Redskins are worst in NFL on third down

Robert Griffin III (US Presswire)

The Washington Redskins have struggled badly on third downs, even when they are in favorable yardage situations.

The Washington Redskins have no single answer to why they're last in the league when it comes to converting on third down.

Teams with poor third-down conversion percentages often explain the problem comes from not gaining enough yards on first and second down to set up short third-down tries.

But it's not so simple for the Redskins. They rank last in the NFL, converting just 23.3 percent of their third downs (14 of 60).

"I don't think it's ever one thing in particular," Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "It's a little different thing each week."

The Redskins are a combined 0-for-9 on third-and-2 and third-and-3. The league average conversion rate in those situations is 47 percent. Shanahan said his philosophy on third-and-2 or third-and-3 depends on the opponent.

Washington has converted both its third-and-1 attempts, but no team has faced fewer third-and-1s this season. League-wide, teams are converting 66 percent of their 3-and-1s.

Shanahan said players tend to press on third downs when they fail so often to convert, but he hasn't seen that with this team — at least not yet.

"I don't think that's been the issue so far, but I think everybody does up to a certain time when that's obviously what you're struggling at each week," Shanahan said.

Quarterback Robert Griffin III — who appears on track to start against the Minnesota Vikings on Saturday after practicing Thursday — believes the Redskins won't fret on third downs.

"It's not something you need to press about," Griffin said Wednesday. "It is something that is a glaring issue for us right now. Teams are going to try to exploit that and say ‘Hey, whatever we run on third down, these guys aren't being able to move the ball and get first downs.' We'll make sure we clean that up, and that takes everybody."

Washington converted just 1-of-9 third downs during a 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday — a 77-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Santana Moss on third-and-9 in the fourth quarter.

Of course, teams can move the chains before ever reaching third down. Washington ranks fourth in the NFL with 18.8 first downs per game on first and second downs.

But that might not be a feasible solution against the Vikings.

"They make you work," Shanahan said. "They make you go down the field. They make you beat them five yards at a time.

"They stop you on a few runs, and you get in a third and long, and they can tee off in that situation."

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