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The 5 O’Clock Club: Fumbles

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Carolina Panthers v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.


I used for the statistics used in this article:

Quarterbacks fumbling

Quarterbacks fumble a lot. They handle the ball on every play, they get hit from behind when they’re in passing postures, and if the exchange with the running back doesn’t go smoothly the fumble is charged to the quarterback.

In 2017, Jameis Winston led the league in fumbles with 15. Russell Wilson had 14, and our own Kirk Cousins was the third worst in the league with 13 fumbles.

Getty Images

Non-quarterbacks fumbling

The worst non-quarterback in the league in 2017 was RB Jalen Richard, who fumbled an astonishing eight times (tied for 12th worst overall in the NFL).

But Jamison Crowder shows up as the 2nd worst non-quarerback, and #20 overall with 6 fumbles.

Chris Thompson was charged with 3 fumbles in 2017, and Samaje Perine with 2.

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Team fumbling

The Redskins, as a team, were second worst in the league, averaging 1.8 fumbles per game, which is 31 fumbles for the season (the worst in the league was Oakland, at an incredible rate of 2.3 fumbles per game, or 39 for the season).

Meanwhile, three teams tied for the best mark in the league at .7 per game (12 total for the year): Minnesota, Dallas and Tennessee.

Fumbling and the Playoffs

When it comes to fumbling, 7 of the 10 best performing teams in the NFL were in the playoffs.

Meanwhile, only 2 teams from the 10 worst made the playoffs: Philly & Jacksonville. (Philadelphia’s rate of fumbling spiked to 2.3 per game in the final three games of the season with Carson Wentz gone, or else they wouldn’t have been among the 10 worst performers).

Fumbles vs. Fumbles Lost

Of course, Fumbles Lost is probably more important than mere fumbles, but the news isn’t really any better. The Redskins were still second worst in the league at .7 per game (12 fumbles lost in the season). There’s a pretty strong correlation between fumbles and fumbles lost, so looking at one stat (on a team basis) is pretty much the same as looking at the other.

Interceptions, turnover margin & sacks

The Redskins were middle-of-the-pack on interceptions thrown (as a team), ranked 17th, and the resulting rank of 24th in turnover margin (-0.2) is unsurprising.

It occurred to me, looking at the three worst fumbling quarterbacks (Winston, Wilson, Cousins) that there might be a strong correlation between sacks given up and fumbles, but when I looked, I found the following:

  • Tampa Bay 19th in sacks allowed
  • Redskins 21st in sacks allowed
  • Seahawks 23rd in sacks allowed

So it seems that, for the fumbling quarterbacks, this is more a matter of ball discipline than simply getting sacked a lot.

How big a problem is this?

Of course, every Redskins fan knows the nightmare that was Jamison Crowder’s season in ball security. When it comes to non-quarterbacks, only Jalen Richard fumbled more than Crowder. I think it’s fair to say that Jamison’s poor ball security was a huge contributing factor to one or two Redskin losses. If he holds onto the ball on two or three of those plays, maybe the Redskins finish 9-7 instead of 7-9 (maybe not). The margin between winning & losing in the NFL is often razor thin.

Coming on the heels of the Matt-Jones-can’t-hold-onto-the-ball drama in Washington, it might be fair to lump the fumbling issue in with the why-can’t-Redskins-players-stay-healthy question this offseason. This is a problem that is a key difference maker in winning vs. losing, and playoffs vs. home in January.

The organization needs to look at itself every year at this time, but the magnification level needs to be turned up any time the “L” column is bigger than the “W” column.

Why are Redskins players dropping the ball so much? In particular — Kirk, Jamison, CT and Samaje seem to be the offenders. What can the coaching staff do to make this problem not a problem in 2018?

Lies, damned lies and statistics: Fumbles vs. “being loose with the ball”

Before I stop writing, I want to toss out a thought. Fumbles are a measured statistic, but players are sometimes ‘loose’ with the ball, although that looseness may not show up in fumbling statistics.

My impression is that Samaje Perine falls into this category. He lost the ball on one play early in the season when he failed to secure the ball on a toss (lateral) from Kirk Cousins. As the last player to have secure control of the ball, Cousins was charged with the fumble, but the fault was Perine’s.

On another play (my memory is that it was the same game), Perine stepped out of bounds just before he was hit. He dropped the ball. It wasn’t a fumble because his foot had hit the boundary, but he was still fighting for yards, and everyone thought the play was still live when he lost control of the football. It didn’t count as a fumble, but it concerned me that he didn’t hold onto it.

My point is that statistics don’t always tell the full story, and I think Perine, in particular, has more of an issue with ball security than his 2 official fumbles would suggest. Especially in light of the fact that Matt Jones -- who was generally a good back outside of his fumbling issues -- saw his star fall so quickly, I wonder what the approach will be to Cousins, Crowder, Thompson and Perine, who were all serial offenders in 2017.

NFL: OCT 02 Redskins at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How will the coaches solve this fundamental problem of maintaining ball security?

The Poll

On a scale from 0-5, where 0 = not at all and 5 = extremely concerned, rate your level of concern regarding the Redskins fumbling issues in 2017.


What is your level of concern over the Redskins fumbling issues?

This poll is closed

  • 33%
    (75 votes)
  • 41%
    (94 votes)
  • 15%
    (36 votes)
  • 5%
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    (2 votes)
226 votes total Vote Now