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Snap Judgments: Cowboys @ Redskins

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A look at the snap counts and stats for each player on the Redskins in the team's Week 13 Monday night showdown with the arch rival Dallas Cowboys

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The Washington Redskins scored just three points off of three turnovers in their three-point loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Monday night, a Dallas team that scored seven points off of their lone turnover.  This issue is not a new phenomenon for this franchise despite the fact many writers just began seriously examining the problem yesterday.  We've been looking at it here for over a year.  I'd personally like to stop bringing it up, but the Redskins just can't seem to shake the habit; so we'll have to dust this thing off yet again and take a deeper look at things to see just how bad the problem is and perhaps we'll discover what is causing it.

Washington ranks 28th in points off of takeaways (25), 32nd in points off of giveaways (98) and net turnover points (-73) this season;  and that after ranking 31st, 27th and 31st in those categories respectively last year.  What's even worse though is that in 2014 some of this could be attributed to the fact that the Redskins ranked 25th in number of takeaways and 29th in the number of giveaways, while this season they rank 10th and 20th in those categories.

They rank dead last in giveaway points allowed per giveaway (4.9) and takeaway point scored per takeaway (1.25) this season.  Let's turn our focus solely to the lack of production on takeaways though by looking at the results of every post-takeaway drive by the offense this season.

# Game Turnover Drive Start Sacks Penalties Dropbacks Runs Plays Pass% Yards Drive End Points
1 Dolphins Fumble MIA 40 0 0 2 1 3 33.3% -2 Punt 0
2 Eagles Fumble WAS 33 1 1 1 1 3 66.7% 1 Punt 0
3 Eagles Fumble PHI 30 N/A N/A N/A N/A End Game N/A N/A N/A N/A
4 Falcons INT WAS 25 1 0 3 2 5 60.0% 19 Punt 0
5 Falcons Fumble WAS 13 0 0 3 0 3 100.0% 5 Punt 0
6 Falcons INT ATL 21 0 0 2 3 5 40.0% 11 FG 3
7 Jets Fumble NYJ 37 0 0 4 3 7 57.1% 37 TD 7
8 Jets Fumble WAS 45 0 0 4 2 6 66.7% 19 FG 3
9 Jets INT WAS 48 0 0 4 1 5 80.0% 40 FG 3
10 Bucs Fumble TB 20 0 0 0 0 1 0.0% -1 End Game 0
11 Patriots Fumble WAS 26 0 0 1 0 1 100.0% 0 INT 0
12 Patriots INT NE 35 1 0 5 2 7 71.4% 10 Downs 0
13 Saints INT Pick Six N/A N/A N/A N/A Pick Six N/A N/A TD 6
14 Saints INT WAS 5 0 1 0 3 3 0.0% 11 Punt 0
15 Giants INT NYG 47 0 0 2 1 3 66.7% 7 Punt 0
16 Giants INT NYG 26 0 1 2 1 3 66.7% 9 Miss FG 0
17 Giants INT WAS 20 0 0 2 2 4 50.0% 25 Punt 0
18 Cowboys Fumble DAL 38 0 0 1 2 3 33.3% 2 Punt 0
19 Cowboys Fumble DAL 41 0 0 1 4 5 20.0% 23 FG 3
20 Cowboys Fumble WAS 37 0 0 4 3 7 57.1% 38 Miss FG 0
Total N/A N/A 3 3 41 31 74 56.9% 254 N/A 25
Average N/A 48.3 0.2 0.2 2.3 1.7 4.1 53.8% 14.1 N/A 1.3

First, we should point out that on the positive side that two of those takeaways did not need to be turned into points as the games were either over or a kneel down away from being over after they occurred.  Also, another one of the takeaways was returned for a touchdown (Goldson interception vs. Saints).

However, even if we take those three out of the equation, the offense only being able to score one touchdown on 17 tries (6%) and they've only averaged 15 yards and 1.4 points on those drives.  That is extremely poor production no matter how you look at it.  Just how and why is this happening though?

Three of the drives ended with a Cousins interception or Hopkins missed field goal, three of them were stalled by a sack, only one drive was stalled by a penalty, eight drives ended in a punt and only four of the 17 resulted in a score (minus the original three discussed).  Those results are somewhat all over the map, so it's hard to pinpoint one thing or issue that is causing this.  It seems like they either just aren't executing the plays properly, the opposition is more talented or that the play calling is bad.  I've heard the run/pass split in these situations discussed so let's look there.

