert-griffin-iii
 
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Henry

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Interesting link related to this issue:

http://www.footballperspective.com/quarterback-performance-on-third-and-fourth-downs/

Now this was written after Week Nine, so it doesn't take into account the second half of the season, though it's been noted that Griffin got much better on third down as the season progressed so I still think this is relevant. A couple points from this article:

- Of the 33 QBs in the study, Griffin's average to-go on third down was 30th. In other words, he had further to go than almost every other QB on the list.

- If you include 4th downs and account for distance, Griffin ranked 25th of the 33 QBs in converting to first down, ahead of Russell Wilson, Joe Flacco and Eli Manning. Of the youngsters, Andrew Luck was VERY good at converting third downs using this metric. At 4th, Luck was the only first or second year player on the top half of the list.

- This study does not take into account play-action, though I think it's fair to assume our non-play-action third downs were the longer ones, which would skew Griffin's already unusually high to-go average even higher if the play-action plays were removed.
 

fansince62

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very interesting and well thought out posts in this thread.

for my own part, I know instinctively that the Skins have improved significantly on 3rd and 4th down conversions - from where they used to be. that the average yardage on 3rd down is shorter is already telling. the trend is all in the right directions. we are all familiar with the backdrop: the offense this year was conceived to accentuate what Robert executed at Baylor. we knew drop in the pocket and read defenses was not yet a learned skill. I fully expect to see more of the transition this year. from that perspective, the articles (while informative and thought provoking) aren't looking at things in context. in short, good as these guys are...more of what we have come to expect from the media - endless probing for holes and things to criticize. in some ways, these articles strike as yet more veiled thrusts at the Shanahans. we'll see - I expect the offense to evolve this year - they brought in all those experienced RTs for a reason. they have looked at the center position for a reason. the Shanahans - petulant though they can be - have won SBs. they know what they are doing. they have been battling poor decisions by previous Redskin "administrations" and fencing with bogus league penalties. as others in this thread have noted, you have to have the full complement of talent to succeed. the Shanahans got off to a weak start the first year, hit the breaks the second year, and have been rebuilding the roster since. it's starting to show in the w/l col. more to be done, but this is a progression not an immediate actualization.
 
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Terry

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I think the biggest weakness last year was the base pass rush from our defensive front without having to bring extra heat. I have no stats to back that up, just the sense that our base set didn't generate anywhere near the pressure it needed to last year. We also didn't force as many fumbles as we could have (although our ability to pick the ball was very good), I'd like to see us put up better numbers in that regard too.

If we can correct those two areas, and all else being equal or incrementally improved, I think we can make some real noise this year.
 

Lanky Livingston

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I think the biggest weakness last year was the base pass rush from our defensive front without having to bring extra heat. I have no stats to back that up, just the sense that our base set didn't generate anywhere near the pressure it needed to last year. We also didn't force as many fumbles as we could have (although our ability to pick the ball was very good), I'd like to see us put up better numbers in that regard too.

If we can correct those two areas, and all else being equal or incrementally improved, I think we can make some real noise this year.
I posted some stats in the Orakpo coasting thread that back this up - we lost a LOT of pass-rush when he went down. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year, because the defensive landscape changes drastically without him.

I'm also very intrigued by the Brandon Jenkins pick...this kid could be phenomenal value in the 5th round if he returns to pre-injury form. He had first-round buzz before the injury.
 

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Some great posts guys.

Definately pass rush...on both sides of the ball. O-line needs to stop it and D's gotta figure out how to generate it without blitzing.
 

Terry

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I posted some stats in the Orakpo coasting thread that back this up - we lost a LOT of pass-rush when he went down. Hopefully he can stay healthy this year, because the defensive landscape changes drastically without him.

I'm also very intrigued by the Brandon Jenkins pick...this kid could be phenomenal value in the 5th round if he returns to pre-injury form. He had first-round buzz before the injury.
Yeah, Lanky, Jenkins intrigues me too. His sack numbers are impressive, but his tackles for loss numbers are equally so. I suspect that as a situational player, he'll be to our pass rush what Jackson is to our coverage, and if that's the case, our mix and match possibilities could be extremely favorable.

And don't forget, Dex was a 5th round pick.
 

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The biggest improvements will come on defense, I don't think that is a surprise to anyone here.

Almost all of the offseason moves were on that side of the ball and you have four or five players coming back from injury to add depth.

I think the biggest surprises will be Biggers and the young safeties.

Biggers is the first athletic third corner we have had in some time and he seemed to improve steadily last season in starting the final 12 games.

I agree with Haslett we are likely to see a rookie starting at safety early in the season, if not in Week 1.

Again we have lacked youth and athletic energy back there seemingly forever.

People that talk about rookies having to learn about taking the right angles and anticipating the play/recognition as barriers to starting early must have missed Madieu Williams in 2012.

As an eighth year veteran Williams consistently gave up plays down the field because if poor read/recognition skills and bad angles together with very limited athletic ability.
 

Rymanofthenorth

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These stats are not only about Griffin though, it's also about the oline. Our oline play was spotty, esp. at right tackle and guard. The play action and duel threat confused defenses and disguised weaknesses, but in a traditional third and long, our oline had to go mano y mano and that left them exposed. Combine that with Griffin's inexperience and you had a lot of problems on third down.

the run threat from alfred and from Rg3 often hid the extremely poor pass pro, but in situations where we didnt have the run threat, we are exposed as having a below average offensive line.

I think where we will improve the most is in pass coverage, simply because we didnt add any olinemen who will be difference makers.
 

fansince62

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whatever else, given past experience, hope we at least have good depth on the o-line.
 

Bulldog

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I still wonder how secure Polumbus is at RT. The team shows a public united front in support of him despite the poor grades he received from Focus and a number of scouts.

But the team did bring in two veterans as well as signing one of the more sought after UDFAs in Xavier Nixon.

If it were not for the secondary I think that second rounder would have been a tackle.
 

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