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Need to Know: Can Cousins reduce the number of sacks the Redskins take?

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Need to Know: Can Cousins reduce the number of sacks the Redskins take?

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, September 10, three days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Can Cousins help the Redskins cut down on sacks?

The Redskins quarterbacks had problems staying upright last year.

Opponents racked up 58 sacks against the Redskins last year. Only the Jaguars, with 72, allowed more.

Yes, the Redskins threw a lot but when you control for that and look at their sack percentage you come up with 9.6, still the second-worst performance in the league next to the Jaguars.

Yes, the offensive line had its weak links, perhaps more weak ones than strong ones. But a closer look at the numbers indicates that the quarterbacks likely had something to do with it.

Robert Griffin III, who started seven games, was sacked 13.3 percent of the times he dropped back to pass (33 sacks/247 drop backs). Colt McCoy was sacked 11.7 percent of his dropbacks (17/145) and Kirk Cousins on 3.8 percent (8/212).

As they sang on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the others. Playing behind the same line as the other two quarterbacks Cousins got sacked a third as often as McCoy and three and a half times less often than Griffin.

Cousins’ sack rate wasn’t just the best on the team; it would have been one of the best in the league if he had thrown enough passes to qualify. If he had enough attempts he would have ranked fifth in the league, just behind Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

But they utilize the minimum attempts for a reason, to prevent making definitive judgments based on a small sample size. Cousins’ numbers were compiled over basically five games, about a third of the season. With that precaution about jumping to broad conclusions based on limited data, let’s look at how Cousins could help the Redskins’ offense.

As noted, the Redskins suffered 58 sacks last year. Had Cousins taken every drop back and maintained the sack rate he had last year the Redskins would have taken 20 sacks. They lost a total of 414 yards to sacks (7.1 per sack). With the lower sack rate they would have saved a total of 272 yards of field position.

But those 272 yards would not have been the only benefit of fewer sacks. You have to assume that the quarterbacks would have completed some passes when not getting sacked. So if they had 38 additional pass attempts and gained Cousins’ 2014 average of 8.4 yards per attempt they would have had an additional 319 yards passing. Add those to the 272 they would not have lost and you have an additional 591 net passing yards. That would move them from 11th in the league in passing yards to fifth.

There are a lot of numbers there and they’re both hypothetical and based on a small sample size. Still, it shows you how much taking fewer sacks can help the offense. There is no guarantee that they will do this if Cousins starts 16 games but it is certainly something to look for.

Timeline

—Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann was born on this date in 1949.

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:40; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice (approx. 1:30)

—It’s been 256 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 3 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 14; Eagles @ Redskins 24

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Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

Redskins RB Thompson still nervous for impending cut down day

You would think that after spending two years as the team’s third-down back, playing more snaps than any other running back last season, and getting a second-round restricted free agent tender that will pay him $2.7 million this year, Chris Thompson might feel comfortable as the Redskins start up the final phase of their preseason program.

But Thompson says that he is as nervous about making the team as he was when he was a fifth-round in 2013.

“Even after the last preseason game when you guys talk to me I’m going to still be nervous when that time comes around because I never forget that feeling,” he told reporters on Monday prior to the Redskins charity golf tournament at Army-Navy Country Club.

“For me, I’ve just got to come out here and work every day to try to secure my job.”

ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back

The approach has worked for him in the past. He struggled with injuries his first two years in the league, playing a total of just six games. In 2015 he found his niche as the third-down back and he hasn’t given it up.

In fact, he may get more opportunities on first and second downs.

“I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year,” he said. “He [coach Jay Gruden] knows that I’m healthy and I can stay healthy. I think that was one of his biggest concerns, that I can handle the load. I think I’ll get a lot more opportunities.”

Rob Kelley is expected to be the starter and fourth-round pick Samaje Perine should get a significant number of carries. If Gruden plans on Thompson getting more work on the ground, that likely means that the Redskins anticipate running the ball more ofent than they did in 2016, when they were 27th in the NFL with 379 rushing attempts.

Health is key for Thompson. He not only played in all 16 games for the first time in his career last year, he came out of the season in good health. Not having the need to rehab is allowing Thompson to work on refining his game.

“[Being healthy] helps me to get away and focus on the little things that I need to work on,” he said. “Having a full offseason, being able to get away, I’ve been able to focus on those things. Just like my quickness, my route running. I know my route running is big for me to make it in this league so I work on that. . . that was my main goal.”

Thompson’s work ethic and his mindset where he takes nothing for granted have served him well. He will be an unrestricted free agent in 2018 and if he continues to produce he will be setting himself up for a nice payday. 

RELATED: OFFSEASON NFL POWER RANKINGS

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RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

RB Matt Jones reportedly not part of Redskins' 2017 plans

Matt Jones entered the 2016 season as the Redskins undisputed starter at running back.

That lasted seven games.

By Week 8, Jones landed on the inactive list, and he never took another snap all year.

With OTAs beginning for the 2017 season, it looks like Jones might not play with the team. 

NFL POWER RANKINGS: WHO GOT BETTER AFTER THE DRAFT?

In April at the NFL Draft, reports surfaced that Washington was trying to trade Jones.

Weeks before that, at the NFL Owner's Meetings in Arizona, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden had to be reminded that Jones was still on the roster as the coach talked about the running back situation for this fall.

Robert Kelley surpassed Jones as the top running back on the team last season with Chris Thompson secure in his third down back role. 

Mack Brown even moved past Jones on the depth chart. When the Redskins drafted Samaje Perine in the fourth round, that signaled even bigger trouble for Jones' roster situation.

The Redskins will likely only keep four running backs this fall, and with Kelley, Perine, Thompson and Brown, it sure seems like Jones is the odd man out.

It's remarkable considering Jones has size, speed and an NFL resume that has three 100-yard games on it in just 20 games. The Redskins spent a third-round pick on Jones in 2015, and he largely ousted fan favorite Alfred Morris from the RB1 role as a rookie. 

Life comes at you quick in the NFL.

Jones is a clear example of that. 

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ROSTER BATTLES: Left guard | Tight end Nickel cornerback  | Inside linebacker | Running back