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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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Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Report: One team Redskins need to watch out for when it comes to Kirk Cousins this offseason

Mike Shanahan likes Kirk Cousins, both as a person and as a quarterback. The former Redskins coach has made no secret about that. Luckilly for the 'Skins, especially with Cousins staring at free agency, Mike Shanahan is no longer coaching in the NFL.

His son Kyle, however, seems highly likely to take over as San Francisco 49ers head coach. And soon.

Kyle Shanahan currently serves as the offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, and once their playoff run ends, most expect Shanahan to be named Niners head coach. 

Why should Washington fans care? Allow ESPN's Adam Schefter to explain:

Kyle Shanahan is set to become the San Francisco 49ers' head coach after Atlanta's season ends. San Francisco needs a quarterback as much as any other team in the league. If Cousins is available, the 49ers would pursue him as hard as they've pursued Shanahan.

Even if Washington tags Cousins, San Francisco could attempt to pry him loose in a trade with a package that could include this year's No. 2 overall draft pick. And if Washington doesn't want to deal now, it could have issues later.

This news should not be a shock to Skins fans, but it should be taken seriously. Remember, Kyle Shanahan was part of the Washington organization when Cousins was drafted and the duo worked together in 2012 and 2013. Most quarterbacks would love to run Shanahan's No. 1 ranked offense from Atlanta, and the guess here says Cousins would probably jump at the opportunity. 

Still, much must be worked out.

While some in the Washington front office might have questions about what the long-term value should be in a Cousins contract, the team still has some control. They can place the franchise tag on Cousins this season, like they did last season, and work until mid-summer on a multi-year deal. Or Cousins can again play on a franchise tag in 2017, like he did in 2016 and passed for nearly 5,000 yards.

MORE REDSKINS: Kevin O'Connell to be hired as QB coach

What makes Schefter's report the most interesting is the mention of the No. 2 overall pick. Observing the Redskins in 2016, it became obvious the team needs more impact players on defense, and with the second overall pick combined with their own 17th pick and eight more after that, that could deliver an immediate boost. 

Whatever boost a package of draft picks might bring in will be hard pressed to match the production of Cousins. Finding a starting quarterback in the NFL is exceptionally hard, and while Cousins has shown flashes of a special player, he has certainly confirmed he is a capable player in two seasons at the helm of Jay Gruden's offense.

Scot McCloughan and the Redskins brain trust have a few more weeks before free agency, and with it, the deadline to again place the franchise tag on Cousins. It's nearly impossible to see a scenario where Cousins hits the open market this season, but if the No. 2 overall pick comes into play, other scenarios start to seem more possible. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

 

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The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

The Final Countdown: Josh Norman INT makes for Redskins 7th best play of 2016

As should be expected when a team goes 8-7-1, there were plenty of good moments and a lot of frustrating times during the Redskins’ 2016 season. Over the next couple of weeks, Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will take detailed looks at the 10 best plays of 2016 and at the 10 worst.

No. 7 best play of 2016

Redskins vs. Browns Week 4

6:37 left in Q4, Browns ball at their own 30, 2nd and 2, Redskins leading 24-20

Cody Kessler pass short middle intended for Terrelle Pryor INTERCEPTED by Josh Norman at CLV 25. Josh Norman to CLV 24 for 1 yard (Andre Hawkins).
PENALTY on WAS-J.Norman, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced at CLV 24.

Related: The Redskins week that was

Tandler: Sometimes you have a great win, sometimes you dodge disaster. This one went in the latter category. The Redskins couldn’t quite shake the feisty Browns and Kessler for three and a half quarters. Then Norman stayed in Pryor’s hip pocket as the receiver ran a slat. Norman lunged in front of Pryor as the ball arrived and made the interception. He did draw a penalty for doing a bow and arrow celebration but the Redskins overcame that and drove in for the clinching touchdown in their 31-20 win.

More Redskins: Offensive coordinator situation set?

Finlay: Josh Norman was the story of the Redskins offseason, and this game came one week after playing, and beating, Odell Beckham in New York. The spotlight was burning bright on Norman, and he made a crucial play when the Skins really needed it. Washington got out to a big lead early in this game only to let the Browns climb back in, mainly on the strength of Isaiah Crowell and th Cleveland run game. Losing at home to an awful Browns team would have completely derailed the modicum of momentum Kirk Cousins and the 'Skins established with the Week 3 win over the Giants, and Norman's INT made sure that didn't happen. 

10 best plays countdown

10 worst plays countdown

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!