by Jacob Troxell, special to Breaking Burgundy
It’s halftime for the Washington Redskins’ season. Heading into their bye week that is placed right in the middle of their 16-game schedule, the Redskins finished the first half 4-3-1, two wins behind the division leading Dallas Cowboys (6-1).
A near 0-3 start almost derailed the Redskins from the start, but a four-game win streak put the defending NFC East champions back in the thick of things. They then had two chances to vault themselves towards the top of the NFC East, but could not hold on to a late lead in Detroit and ended up tying the Cincinnati Bengals in London.
But how did the Redskins get to this point? Here are five numbers – a few good ones, a few not so good ones – that reveal how.
40.62 red zone touchdown percentage, 31st in the NFL
Coming into Week 3, the Redskins’ red zone touchdown percentage was just 21.43 percent, only ahead of one other NFL team, the Houston Texans at 14.29 percent. While that number has leveled off since then, it is still the second-worst percentage in the league. The red zone-struggles began Week 1 and Week 2, when Washington settled for three Dustin Hopkins field goals in each game, all within 40 yards.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins' completion percentage is just 44.19 in the red zone this season, and inside the opponents’ 10-yard line, Cousins is just 7/23 (30.43 percent). He is second in the NFL in passing yards (2,454) but 11th in passing touchdowns, and has only targeted Tight End Jordan Reed six times in the red zone this season, but Cousins is not solely at fault for the team’s red zone struggles.
While the Redskins have thrown the ball 49 times in the red zone this year, they have only rushed the ball 30 times. A 2.9 yards per carry clip in the red zone may not sound like a lot, it is more than the Carolina Panthers had (2.8) last season, when they went 15-1 and led the NFL in red zone touchdown percentage (69.44).
123.8 rushing yards per game allowed, 26th in the NFL
An area we have not seen the Redskins improve in at all this year is their rush defense. The numbers are nearly identical from last year (122.6, 26th in NFL). Washington is also the second-worst team in terms of yards per carry (4.9), and is fortunate that the Baltimore Ravens only ran the ball with Running Back Terrance West merely 11 times in Week 5. The three-year man out of Towson rushed for 95 yards. After that game, Baltimore fired Offensive Coordinator Marc Trestman. If they had given the Redskins a steadier dose of their run-game, the Redskins probably have a losing record right now.
10 turnovers forced by the defense, tied for 12th in the NFL, but first in clutchness?
10 turnovers forced through eight weeks is not anything to be blown away by, but it is the timing of when the Redskins defense has forced these stops that has helped this team win ballgames, especially in Week 3 and Week 4.
In Week 3 it was Defensive Back Quinton Dunbar intercepting an Eli Manning pass in the end zone and Su’a Cravens intercepting Manning inside the two-minute warning to end the game that resurrected their season. Against the Cleveland Browns Washington forced three consecutive turnovers in the fourth quarter after entering it down three. In the Redskins last two games, a loss and a tie, Washington forced two turnovers, both in the tie against the Bengals.
498 reception yards for Jamison Crowder
That ranks the slot threat 24th in the NFL, but first on the team. If you predicted Jamison Crowder as the Redskins’ leading receiver at the bye week, go buy a lottery ticket. In no way is that a knock on Crowder, who has done more than prove himself as a legitimate wide receiver in the NFL, it’s the fact that the Redskins’ offense has so many other weapons, yet Crowder has still emerged as the top yardage guy. While Reed would probably be the leading receiver if he had not missed two weeks due to a concussion, that takes nothing away from the two-year man’s performance.
Crowder had two 100-yard games the last two weeks and has averaged over 10 yards per reception every week since Week 3. Crowder has demonstrated electric speed (like when he broke off a screen pass for a 55-yard touchdown against the Giants) and toughness (like when he caught a pass in triple coverage against the Eagles). He has acted as a possession receiver and deep threat, and has been Kirk-cousins security blanket when Reed or Desean Jackson have had to step off the field due to injury. His four receiving touchdowns also lead the team.
4.5 rushing yards per attempt, 7th in the NFL
What? The Redskins have a top 10 rushing offense? No, but they might at some point. They are 14th in rushing yards per game (111.5), but are only 20th in rushing attempts per game (24.8). Matt Jones’ fumbling and seemingly every Redskins game coming down to the wire may be cutting into Washington’s rushing attempts, but regardless, Offensive Line Coach Bill Callahan has a versatile offensive front. They have allowed only 15 rushes for negative yards this season and just 11 sacks, the ladder tied for second in the NFL.
Bonus stat- Mason Foster- 70 combined tackles, 9th in the NFL, first on the team. Sometimes pass rushers get the glory when they sack the quarterback, or defensive backs when they make an interception, but Linebacker Mason Foster has been the glue in the middle of the Redskins defense. He is well on his way to a career year, as he had 96 tackles last season.