Sunday, October 12, 2014

Griffin vs. Cousins: Downfield throws, Touchdowns, and Interceptions

Was just doing some research comparing the two. Here are the results:

Griffin: 30 starts, 30 games played
17 Interceptions to 36 TD throws (as well as 7 rushing)

Cousins: 8 starts, 13 games played
18 interceptions to 18 thrown (none rushing)

I was approached with the theory that it's an unfair comparison because Cousins pushes the ball down field and goes deep vastly more often than Griffin, so I decided to look at that, for the sake of replacing pervasive impressions with accurate information. Here are the actual numbers. To note, this is obviously skewed in Cousins' favor because a great deal of his throws have been with the more-vertically-aggressive Gruden compared to Griffin's throws with Shanahan, as well as because Cousins has had better weapons than Griffin (particularly one of the league's best deep threats in Jackson). Regardless, here are the raw numbers as they stood before today's game vs. Arizona.

Cousins, excluding today's game, has gone more than 10 yards downfield on 123 throws, out of a total of 363 attempts (33.9%). 38 out of his 363 were throws of 20+ yards (10.5%).

Griffin has gone more than 10 yards downfield on 280 throws, out of a total of 907 attempts (30.9%). 80 of Griffin's 907 attempts were 20+ yards (8.9%).

To make those splits more explicit, that means that Cousins throws between 10 and 20 yards 23.4% of the time, compared to Griffin's 22.1% The difference, then, in Cousins' favor is 1.3% on 10-19 yard throws, and 1.6% on 20+.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Week Three at Philadelphia

After the first half of this one, I got a bit too invested in the game to keep up the tablet notation out at a bar, but here is some of my thought process throughout watching the first half and some general takeaways about the team after the brutally close loss to Philadelphia.

-The team looks more fired up than I've seen in a long time. Unsurprisingly, DeSean Jackson looks particularly amped.

-We're finally going to Garcon early, it will be interesting to see if it keeps up, and how much it has to do with Jackson playing injured.

-The DB was rightly penalized there, despite what the announcers are crying for, but Jackson should have been as well. It's odd that the initial action is caught, but the retaliation isn't, but both were guilty.

-Aaaaand, there's the make-up call. No one did anything wrong on that play, it was a clear apology to Philadelphia for the previous play.

-Morris isn't getting a lot of room to run. Paulsen failed to seal the edge on this particular run, making him fight in the backfield.

-They lined up with Jackson in the backfield, faked a deep pitch to him before turning and tossing a bubble screen to Garcon. I like the creativity, but that was a terribly conceived play. There's no way the team was going to throw it 8 yards into the backfield to get it to Jackson, so the fooled no one regardless of execution and was a waste of time. 

-Back in the red zone, once again going to Young. I don't know when opposing defenses will start realizing how much the team loves going to the fullback in the red zone.

-This isn't the first time I've had this revelation, but Niles Paul would be a really good receiving option if he could reliably catch the ball. 

Takeaways from Week 2's Dismantling of the Jaguars, and a Look at the QB Situation Going Forward

This will be just a bullet-point list of some of the notes I took of my impressions during week two's win over Jacksonville and week three's blank blank the Eagles. I may add to it or reformat it as I re-watch games, but will put this up for now.

-Love the keeper first play of the game. Force defenses to respect that possibility, which Houston's did not in week one. Worked for a first down, and, perhaps most importantly, Giffin slid competently at the end of his run. 

-Tyler Polombus vacated his man to try to help Chester, letting his block go for an easy sack. Terrible play.

-On defense, our pass rush continues to look fearsome while our complete lack of a secondary to provide coverage allows completions. Allen Hurns did us a big favor by dropping a sure-fire touchdown pass.

-A return that goes nowhere yet still manages to have two penalties on it. That's a staggering level of incompetence from our special teams.

-On the play Griffin got injured, he actually did a phenomenal job of using his athleticism to extend the play while keeping his eyes downfield, and found an open receiver for a first down. Unfortunately, it ended with the awkward step and dislocated ankle.

-I like the gameplan of mixing it up and taking shots while still running the ball, but things aren’t going our way here. Outside of unfortunate injuries the only area we actually see to be struggling is on the OL, particularly the right side. Chester is a weak link and Polombus is even weaker.

-Defensive backs aren't on the same page. Amerson nearly had an interception, but Biggers got in the way going for the ball himself.

-Run the ball to the left instead of the right, and we see Trent Williams actually seal his block leaving a seam off his hip for Morris to pick up 15 yards. That's the difference between the left and right side of the OL, even in the run game, where Polombus is relatively solid. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Success rate of taking runningbacks high in the draft lately is atrocious

I decided to take a look at recently-drafted runningbacks league-wide to support an impression I had, and found the results interesting, so I' going to post them here in a rare Redskins-unrelated piece. Trent Richardson gets a lot of flak for being so obviously and visibly disappointing, but he's hardly the only runningback taken recently who hasn't lived up to the hype. In fact, there are many times more failures than success stories.

Simply put, there are a lot of these dudes. Not all out of the league or anything, but guys like Darren McFadden, who flashed and was built up as ready to break out for years, and then rather suddenly stopped being talked about. The list goes on with names like Ingram, Williams, Jones... Even guys like Ryan Mathews and CJ Spiller may not be busts but have been extremely disappointing given their pedigree and expectations, and people discuss that a lot. Players managed to go straight from still-promising to forgotten and skip the vitriol that Richardson has incurred. It got me thinking and well...

Looking at 2008-2012 RBs drafted in the first two rounds (so, guys who are still fairly young but are now in at least their third season) yields the following:

'08 (8 backs)
4th overall, Darren McFadden, (Bust. Still on the Raiders, backing up a decrepit Maurice Jones-Drew)
13th overall, Jonathan Stewart (Huge disappointment. Panthers never even seemed to want him based on usage. Had one good season)
22nd, Felix Jones (Horrible bust, currently a free agent)
23rd, Rashard Mendenhall (Bust and hated for sympathizing with terrorists. Retired because nobody wanted him)
24th, Chris Johnson (Had a phenomenal early career, but quickly fell off, now being replacement-level on the Jets)
44th, Matt Forte (Good, reliable, versatile player)
55th, Ray Rice* (Was a good player, now suspended indefinitely)
64th (actually first pick of the third round), Kevin Smith (Bust)

'09 (4 backs)
12th overall, Knowshon Moreno (Had a couple okayish years, but hasn't been impressive at all. Big disappointment)
27th, Donald Brown (Has contributed some in a backup role. Bust)
31st, Beanie Wells (Awful bust)
53rd, LeSean McCoy (One of the best HBs in the NFL)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Practice squad hopes

The roster is in place, so it's time to move on down. This is subject to change given players released by other teams who are/aren't placed on their respective practice squads, but based on what we cut and what is available now, the following would be my picks for the initial now-10-man practice squad, provided they do not get claimed by another team:

HB Lache Seastrunk, HB Chris Thompson, S Phillip Thomas (who is eligible due to the new rules pertaining to first- and second-year players), C/G Tevita Stevens, DT Robert Thomas, WR Nick Williams, WR Rashad Ross, WR Cody Hoffman, LB Jeremy Kimbrough, and TE Ted Bolser

Each is a young player who has shown to have some ability or skill, and at least a few of them I think could be contributors on the active roster in the future.

If you need a refresher on the practice squad and what determines player eligibility, check this link.

How I would have constructed the roster differently

The Redskins' initial 53-man roster has been decided. The offense is very close to what I predicted and what I would have done outside of HB, but defense has a few changes. For some reason, we kept six inside linebackers with another one on IR/designated to return (which was a very poor usage of that), as well as six defensive ends, with a seventh on PUP.

