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Snap Judgments: Redskins @ Falcons

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A look at the snap counts for each player on the Redskins in the team's Week 5 clash with the undefeated Atlanta Falcons

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Many Redskins fans have pointed out how refreshing it has been to see so many of the team's draft picks contribute to the betterment of the team in such a meaningful way.  Some of those same fans have wondered aloud about whether or not Scot McCloughan's 2015 draft class has contributed and produced more in its first year than any other Redskins class in recent memory.  I am here today to tell you and to prove to you that it has.

We will primarily be using snap data and PFF ratings to compare these classes, since the preferred measure of player approximate value is not released by Pro Football Reference until after the season ends.  We will also only be able to look back to 2007, because that is as far as snap and PFF grading data goes back to.  But nine years of data should more than suffice for our purposes here.

So far this season, Redskins 2015 draft picks have combined to: be active for 27 games, take an offensive or defensive snap in 25 games, start in seven games, be on the field for a combined 938 offensive or defensive snaps and to earn a PFF grade of 8.3.  Take a look at the table below to see how this class compares to the other eight Redskins draft classes since 2007 through five games of their first seasons.

Draft Classes Games 1-5 1-5 Active Games 1-5 Snap Games 1-5 Starts 1-5 Total Snaps 1-5 PFF Grade
2007-2014 Averages 17 14.8 5.1 419.5 0.0
2015 Values 27 25 7 938 8.3
2015 Rank 2nd 1st 2nd 1st 2nd

McCloughan's inaugural draft class ranks either first or second in every category.  And it ranks first in the all-important snaps category and second in PFF cumulative grade, behind only a 2012 class that is heavily skewed by the historic rookie seasons of fading stars Robert Griffin and Alfred Morris.

With the single exception of "games started", all of these rankings would remain the same on a year-long basis if you project the 2015 rookies to continue playing the same amount and at the same level and compare them to the final numbers for the draft classes between 2007 and 2014.  Those pace projections have the 2015 Redskins rookies combining to take snaps in 80 games, to start in 22 contests, to earn a grade of 8.3 and to see over 3,000 snaps.

I've already explained the PFF grade and the 2012 season, so let me try to put the snap numbers in perspective for you now.  Only the players in the massive 12-man class of 2011 combined to take snaps in more than 61 games (2015 projection of 80) and to see the field for more than 2,991 snaps (2015 projection of 3,001 snaps).  The 2012 group ranked third in total snaps with 2,106 of them.

I also looked at the other seven draft classes in the Dan Snyder era; and I can say with a very high degree of confidence that none of them played as much and made as much of an impact as a group in their first seasons as the 2015 class has done so far and is one pace to do to this year.  That's right, Redskins fans; your guess was right.  It's a new day in Washington.  The times they are a-changin.

Offensive Snaps and Takeaways:

  • Kirk Cousins and every starting offensive lineman, with the exception of Brandon Scherff, played on all 61 offensive snaps.  Scherff was replaced by Josh LeRibeus for one play because he lost his cleat.  Cousins, Williams and Lichtensteiger have been on the field for all 373 offensive snaps this season.  Moses and Scherff have only combined to miss three total snaps.  Darrel Young has the lowest snap total among all offensive players listed first at their position on the depth chart.  He recorded four snaps in this game and only has 31 on the year.
  • The third quarter has not been kind to the Washington Redskins in 2015.  The team has scored just three points in the third frame all year, which is half of the points scored by the next worst team in this category (Detroit Lions with 6 points).  Meanwhile, they have allowed their opponents to put up 29 points in the third, which gives them a 30th ranked scoring margin of -26 in the quarter.  The Redskins have scored at least 19 points in every other quarter (19, 34 and 41) and have only allowed more points in the fourth quarter of games.  Their scoring margins in the other quarters are 7, 21 and -3.  It's odd because last year the team was probably best just after halftime.  The 2014 scoring margin for the third frame was minus four, while every other quarter was at minus 33 or worse.  
  • Kirk Cousins' 3.14 percent sack percentage is currently the fourth best sack rate in the NFL.  If he can improve this number by just 0.02 percent, then he will beat his own 2013 percentage of 3.13 and finish with the fifth best sack percentage in team history among QBs with 100 or more attempts in a season.  This is a marked improvement over what this team had last year with Robert Griffin under center.  Griffin was sacked on a whopping 13.36 percent of his dropbacks in 2014, the worst percentage among all qualifying quarterbacks last year.  It was also the second worst in Redskins franchise history among players with at least 100 attempts in a season. 
  • Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Brandon Scherff and Spencer Long have not allowed a single sack through the first five games of the season.  Wow.  Each player has also only allowed one quarterback hit this year.  It's all the more impressive when you consider the assortment of fantastic pass rushers that the line has had to deal with so far this year.  I'll just remind you of them in case you forgot: Cameron Wake, Ndamukong Suh, Olivier Vernon, Robert Quinn, Aaron Donald, Chris Long, Nick Fairley, Cullen Jenkins, Johnathan Hankins, Vinny Curry, Brandon Graham, Fletcher Cox, Connor Barwin and Vic Beasley.  Again, that's zero sacks and one QB hit allowed each.
  • Alfred Morris' 14 snaps against the Falcons represents the second lowest snap total of his four-year career.  His lowest total came two weeks ago against the Giants, when he only saw the field for a meager 12 snaps.  This isn't all on Gruden and McVay, however, as Morris was only able to muster 15 total yards of offense on those 14 snaps and on eight carries.  That is the lowest total yardage output of Morris' career.  His yards per carry average of 1.88 in the game was the second lowest such mark of his career, behind only the 0.75 average he put up in last year's home shutout by the rams.  Morris has only eclipsed the four yards per carry plateau once in his last ten games.
  • Derek Carrier got the start at tight end for the perpetually injured Jordan Reed.  Carrier caught two balls for 27 yards and recorded his first career touchdown in the game.  You might already know what I'm about to tell you, but you may not know just how true it is.  Derek Carrier is a freak athlete of the highest order.  According to Player Profiler, Carrier's 40-yard dash time, agility score, catch radius and SPARQ score all place him in the 94th percentile or higher among tight ends.  You may notice that his agility score and college dominator score (a receiving yardage and touchdown market share measure) are listed in the 100th percentile.  In other words, that means that he has the highest marks ever in those categories among all tight ends on record.
  • And Kirk Cousins sure does love his tight ends.  Over 21 percent of his career attempts (127 and 21.5%), completions (84 and 23%) and passing yards (947 and 22.1%) have been accrued with tight ends (Reed, Paul, Paulsen, Carrier and Davis).
  • Among 2015 NFL rookies Crowder ranks: second in targets (28), receptions (23), receiving yards (204) and yards per route run (1.70 among receivers with 25% or more of their team's targets).  The only player that ranks ahead of him in each of those categories is Amari Cooper.  Cooper has played on 111 more snaps and 66 more snaps in route and has been targeted 16 more times than Crowder has.
  • The Redskins have committed 40 penalties for 360 yards through five games.  Both marks are the eighth worst in the NFL.  However, what often goes overlooked is how many of these penalties stall offensive drives.  Twelve of the team's penalties have resulted in stalled drives, which is tied for the fourth most in the league.  Jordan Reed is responsible for a team-most three drive-killing penalties.
  • The NFL Next Gen Stats app featured 15 plays from Sunday's game.  In those plays, the fastest clocked speeds by Redskins players were: Bashaud Breeland at 20.33 mph, Pierre Garcon at 19.78 mph, Jamison Crowder at 19.55 mph, Pierre Garcon at 19.49 mph and Ryan Grant at 19.15 mph.  The top speed listed was reached by Breeland on his fourth quarter interception of Matt Ryan.

Defensive Snaps and Takeaways:

  • Keenan Robinson, Dashon Goldson, Bashaud Breeland and Will Blackmon played on all 80 defensive snaps against the Falcons.  Robinson and Goldson have yet to miss a single play this season, playing on all 313 defensive snaps.  And on the opposite end of that spectrum, Jeron Johnson played on five defensive snaps in the game, his first defensive action of the season. 
  • Jason Hatcher led the game with seven total quarterback pressures.  Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a rebound for the old vet, as he had two down games in a row prior to this matchup.  Chris Baker also had another good showing.  Baker picked up a sack, two hurries and forced two fumbles.  Hatcher and Baker are dominating the defensive line snaps, as they have been on the field for 35 more snaps combined than all of the team's other defensive linemen put together (361 to 326).  They aren't just being handed the playing time either.  They are earning it.
  • Ryan Kerrigan notched two sacks on the day, which brings his season total to 3.5 and ties him with Chris Baker for the team lead in this category.  Kerrigan is also tied for the most total QB pressures on the team with 20.  He now ranks fifth in franchise history in sacks with 41.5 of them.  If Kerrigan continues to stay healthy and maintains his average of 0.6 sacks per game, then he will pass Dave Butz (59.5) for the third most sacks in franchise history in Week 3 of the 2017 season.
  • Preston Smith finished the day with five quarterback pressures, the second most by any player on the team in Week 5 and tied for the third most by any rookie in a game this season.  Only Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson have had more.  He was also given the second highest PFF grade on the team (3.5).  That is the fourth highest grade given out to a rookie defender this year.  Only Leonard Williams, Vic Beasley and Ronald Darby have been given better marks for their efforts in a single game. 
  • Smith now has the same number of quarterback pressures (8) that Trent Murphy does, and he has accumulated them on 173 fewer snaps and 24 fewer pass rushing snaps than Murphy has.  Smith ranks seventh among all rookies in total QB pressures.  Five of the six rookies with more (Kikaha, Golden, Beasley, Williams and Anderson) have 27 or more pass rushing snaps than Smith does on the year.  Only Arik Armstead has less pass rushing snaps (58 to Smith's 72) and more pressures, with 11 of them.  Smith's snap totals have increased in every game this season (12, 17, 27, 30 and 31 snaps).
  • Keenan Robinson had arguably the worst game of his career against the Falcons.  His biggest problem on Sunday was probably his inability to finish tackles.  Robinson missed four tackles, which is tied with two other games for the most that he's missed in his career.  He also allowed 39 receiving yards, the third most that he has ever allowed.  Robinson's performance in Atlanta earned him the lowest PFF grade on the team this week and in his career for a single game (-8.2).  He was the lowest graded inside linebacker and the second lowest graded player in the entire NFL in Week 5.
  • So far, all indications are that Kyshoen Jarrett will go down as another late-round gem of a pick by McCloughan.  The sixth-rounder out of Virginia Tech allowed two receptions for 29 yards on 36 coverage snaps and five targets against the Falcons on Sunday.  This season, Jarrett ranks first in receptions allowed (5), yards allowed (52) and yards per coverage snap allowed (0.73) among all rookie corners that have played on 25 percent or more of their team's snaps.  He also ranks second in that group in coverage snaps per receptions allowed (14.2).  These numbers do not include Jarrett's work as a safety; but if they did he would only come out looking even better, as he only allowed one reception for ten yards on 30 coverage snaps at that position.
  • After an atrocious game against the Giants, in which he allowed two long receiving touchdowns, Bashaud Breeland has really turned things around in the past two weeks.  He recorded six solo tackles, eight total tackles, an interception and a career-high four pass deflections against the Falcons on Sunday.  Breeland had the highest PFF coverage grade of Week 5 and of the last two weeks combined.  He has only missed nine snaps since returning from his Week 1 suspension.

