Should Redskins run away from the run game? Actually, the opposite for true balance

Many suggest run game struggles to blame for Redskins offensive woes. Chris Russell pushes back against that narrative in search of balance.

The Redskins are struggling to consistently operate on offense and score points. Especially after takeaways by the defense. It’s hurting them.
 
It’s a huge part of the reason they are 5-7. That's good enough for a share of first place in the wacky NFC East, but hanging by a thread.
 
Many say it is play-calling by Sean McVay and Jay Gruden. “Don’t Run the Damn Ball!” the masses scream because the Redskins have a couple of negative plays every game trying to run the damn ball.
 
They say go down the field and take deep shots. What they never want to answer is how do you protect your quarterback to take five or more deep shots a game? Even when they’re not complaining about deep shots, they want to primarily throw on first down. It’s less predictable than running into a mass of humanity. 
 
My take? The Redskins try to do all of that and then some. Most people just forget when they have success and always look at the negative.
 
They opened the Dallas loss trying to drop back and throw on first down and were ambushed for a five yard loss and a sack.
 
They struggled all night long to pick up the Cowboys’ blitzes and pressure packages. In order to go down the field, you need time. The Redskins didn’t have that kind of time.
 
By my count, the Redskins ran 24 first-down plays (15 rush, nine pass) and had modest success at best on both. On their 15 runs, they accumulated 33 net yards or 2.33 per play.
 
On their nine first down pass plays, they racked up 60 yards and the game-tying 28-yard touchdown pass. They averaged a net of 6.66 per play.
 
Clearly, they had more yardage success with the pass offense, but it certainly wasn’t a huge difference all things considered. Not enough for me to say that the Redskins are woefully wrong for trying to establish the run on first down. Overall on the year, the Redskins have passed 155 times and run 170 times on first down.
What they need more than just passing on first down is more consistency. They desperately need to cut their penalties down, even if they are questionable at best. That’s what is hurting Washington.
 
Not just on first down, but on every down. Penalties are often drive killers and then there’s another major problem of late.
 
In the Redskins first eight games of the year, Kirk Cousins was sacked NINE times (All Caps emphasis is showing the good). That was all without DeSean Jackson in the lineup at all or in two of those games (Miami, New England) he was very limited because of health.
 
Since Jackson has come back and been fully healthy, a period of four games, the Redskins offense has surrendered 11 sacks. Five of those sacks came on the road in Carolina. None of the 11 came in a home win against the Giants, when they ran the ball 37 times overall despite extremely modest success. 
 
Jackson has also stretched the field and added four deep shot plays, including three for touchdowns and one that set up another.
 
Obviously, everyone wants that kind of vertical success and there’s an added element that the offense now has that they were missing, but when you are focusing on stretching a defense, you put your very inexperienced offensive line and quarterback in more danger. 
 
What the Redskins need now is the balance that every offense desperately craves to keep teams honest. What they need to continue to try and establish is that their offense is a lot better when they are running the football somewhat effectively.
 
Entering the Monday night loss to the Cowboys, Kirk Cousins was the highest rated quarterback in the NFL (121.9) on play-action throws. His completion percentage was 73% and he had five touchdowns and a pick.
 
In order to have success on play-action consistently, you need to establish and re-establish the run. Otheriwse, defenses will start jumping passes or pin their ears back on the pass rush. No need to respect or fear a balanced approach without actual balance. Without, it, there goes the most dangerous element of the Redskins offense.
 
In my opinion, you cannot isolate run plays and specifically judge them on their own for success or failure. A greater benefit is gained if you can have some moderate success with it and then build off of that by incorporating play action and boot action.
 
Running the football is the lifeblood of an offense. It’s the foundation. It’s what contributed greatly to the Redskins success in 2012. It is what has helped the Carolina Panthers stay undefeated without premium talent at wide receiver. The lack of a running game has consistently hurt Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers offense.
 
So far, the weather has been pretty darn good for Washington. That’s far from a likely scenario in the next three games (at Chicago, vs. Buffalo, at Philadelphia).
 
In inclement weather games, you must be able to run the football and be committed to the cause. You can’t just snap your fingers and do that if you aren’t built that way. If you haven’t implemented that kind of philosophy and mentality.
 
Another thing to keep in mind: General Manager Scot McCloughan believes very much in running the football and being physical. The dividends have been consistently proven. That’s the identity he wants and that’s the philosophy that covers up the most blemishes on both sides of the ball.
 
It’s very likely that the Redskins are going to be much more run-oriented over the next few years than they have been.
 
In 2013 & 2014, Washington was about 60% pass vs. 40% run. A losing formula for sure. They also were 7-25.
 
This year, the Redskins have dropped back to pass the ball (attempts + sacks) 444 times. They’ve only run the ball 307 times. This year, they are still at 59.1% pass vs. 40.9% run. They’re better but they still are 5-7.
 
These numbers show one thing to me. The Redskins are still skewed in the wrong direction for what their identity should be.
 
They should be much closer to 50/50 than they have been over the last three years, especially because the heavy passing attack has been far from successful. 

Chris Russell is a senior writer for Breaking Burgundy, longtime reporter on the Redskins beat and radio host for 1067 The Fan. Follow Chris on Twitter @russellmania621https://twitter.com/Russellmania621.

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