Cut: QB Colt McCoy, HB Silas Redd, DE Frank Kearse, ILB Adam Hayward, S Trenton Robinson

Keep: HB Lache Seastrunk, HB Chris Thompson, OLB Rob Jackson (or Everette Brown, for his special teams play), CB Richard Crawford, S Phillip Thomas

Friday, August 29, 2014

Roster predictions/evaluation- Defense and Special Teams

With the Redskins' final 2014 preseason snap played, we're less than 2 days out from the cut down to 53. Let's take a look at the prospects, what I think will happen, and what I think should happen.

bold: lock
italics: predicted roster spot
normal: off the roster  



Nose Tackle (1)
1. Barry Cofield
2. Chris Neild (Injured)

3. Robert Thomas
This is tricky, because I think Cofield and Neild were the pretty clear picks, but Neild hurt his knee against the Bucs last night, and there's speculation it might be a torn ACL. If that's the case, obviously he will be on injured reserve. Even then, I think the team opts for an extra defense end that can play the nose rather than keeping Thomas, leaving Cofield as the only true nose tackle (if you can call him that). 

Defensive End (5)
1. Jason Hatcher
2. Stephen Bowen (PUP?)
3. Chris Baker
4. Jarvis Jenkins
5. Kedric Golston
6. Clifton Geathers
7. Frank Kearse 
Six defensive ends is a lot, but seven total defensive linemen is reasonable. I predict Stephen Bowen starts the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, also, which means only 5 for the time being. Clifton Geathers has put together a very strong preseason and has the size to help out at nose tackle, so I think he makes the team, and I expect Golston to as well. 

Inside Linebacker (5)
1. Perry Riley
2. Keenan Robinson
3. Adam Hayward
4. Will Compton
5. Darryl Sharpton
6. Akeem Jordan (Injured. PUP?)

Roster predictions/evaluations- Offense

With the Redskins' final 2014 preseason snap played, we're less than 2 days out from the cut down to 53. Let's take a look at the prospects, what I think will happen, and what I think should happen.

bold: lock
italics: predicted roster spot
normal: off the 53-man roster  


Quarterback (3)
1. RG3
2. Kirk Cousins
3. Colt McCoy
Obviously Griffin an Cousins are locks. McCoy was decent this preseason, so it's mostly an issue of whether Gruden and Allen decide to keep 3 quarterbacks. I'd prefer we went with two because a third would mean losing out on someone who would help on a game-to-game basis. That said, I think we keep three.

Halfback (3)
1. Alfred Morris
2. Roy Helu (third down duties)
3. Chris Thompson
4. Silas Redd
5. Evan Royster
6. Lache Seastrunk

Thoughts from the final preseason game

Just some impressions I was left with on depth guys during pre-season game 4.

-Defensive front seven looks good, as they have all preseason. Should have a strong rotation here. We'll need it to cover for the secondary, but it's been an impressive effort.

-Unfortunately, that front seven will be weakened a little, as Chris Neild went down with a pretty painful-looking knee injury. Hopefully it isn't too serious, but my money isn't on it. Sad, as I'm a big fan of Neild's.

-Neither offense was making a ton of progress earlier in the game. Redskins' was more effective than Bucs', but still largely a series of alternating defensive stands.

-Ryan Grant was impressive. It's the same thing the team and beat writers have been saying about him all off-season and preseason, but he really knows what he's doing out there. Consistently runs good routes, stays very aware of the defense's placement to find coverage seams, and catches securely. He also displayed good feet on the sideline on more than one occasion. He may never be a 1500-yard receiver, but should be a reliable outlet when the chains need moving.

-Evan Royster is still what we all thought he was. He's reliable enough to get what's blocked, but not much more.

-Looked like Spencer Long was doing a good job of sticking with his guy and not getting beaten, but I'd like to see more power from him as he didn't get a ton of push. It looked like he needed to stay lower for leverage.