Special Teams Snaps and Takeaways:

  • For the first time this season, someone other than Jeron Johnson led the team in special teams snaps.  Perhaps this had something to do with Johnson seeing his first defensive action of the year.  Will Compton led the way this time with 17 specials snaps.
  • Deshazor Everett committed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on a late second-half Tress Way punt.  That penalty set the Falcons up with the ball at the Redskins' 45-yard line.  This allowed Matt Ryan and company to quickly march down the field before the half ended and to attempt a field goal.  Luckily for Everett, Matt Bryant missed on his field goal try.  This is becoming a problem for the Redskins though, as the team has committed at least one special teams penalty in each of the last four weeks.  According to NFL Penalty Tracker, the Redskins have committed six special teams penalties for 69 yards, which ranks them tied for eleventh worst and seventh worst respectively in those categories.
  • Preston Smith and Nick Sundberg each recorded a special teams solo tackle in Atlanta.  PFF, on the other hand, has Smith with two assisted tackles and no solos.  They also have Mason Foster with a tackle and Jeron Johnson with a missed tackle.
  • Tress Way had what was likely his best game of the season on Sunday.  His yards per punt average of 50.3 was his best this year and the third best of his career.  His PFF grade of 3.8 was the top rating on the team this week and the highest grade that the site has ever given him in his career.  Two of Way's punts resulted in Atlanta's drives that began inside their own 20-yard line.  The Falcons were only able to muster 14 punt return yards in the game.  
  • When reading the final two bullets below, we must remember that the NFL moved the spot of kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line at the start of the 2011 season and the ramifications that this has on touchback and kick return numbers.  That should not cause us to devalue what Dustin Hopkins is doing, but we also should probably not be asking if he will go down as one of the greatest kickoff men ever.  Please also note that touchback data prior to 1991 is not available. 
  • Dustin Hopkins kicked four more touchbacks in Sunday's game.  He is now averaging 4.25 touchbacks per game and is on pace to boot 64 of them this season.  There have only been six seasons in which a player kicked 64 or more touchbacks and three of those seasons belong to Denver Broncos kickers.  However, Hopkins currently holds a higher touchback percentage than any of those players did in the seasons in question (85% and 94.4% if onside kicks are excluded).  There are also six players on pace to pass Hopkins projected total this year.  Only three of whom (McAfee, Tucker and Bailey) have higher touchbacks percentages than Hopkins does.  Only McAfee's 95.5 percent touchback rate is better than Hopkins' true rate of 94.4 when onside kicks are excluded.
  • All of these Hopkins' touchbacks are leading to significantly fewer kick returns by Redskins' opponents and in turn the Redskins are allowing significantly fewer kick return yards this season.  Washington opponents have only returned five kicks for 99 yards in 2015, the fifth lowest totals in the NFL for both categories.  That puts this team on pace to only allow the opposition to return 16 kickoffs for 317 yards.  Those numbers would shatter the current lows in franchise history of 26 returns and 566 kick return yards allowed in 1944.  Teams only played ten games in 1944. 

Redskins Advanced Analytics Rankings:

2015 Redskins SRS ESPN FPI nERD ELO Rating Total PFF DVOA
Values 1.6 -2.6 -0.40 1384 -29.5 2.7%
Rankings 13th 23rd 16th 28th 24th 15th
  • I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyways.  Ranking smack in the middle or just above it in half of these metrics is a very promising development for a team that only won a combined seven games in 2013 and 2014 and was outscored by 281 points in that time frame.

**All statistics are courtesy of  538, ESPN, Football Outsiders, NFL.com, NFL Game Books, NFL Next Gen Stats, NFL Penalty Tracker,  numberFire, Player Profiler, Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference**