With a new head coach, some intriguing free agents and a quarterback on the comeback trail, the 2014 Redskins are loaded with storylines. Between now and the start of training camp, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir will be examining the top 30 questions the Redskins face as they get ready for the season.
Will Jay Gruden abandon the run?
Jay Gruden has all of the tools he needs to have a top-notch passing attack. Pierre Garçon led the league in receptions last year, DeSean Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowler, Jordan Reed has big time potential as a pass-catching tight end and Robert Griffin III is not only healthy but he had an offseason to prepare, as well. But we all know that you need to be able to run the ball to win in the NFC East. Will Gruden be able to resist the temptation to get pass happy? The NFL average last year was 27 rushing attempts per team per game. Will the Redskins go over or under that number this year?
Tandler: I look at some angles of this question last week with a couple of posts on Gruden’s play selection while he was in Cincinnati (passing, running). If you look at that data you might come to the conclusion that the Redskins will easily go over the average rushing attempts number. However, you have to be careful transferring what Gruden did in Cincinnati to what he might do here. The Bengals made the playoffs each of the three years he was the offensive coordinator there and they had a top-10 defense all three seasons. The Bengals were frequently in close games and protecting leads and other running situations. The Redskins’ defense could improve but it’s not likely to be a top 10 unit. I see the offense playing a lot of minutes of catch-up football, not giving Gruden the luxury of being able to run the ball as much as he might like to. I see the Redskins going a bit under 27 rushing attempts per game unless the defense surprises us in a big way.
El-Bashir: The most effective leaders in any sport (or business, for that matter) adapt their strategies to the strength of their personnel, not vice versa. Take a look at the Redskins roster and you’ll see a deep pool of pass catching talent in Garçon, Jackson, Reed, Andre Roberts and even Roy Helu. (Roberts recently suggested it could be the league’s deepest ). The surprise addition of Jackson also seems to hint at Gruden’s intent. I mean, the former quarterback already had one 1,300-yard receiver in Garçon, a dangerous right end in Reed and a solid No. 3 receiver in Roberts when he implored GM Bruce Allen to pursue Jackson, another 1,300-yard wide out. Gruden didn’t do that with intention of handing the ball to Alfred Morris more (although I suspect Morris will remain a highly productive and critical piece of the offense.) It’s also important to note that Gruden expects to have a more capable and more refined RG3 under center, too. That said, I do not expect the Redskins to battle Denver, New Orleans and Detroit for the league lead in pass attempts in 2014. But I’d be a bit surprised if they weren’t (well) inside the top 10, particularly if they’re playing from behind a lot. So I'm taking the under.