-Chris Thompson showed a lot more power than Royster, despite his strong suit being speed and finesse. He and Lache Seastrunk were vastly more impressive than Royster and Redd in this game.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Griffin's biggest issues

Quick post highlighting what seem to me to be RG3's biggest problems right now based on last season and what has continued into this pre-season with the brace off and in a new offense:

1) Sometimes blatantly stares down a receiver. He needs to either scan like on any other pass play or get the ball out quickly, but sometimes-- I think when he knows where he's going to try and go with the ball-- he turns right to a guy but hesitates before throwing. I think the second of looking at the receiver might indicate that he doesn't trust the guy so he's trying to watch and make sure he's there and whatever, but it's kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy because that extra time spent telegraphing gives corners an easy opportunity to position themselves to sit on the route. These are generally his most egregious plays. If it's predetermined where he is going to go with the ball he needs to go there, not wait and then throw. If it's not, then he needs to go through his progressions until a guy is open. Those plays are the worst of both worlds.

2) Sliding. I don't know why it's so hard for him, but he's the worst slider ever. Every time he goes to the ground he looks liable to hurt himself, and half the time he gets hit anyway.

3) Sometimes-lazy footwork. His accuracy declines considerably when he doesn't stick with his mechanics. Not sure if compensating for his knee last year might have gotten him into some bad habits, because this wasn't such an issue his rookie season, but they need to be broken. He can place the ball very well almost anywhere on the field when he is meticulous about his form.

4) Knowing when to throw it away. I think a lot of his awful plays/interceptions are times when he knows it's not a high-percentage throw but is under pressure or its 3rd down or something and he tries to force it instead of living to fight another day. Griffin almost never just throws the ball away (or, decides to try and do it too late and gets hit and the ball goes bobbling off his hand). Contrast someone like Peyton Manning, where like 20% of his throws are out of bounds. He seems to be giving up on plays a little more often nowadays, but he usually runs it out of bounds when he does instead of throwing it away. Sometimes it's because he boots out to extend and see if he can find a seem up the sideline, but he should decide he doesn't sooner and chuck it instead of getting hit heading out or taking a 3 yard loss by sacking himself out of bounds.

5) Sometimes makes bad/inconsistent choices on when to pull it down and run and when not to. That's the kind of thing that will just come with time, though, as he works to transition his game.

Most of these were either non-present or very minimal issues in his stellar rookie year. I think some of them are a component of the way he's in his head trying to alter his game. The foot mechanics one is most worrisome, in my opinion. Now that he's completely healthy, Gruden needs to whip his ass back into shape, mechanics-wise.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Advocating the ZBS to Jay Gruden

Update 2/6: Gruden and McVay have indicated that the offense will not change much, so this is looking good/promising. Still not specifics on blocking scheme, though.

Since Jay Gruden was announced as the Redskins’ new head coach, there has been a lot of talk about how that will impact RG3, but not enough about how it will affect the team’s blocking. What has been written is inconsistent, largely incorrect or baseless.

The truth is that he ran a fairly normal blocking scheme in Cincinnati with both power and zone fronts on different plays, just like his brother did in Tampa.  It’s noteworthy that when Gruden called zones, he favored inside zone runs as opposed to the long stretch runs that Shanahan has always used to great effect. His plays tend to involve more linemen pulling to lead block than Shanahan’s did, like in another of his bread-and-butter plays: the 96(right) or 97(left) power, an off-tackle run with the backside guard pulling.

However, the important thing to focus on is not what he ran in Cincinnati, but what he will run in Washington. Gruden is a smart coach who knows how to get the most out of his offense, so he should be willing to adapt to his situation. Right now his situation should lead him to embrace zone blocking. He doesn’t need to run it almost-exclusively like Mike and Kyle Shanahan did, but it should absolutely remain the primary blocking scheme the Redskins use.

First, the running game was never the problem during the Shanahan era, so why fix what ain’t broke? The Redskins are the only team in the NFL to finish in the top 5 in both rushing yards and yards per carry each of the last two seasons. More to the point, the team is designed to facilitate the ZBS. Nowhere else in the league will you find a 284 lb. starting guard (Kory Lichtensteiger). Trent Williams is the only lineman on the Redskins who I am confident could transition to and excel in other offenses. No other starter was drafted earlier than the 5th round, and two began their careers playing for Shanahan in Denver. Montgomery, the second best lineman, couldn’t stick on a roster until the Redskins signed him. Lichtensteiger, the third best, was drafted by Shanahan to the Broncos. After Shanahan got fired, he was cut and spent a season out of football until Shanahan signed him again in Washington. Point being, these aren’t cream-of-the-crop linemen, they are linemen who have a specific skill set and fit a specific scheme.

Sure, they could put on some weight, but they still wouldn’t be maulers and having them attempt too much power blocking would be downplaying their greatest strength: the speed and footwork to reach block, cut block and get to the second level. The entire line (outside Williams) is undersized and quick, allowing them to get their hands on linebackers and defensive backs, not blow defensive tackles off the ball with strength.

It extends past the line, though: Alfred Morris is an ideal zone running halfback. He isn’t the most talented player, but he has great patience and vision, and can make a cut and explode into a hole when it develops. These are the most important qualities for a runner in a zone scheme. Even Roy Helu and Evan Royster were drafted for their ability to identify and slip into creases in a blocking scheme.
Lastly, it must be taken into account that standout offensive line coach Chris Foerster is still with the team and former tight ends coach/3rd down package planner Sean McVay has been promoted to Offensive Coordinator, so the people working with the offense are comfortable with zone runs. The Redskins don’t have such a plethora of talent or draft picks to add new talent that they can afford to ignore the best way to use their players, and both in front and back, the offensive roster is very clearly designed to run zone schemes. Gruden should embrace that.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Available free agents

It is difficult to tell which free agents are going to reach the open market, so I won't go into great detail on them, but I'll keep a list here of options I find attractive for the Redskins, with their ages at the start of next season, current team, and position

First, the Redskins free agents (in general order of how important it is to retain them)
Brian Orakpo, 28, OLB
Perry Riley, 27, ILB
London Fletcher, 39, ILB*
DeAngelo Hall, 30, CB (potential move to FS)
Reed Doughty, 31, S
Santana Moss, 35, WR
Josh Wilson, 29, CB
Rob Jackson, 28, OLB
Chris Baker, 26, DL
Fred Davis, 28, TE
Josh Morgan, 29, WR
J.D. Walton, 26, C
Darryl Tapp, 29, OLB
EJ Biggers, 28, CB/S
Nick Barnett, 33, ILB
Bryan Kehl, 30, ILB
Dez Briscoe, 27, WR
Rex Grossman, 34, QB


And now for other teams' free agents.

TJ Ward, Clevland, 27, Unrestricted Free Agent
Jairus Byrd, Buffalo, 27, UFA
Taylor Mays, Cincinnati, 26, UFA

Chris Harris, 25, Denver, Restricted Free Agent
Sam Shields, 26, Green Bay, UFA
Aqib Talib, 28, New England, UFA
Vontae Davis, 26, Indianapolis, UFA
Alterraun Verner, 25, Tennessee, UFA
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, 28, Denver, UFA
Captain Munnerlyn, 26, Carolina, UFA

Brandon Spikes, 26, New England, UFA
Wesley Woodyard, 28, Denver, UFA
Keith Rivers, 28, New York Giants, UFA

Edge Rusher
Provided that Orakpo is re-signed, not a notable need. A good amount of proven rushers are free agents, though.

Defensive Line
Tyson Jackson, 28, Kansas City, UFA
Arthur Jones, 28, Baltimore, UFA
Linva Joseph, 25, New York Giants, UFA
Pat Sims, 28, Oakland, UFA
BJ Raji, 28, Green Bay, UFA
Paul Soliai, 30, Miami, UFA

Offense after the break