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Need to Know: Cousins, Redskins have improved dramatically on third down

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Need to Know: Cousins, Redskins have improved dramatically on third down

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, November 13, two days before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five stats to know for Week 9, Redskins vs. Saints

—The Redskins have improved dramatically on third down from last year. In 2014 they were among the worst in the league, getting first downs on just 31.5 percent of their third-down plays. This year they are converting at a 43.9 percent clip, tied for eighth in the NFL. And it’s not just a matter of having shorter distances to go; they have improved on both attempts with six or fewer yards to go (49.9 percent in 2014, 64.2 percent this year) and with seven yards or more to go (13.3 percent to 24.1 percent). The Redskins have scored five touchdowns on third down through eight games this year after scoring just three all of last year.

—One of the reasons that the Redskins have improved on third down is that Kirk Cousins is playing better on third down compared to last year. In 2014 he was among the worst quarterbacks in the league on third down. Here’s a comparison of his numbers:

—Another area where the Redskins have accomplished a solid turnaround is when it comes to sacks allowed. They gave up the second most in the league last year, 58. That included a six-game stretch from their ninth through their 14th game where they gave up 36 sacks. That was the most sacks allowed in a six-game span since the 1997 Cardinals. So far this year they have given up nine sacks, tied for the fewest in the NFL. They allowed two sacks in Week 2 and have given up no more than one in any other game. The lack of sacks allowed and the third-down success are undoubtedly related.

—Will the Redskins be able to get on a roll offensively against the Saints? New Orleans has allowed 11 pass plays of 40 yards or longer this season, the most on the NFL. But this could be a case of the stoppable force meeting the movable object. The Redskins have just one such play themselves all year. Of course, DeSean Jackson, who led the NFL is receptions for 40-plus yards last year with 13, missed most of the first seven games before returning rusty against the Patriots last week. The Saints have given up 24 touchdown passes. Since the 1970 merger only the 1981 Colts have given up that many touchdown passes through the first nine games of the season.

—There was a lot of hand wringing earlier in the year when the Redskins were racking up penalty flags at a frightening pace. But that has changed over the last few weeks. They have had 51 accepted penalties against them this year. There are 25 NFL teams that have more. Washington has been penalized 441 yards, fewer than 26 teams. Since being penalized 10 times against the Eagles in Week 4 they have been flagged just 16 times in four games. It should be pointed out that they lost three of those four games so perhaps the correlation between avoiding penalties and winning isn’t as strong as some might think.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:50; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Panthers 9; Giants @ Redskins 16

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Giants TE grabs crotch, immediately introduced to NFL's celebration rules

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USA Today Sports Images

Giants TE grabs crotch, immediately introduced to NFL's celebration rules

It took the New York Giants a full game and another quarter before they scored their first touchdown of the 2017-18 NFL season.

Giants rookie Evan Engram was the recipient of their first touchdown of the season, scoring the first of his career on Monday Night Football.

Naturally he began to celebrate his accomplishment, but perhaps his celebration was too natural. 

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In the clip, right in front of the cameraman, the 23-year-old proceeds to dance with a finishing move crotch grab in the midst of his teammates.

Apparently the loosened NFL celebration rules from this off-season did not take out any sexually suggestive actions. 

It resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the ensuing kick-off for the Giants.

With the ball then kicked out of bounds the Lions had the ball at their own 45-yard line.

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Likely the grab will give Engram a fine from the NFL.

Last season Antonio Brown was fined for a similar celebration, by twerking following a score.

The touchdown remains the only time New York has found the end-zone through two games.

With only 13 points it is the lowest scoring two game start in 70 years for the franchise. 

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Snap Chat: Josh Doctson plays more but still looking for first reception

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Snap Chat: Josh Doctson plays more but still looking for first reception

The playing time of Josh Doctson in the Redskins’ season opener was a topic of discussion. In Week 2 against the Rams, his playing time increased by nearly 50 percent but he still is looking for his first catch of the season.

After being in 20 plays against the Eagles and not being targeted on a single pass attempt, Doctson played 29 snaps in the Rams game. The result was one target but it was a fade pass in the end zone that he never had a chance to get his hands on. The 2016 first-round pick still has a zero on the stat sheet in the receptions column.

Some other observations on playing time against the Rams:

Kirk Cousins and four of the offensive linemen played all 71 offensive snaps. Morgan Moses left on the last play of the third quarter with a sprained ankle. He was out on the ensuing third-down play, the Redskins punted and when they got the ball back Moses was back in there after missing just the one snap.

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—When Rob Kelley was in the game he was getting the ball. He played 16 snaps and had 12 carries before he left the game in the second quarter with a rib injury. Chris Thompson (29) and Samaje Perine (26) split the other running back carries.

—The Redskins played a lot of multiple tight end sets with Jordan Reed (40), Vernon Davis (55), and Niles Paul (36) combining to play 131 snaps. That’s an average of almost two tight ends per snap. Contrast that to last week when the tight ends played a combined 87 of the 69 plays on offense.

—On defense, CB Bashaud Breeland, S D.J. Swearinger, and ILB Mason Foster played all 50 defensive snaps. That means that Foster didn’t miss a play after he suffered a shoulder separation and popped it back into place on the sideline.

Zach Brown missed a snap and Josh Norman missed three, probably due to his shoulder injury.

MORE REDSKINS: INJURY LIST LONG, PAINFUL BUT NONE SERIOUS

—Rookie Jonathan Allen again led the defensive line in snaps played with 29 this time. Matt Ioannidis was right behind him with 28.

—Non-Allen rookie watch: Fourth-round pick Montae Nicholson was a surprise starter at strong safety, playing 26 snaps before leaving with an injury. Fellow rookie CB Fabian Moreau played one snap on defense and 21 on special teams. Ryan Anderson played a dozen snaps on defense. Chase Roullier did not play an offensive snap but he got in on six special teams plays.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.