Taking a specific numbers look at the Redskins offense through four games.
By Steve Shoup, special to Breaking Burgundy
We are at the quarter-point of the season and now is a good time to look at the differences between last year’s passing attack and what we’ve seen this season so far when it comes to rate stats, with a particular focus on yards per attempt:
(stats provided by Pro Football Reference)
2014 Passing stats All Quarterbacks:
Completion %: 66.5%
Yards per attempt: 8.2
Adjusted yards per attempt: 7.3
Adjusted net yards per attempt: 5.95
TD %: 3.3%
INT %: 3.3%
Sack %: 9.6%
2014 Passing stats Kirk Cousins:
Completion %: 61.8%
Yards per attempt: 8.4
Adjusted yards per attempt: 7.4
Adjusted net yards per attempt: 6.77
TD %: 4.9%
INT %: 4.4%
Sack %: 3.8%
2015 Passing stats:
Completion %: 68.6%
Yards per attempt: 6.6
Adjusted yards per attempt: 5.9
Adjusted net yards per attempt: 5.53
TD %: 2.6%
INT %: 2.6%
Sack %: 3.2%
As you can see whether you look at the Redskins passing attack as a whole or just Cousins production in 2014, there are some notable differences. When looking at the total team stats between the two years, the biggest difference is clearly the yards per attempt numbers.
The Redskins were among the best in the league at these numbers (even when factoring in some of the more advanced numbers like Adjusted and Adjusted net yards per attempt) last season, but now they are tied for 21st in yards per attempt.
Now some might think it might have something to do with Cousins arm strength, but that clearly isn't the case as he was the best on the team in this area last year. Also the team the Redskins are tied with is the Ravens who have probably the strongest arm QB in the league in Joe Flacco. This probably has a lot to do with the loss of DeSean Jackson in the Redskins offense, and his ability to add chunk plays to these numbers (more on this later).
The other major difference between 2014 and 2015 is the lower sack percentage, which is currently 1/3 of what it was for the season last year. Now that isn't really a surprise as Cousins was very good in this department last season so it was expected to be a strength of this passing attack.
When comparing Cousins numbers between 2014 and 2015, it's a mix bag overall. He's seen a drop in his interception rate, from last year which was a major concern. His current rate of 2.6% is still on the high side, but is more in line with the middle of the pack and workable in the right situations. Unfortunately he's seen a big drop in his TD% as well, and he remains essentially even when it comes to TD vs INT. Cousins needs the TD rate to rise without a corresponding rise in interceptions.
Another give and take with his numbers this year is the rise in completion percentage, but the fall of the yards per attempt. Cousins last year completed more passes down field and had a 13.6 yards per completion average, which would have been tops in the NFL over a full season. His lower completion rate left him with a still excellent 8.4 ypa, but it limited the impact of his high per completion average. This year his completion rate is excellent, but it's just not picking up a lot of yards for the Redskins.
The question is why is there such a difference in the yards per attempt numbers, and can the Redskins improve in this area over the remaining 75% of the season.
As mentioned above the loss of DeSean Jackson has probably been the biggest factor in why the Redskins are struggling in yards per attempt this season. He was injured on the first pass attempt to him of the season and he remains out through this week. Without him the Redskins don't have a single regular receiver, back or tight end averaging even 12 yards a catch. Last season Jackson averaged over 20 yards a catch, and his per target average was 12.3.
In addition to the loss of Jackson, two other factors really stick out as to why the Redskins aren't picking up more yards per attempt, despite the high efficiency rate.
The first of those issues is unfortunately the loss of TE Niles Paul. Paul was actually second on the team last year in yards per catch (among guys with at least 10 catches) at 13.0. Though not thought of as a dynamic playmaker in the same way Jordan Reed is, Paul actually considerably out performed him last year in these areas. Reed managed just 9.3 yards per reception last year, which was lower than Paul's per target average of 9.75. Though Reed has improved this year to an 11.6 ypc rate and a 8.18 yards per target rate, he's still behind what Paul brought to the team last year. Also with Reed's health status now questionable going forward as he recovers from a concussion, it's likely the TE production gap widens this year.
The other area where the Redskins are seeing a major decline is their receiving production from their running backs. Unlike with DeSean Jackson and to a lesser extent Niles Paul, the issue with the backs isn't on down field throws, but more what they are doing with the ball. Last year Roy Helu Jr. had 42 catches for 477 yards, and 11.4 yards per catch. In fact Helu, Alfred Morris and Silas Redd combined for 67 catches for 739 yards, and 11.03 yards per reception and 8.9 yards per target. This year though the numbers are drastically lower. Chris Thompson is the top receiving back right now, but he is averaging just 8.3 yards per reception. In total, Thompson, Morris and Matt Jones have combined for 130 yards on 18 catches or 7.22 yards per catch and 5.42 yards per target.
In conclusion we are just at the quarter-point so these numbers can definitely improve, but it won't be as easy as just getting Jackson healthy. Other targets need to step up who can pick up more yards. Some of it will be on Cousins to throw down the field more, but he needs help to convert those throws into big yardage.
Steve is the founder of Fanspeak.com. Click here for the Fanspeak Mock Draft Simulator