The offense passed on nearly 57 percent of the plays on drives following takeaways.  That is just about two percent lower than their normal pass play percentage of 59.1 percent on the season.  They should probably be more aggressive in these situations, so a higher percentage is probably called for in these cases; but I just can't attribute most of this problem to a two percent difference.  Perhaps, it is the aggressiveness, or lack thereof, of the actual design of the passing plays that are being used in these situations.  Who knows?

The one thing that is certain is Jay Gruden and the Redskins must figure this out and they must do it soon because it is costing them dearly.  According to Neil Greenberg of the Washington Post, the team should have scored 52 more points off takeaways than they have this season based on their expected point totals for each play on those drives.  Redskins' opponents also should have scored 26 fewer points off of their giveaways this season.  Greenberg pointed out that according to the expected record formula that those differences in point totals likely would have resulted in two additional wins for the Redskins and a current record of 7-5, instead of 5-7.

According to this Pro Football Reference search, the Redskins loss on Monday marks just the fourth time that a home three-point favorite has won the turnover battle by two and held their opponent to less than 20 points in a primetime game and lost.  How does a team do all of those good things and lose?  How did this happen to the Redskins?  The answer is that they didn't take advantage of their opportunities to put points on the board.  They haven't done so all year, and if they want to extend the season with a postseason appearance then they'll turn that trend out around this coming Sunday in Chicago.

Offensive Snaps and Takeaways:

  • Kirk Cousins and all five of the starting offensive linemen played on 100 percent of the snaps against the Cowboys.  The Redskins also used reserve offensive linemen Tom Compton and Ty Nsekhe as blocking tight ends on a handful of plays.  It appears that they did this due to the absence of Derek Carrier and because of what seemed like an extreme and borderline irrational desire to run the ball more, but if that is the case then you have to wonder why Darrel Young did not receive a single offensive snap in the game.  That is the first time in at least the last four years that Young has been active and did not record a snap.   And Jay Gruden and company wonder why they can't run the ball successfully.
  • The running game looked like it was on track through the first two weeks of the season, but since then the rushing performance of this team has been absolutely putrid.  Check out the following rankings and see just how bad this group has been this year for yourself: 26th in yards per attempt (3.7), 30th in fumbles (21), 30th in big play rushes (23), 30th in expected points contributed by rushing offense (-52.31), 31st in PFF rushing offense (-6.9), 31st first down percentage (16.9%) and 32nd in rushing DVOA.  They literally don't rank in the top-20 in any rushing category and you can find them in the bottom seven or bottom three of the rankings in just about all of the most important rushing statistics.
  • The Cowboys blitzed the Redskins a lot in this one and it paid off.  Dallas' 12 blitzes were the second most by a Washington opponent this year.  Cousins was pressured on 40 percent of his dropbacks, which was the fourth highest pressure rate against him this season.  The Cowboys' efforts resulted in three sacks and six hits.  The three sacks allowed is tied for the second most against the Redskins this year.  And, all of this against a team that ranks 23rd in sacks, 22nd in sack percentage and 21st in adjusted sack rate. 
  • Through the first eight games of the season the Redskins ranked first in the NFL in both sacks allowed (9) and sack percentage (2.83%), in games eight through twelve their 11 sacks allowed and 8.73 sack percentage rank 22nd and 29th respectively.
  • Once again Trent Williams led the offensive line and the team in PFF rating, with a grade of 5.5.  Williams also did not allow a sack for the 13th consecutive game dating back to the last game of 2014.  Morgan Moses did not allow a QB pressure of any kind and also received a positive grade.  Spencer Long didn't fare quite as well, as he allowed four total pressures on the day.  Center Josh LeRibeus was the worst rated OL on the team (-3.4).  He allowed three pressures and one of the team's three sacks.  LeRibeus was PFF's fourth worst rated center for Week 13, and he has been graded as a bottom four center in four of the seven weeks in which he has started.
  • In the past three weeks, DeSean Jackson has taken back his job as this team's number one receiver and offensive weapon.  Jackson has recorded at least 66 yards and a touchdown in all three games.  As a matter of fact, he is the only non-quarterback Washington player that has scored an offensive touchdown in the last three weeks and Jordan Reed is the only other player on the team with one game of 66 or more yards in that span.  Jackson's 80 yards against the Cowboys are more than the sum of the receiving output of Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Andre Roberts and Derek Carrier in the last three weeks combined.
  • Jordan Reed did not have what you would call a great game on Monday night.  He had both the worst catch percentage (37.5%) and PFF rating (-4.3) of his career against the Cowboys, and his three receptions and 33 yards were both season-lows for a game that he did not score in.  His PFF grade was also the worst on the team and tied for the second worst among all tight ends this past week.  Without checking, my guess is that his worst numbers typically have come in some of the many games in which he has been injured in, but what's weird about this game is that he didn't produce when he played on a career-high 95.4 percent of the snaps. 
  • Reed was also called for offensive pass interference (his fourth OPI infraction this season).  Only four teams in the league have committed that many OPI penalties as a whole.  Per NFL Penalty Tracker, Reed has committed the fourth most penalties and is responsible for the fifth most penalty yards by a player in the entire NFL.  He is also responsible for 12.2% of the Redskins' penalties this season, the third highest percentage by any player in the league.  Per Football Outsiders, Reed has never drawn a single defensive pass interference penalty in his career.  Jordan, I love you, man; but you need to seriously spend some time brushing up on the rule book.
  • The Redskins were only able to roll up 266 yards of total offense and to average 4.4 yards per play in the game.  They are one of only two teams with less than 275 yards of total offense in five games this season (Dolphins) and one of seven teams to average 4.5 yards per offensive play or less in four or more games.  The Redskins offense ranks 25th in total yards (4,001), 21st in yards per play (5.32) and 21st in Football Outsiders offensive DVOA.
  • The NFL Next Gen Stats app featured 17 plays from Monday's game.  In those plays, the fastest clocked speeds by Redskins were: 20.97 mph by DeSean Jackson, 20.09 mph by Chris Thompson, 19.66 mph by Je'Ron Hamm, 19.43 mph by Dashon Goldson and 18.68 mph by Will Blackmon.  Jackson hit a top speed of 20.97 on his game-tying 28-yard, fourth quarter touchdown.  It was the sixth fastest speed recorded by a ball carrier in Week 13.

Defensive Snaps and Takeaways:

  • Bashaud Breeland, Dashon Goldson, Ryan Kerrigan and Will Compton played on all 56 defensive snaps in the game.  Those players have played on 100 percent of the defensive snaps in five, nine, four and three games respectively.  That is noteworthy because the vast majority of defenders do not play on all of their team's snaps in a game.  Meanwhile, Jason Hatcher and Trent Murphy both played on season-low snap totals and percentages.  Mason Foster and Ricky Jean-Francois, on the other hand, saw season highs in both categories.
  • Only three of the team's 11 total QB pressures by a player came from defensive linemen (Paea, Hatcher and Jean-Francois).  Jason Hatcher has not recorded a sack since Week 1 and he has failed to hit the quarterback in six different games this year.  Ricky Jean-Francois, Kedric Golston and Terrance Knighton have only combined for 0.5 sacks and one QB hit this entire season.  Chris Baker did not record a pressure, but did tally a team-high three stops, including a crucial one near the goal line late in the game, and had the second highest PFF grade on the defense (1.0).
  • Ryan Kerrigan led the team in hurries and total QB pressures with four.  Trent Murphy recorded Washington's only sack, but played on fewer than 60% of the snaps for the third time in the last four games.  He and Preston Smith seemingly split the work right down the middle as they each played 50 percent of the snaps (28 plays).  It was the first time this season that Murphy has not out-snapped Smith. 
  • The real story at linebacker was Mason Foster though.  In his first start of the season, Foster led the team in solo tackles (4), total tackles (7), forced a fumble, recovered a fumble and led Redskins defenders in PFF rating (1.1).  Will Compton's grade of -3.5 was the worst on the defense and third worst among all inside linebackers in Week 13.
  • Outside corners Will Blackmon and Bashaud Breeland allowed more receiving yards than any other Redskins defender with 47 and 45 yards allowed respectively; 62 of those yards came against Dez Bryant.  Washington defenders only deflected three passes in this game after recording a whopping 13 PDs last week against the Giants.  Breeland and Dashon Goldson led all Redskins defensive backs with six and five total tackles respectively.   
  • The Redskins blitzed 13 times (2nd most this season) and on 42 percent of the dropbacks (3rd highest rate this season).  Washington only sacked Matt Cassel one time and only pressured him on 22.6 percent of his dropbacks, which is the second worst pressure rate of the season for Joe Barry's bunch.  That just simply is not going to get the job done when you're trying to win a crucial division game against a team that ranks 22nd in sack percentage allowed (6.1%) and adjusted sack rate allowed (6.7%).  The Redskins defense ranks 25th in sack percentage (4.9%) and 24th in adjusted sack rate (5.8%).  So much for all of the offseason emphasis on the front seven and being a more aggressive and productive pass rushing defense.
  • Jason Witten led the Cowboys with nine targets and five receptions in the game.  Don't let that production fool you though, Witten is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and the Redskins have actually been quite good against tight ends this year.  The 54 receptions, 592 yards and two touchdowns allowed to the position rank 10th, 12th and second best in the NFL.  That is a major improvement compared to how poorly they have defended this position in recent years.
Ranks vs. TE Rec Yards TD
2015 10th 12th 2nd
2014 17th 20th 27th
2013 13th 22nd 29th
2012 32nd 32nd 30th
2011 16th 26th 28th
  • The Redskins' defense only allowed the Cowboys to convert on one of their nine third-down conversion attempts (11.1% conversion rate).  That is tied for the 13th best mark by the team since 1995 and the fourth best rate allowed by the Redskins in that time period when only games with seven or more conversions attempted are considered.
  • This defeat counts as yet another primetime loss for the franchise.  The Redskins just can't get their act together under the lights.  They are 1-9 in their last ten prime-time games dating back to 2013 and 4-19 in prime-time contests since 2008.  Their winning percentages of .100 and .174 in those spans rank 30th in the NFL in both instances.  About a third of these games in each case (since 2013 and 2008) have come against the Cowboys.  Ironically, the Redskins only prime-time win in their last ten tries came against Dallas and three of their four prime-time victories since 2008 were also against the Cowboys.

Special Teams Snaps and Takeaways:

  • Darrel Young and Trent Murphy led the team with 21 special teams snaps each.  Leading the pack in this category is nothing new for Young this season, who leads the team in specials snaps, but it's certainly a change for Murphy.  The second-year OLB had not played on more than 15 ST snaps and 23 percent of the snaps until Monday.  Murphy's defensive snaps have steadily declined and his special teams participation has steadily risen since about Week 8.  He and Young were closely followed by Je'Ron Hamm (20), Deshaun Philips (19) and Jeron Johnson (18).
  • Will Blackmon, Tress Way, Deshaun Philips and Darrel Young were all credited with a solo special teams tackle in this game, while Jeron Johnson and Will Compton each tallied one assisted tackle.  PFF charged Philips and Young with a missed tackle.  Carlos Fields was flagged for an illegal block on a Jamison Crowder punt return, and Crowder got in on the action too when he threw an illegal forward pass on the kick return that ended the game.
  • Crowder just hasn't lived up to his special teams hype yet (if there even is such a thing).  He returned one punt for seven yards in this game.  DeSean Jackson fumbled away his only return at the most inopportune of times.  However, Rashad Ross had yet another productive day as a kick returner.  He returned four kicks for 117 yards, including a long of 41.  His 29.3-yard per return average in the game was above his eighth place season-long average of 26 yards per return.  Unfortunately, he wasn't the only one that was having success as a kick returner in this game.  Cowboys rookie Lucky Whitehead's late fourth quarter 46-yard return was a back breaker for the Redskins.
  • Tress Way's night was some combination of unremarkable and underwhelming.  Way had a touchback and a punt downed inside of the 20 on his six punts, but he also had the fifth lowest average yards per punt (42.2) and net average yards per punt (33.7) of his career.  The 31 punt return yards allowed was also the seventh highest/worst mark in his career and the fifth highest in a game in which the opposition did not return one of his punts for a touchdown.
  • Dustin Hopkins had what was probably his worst game of the season against the Cowboys.  That's not a horrible thing to say because he's had a great year thus far, but his mistakes were major factors in the loss.  He missed only his third field goal of the year in a game in which three points ended up being the difference and failed to boot a touchback on a kickoff that Dallas nearly took to the house and that would eventually lead to a game winning Dan Bailey field goal.  He had a touchback rate of 50 percent or below for just the fourth time this year, and Dallas' kick return average of 35 yards was the most allowed by Washington this season.  His counterpart in the game, Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey, was just selected as the special teams player of the week.

Redskins Advanced Analytics Rankings:

2015 Redskins PFR SRS ESPN FPI numberFire nERD 538 ELO Rating Sagarin Rating Total PFF FO DVOA
Values -4.1 -4.2 -0.53 1412 16.94 -44.0 -5.2%
Rankings 23rd 26th 13th 25th 24th 26th 18th
  • The Redskins average ranking by these measures is 22.14.  The Eagles (16.71), Giants (19) and Cowboys (21.43) all have higher average rankings.

Season Projections & Playoff Odds:

Season Projections Team Rankings numberFire nERD 538 ELO Rating Football Outsiders Prediction Machine
Projected Record 6.4 - 9.6 7 - 9 6.4 - 9.6 6.9 - 9.1 7.4 - 8.6
Playoff Odds 18% 35.5% 19% 31.3% 60.5%

  • We'll continue to track the Redskins' playoff odds until Week 17.

**All statistics are courtesy of 538, ESPN, Football Outsiders, NFL.com, NFL Game Books, NFL Penalty Tracker,  numberFire, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Prediction Machine, Sporting Charts, Team Rankings and USA Today**