The Redskins passing offense has continued to excel with big numbers each week, but the lack of balance offensively has been noticeable in the last two weeks - both of which ended in losses.
The Washington Redskins have one of the NFL's best passing attacks – there's no denying that. Led by quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Redskins are second in passing yards, third in yards per attempt, sixth in completion percentage and have allowed the second-fewest sacks in the league.
The Redskins have also thrown the ball 475 times – good for the sixth-most attempts in the league while having run it 293 times, which ranks 21st among the league's 32 teams. Now to be clear, only Dallas and Buffalo have run the ball more times than thrown – an indictment of the league's trend towards more passing in the past decade – but Washington's gap is certainly significant.
The Redskins have passed it 182 more times than they have run it – the eighth-largest gap in the NFL. However, among teams that are above .500, Washington has the second-largest disparity – only Baltimore's gap of 215 between passing and rushing attempts is larger.
However, for Baltimore the run game has not been good. The Ravens rank 26th in the NFL with an average of 3.7 yards per carry. The Redskins don't have that problem. They are fifth in the NFL with an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Since becoming Washington's starting running back, rookie Robert Kelley has gained 4.7 yards per tote.
"I think there's no doubt about it, we would like to get more of [Kelley] involved," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said Monday. "We had a couple times where we actually had runs called and we got out of them because [Arizona's] safety was down and they were unblockable as far as the run was concerned. We ideally would like to get that running game going a little bit more – more touches for Robert because he's been very good as far as running the football. We have got to make sure that we get him more involved, maintain the time of possession and stay more balanced."
So if success isn't an issue, why aren't the Redskins running it more? It has been a repeated question throughout Gruden's term as head coach began in 2014. He and offensive coordinator Sean McVay have talked for reaching for more balance offensively, but have struggled to actually achieve that goal.
Of course, game flow is a big reason. The Redskins have run the ball just 37 times compared to 90 passes over the past two weeks, but Washington has also trailed for much of the second half in losses at Dallas and Arizona.
In comparison, the Redskins are 5-0 when they run the ball at least 45 percent of the time. So there is evidence that a balance of run and pass has led to success despite the fact that situational football can dictate which plays are called.
However, running the football could potentially help in the red zone, an area that continues to plague the Redskins' offense. Washington has converted its red zone trips into touchdowns only 43.8 percent of the time – the second-worst rate in the NFL. The threat of Washington running successfully exists, but the expectation that the Redskins will pass in the red zone is much greater.
The Redskins have been one of the league's best at completing long pass plays, but once Washington is inside the 20-yard line, that doesn't matter too much.
"Only challenge is the field gets shorter, and you have to be quicker to make decisions, get open, and things are faster in the red zone," wide receiver Pierre Garçon said. "That's what we have to work on, but there's no added challenge."
With Washington's red zone star, tight end Jordan Reed, potentially out another week with a shoulder injury, the run game will become all the more important. Yards are good – Washington has the second-most in the NFL – but points are better, and the Redskins have the 10th-most in the league. More diversity in the red zone could potentially lead to more points and more wins for the Redskins, which have lost by five points or less in four of their five losses.