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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

In case you missed it

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Redskins' Doug Williams presents a special jersey to family of Jim Vance

Redskins' Doug Williams presents a special jersey to family of Jim Vance

On July 22, legendary D.C. broadcaster Jim Vance died at the age of 75.

During the first day of training camp on Thursday, Washington Redskins VP of player personnel Doug Williams, presented NBC4 sports reporter Carol Maloney with a gift for Vance's family.

RELATED: REMEMBERING JIM VANCE

The gesture by the Redskins was one filled with much respect for the award-winning anchor.

Vance was a staple for many D.C. locals, being a full-time anchor since 1972 for NBC4. 

Last summer, Vance revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer but never stopped working. 

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LIVE Redskins training camp practice report: Day 1

LIVE Redskins training camp practice report: Day 1

RICHMOND—The Redskins took the field for their first practice of the season. Jordan Reed is missing as was the usual stifling heat at the Bon Secours training center.It's warm but the humidity is down from the normal late-July sauna here. 

Here are my observations from practice as it unfolds. Come back and refresh often for the latest:

—Jamison Crowder still appears to be the No. 1 punt returner. Also fielding kicks off of the leg of Tress Way were Maurice Harris, Chris Thompson, and Will Blackmon. 

—The Redskins are practicing without pads per collective bargaining rules. A few are wearing shells. 

—New tight end EJ Bibbs just introduced himself to Vernon Davis as they were getting ready for some individual drills. Reminds me of a few year ago when a just acquired player was participating in stretching and they brought his contract out onto the field for him to sign. He wouldn’t have been able to practice otherwise. 

—Kirk Cousins just acknowledged a fan lined up near the sideline. ‘How’s it going, Derrick?” Derrick’s friends were properly impressed. 

—Maurice Harris showed good form in catching a Cousins pass over the middle against no defense. Nothing spectacular but but a good job reaching forward to pull in a pass that was ahead of him. 

—Harris with another nice catch, this time guarded over the middle by Will Blackmon. He is off to a good start in competing for playing time.

—Torian Gray is admonishing his defensive backs to “wake up, wake up.” On one rep he wanted Tevin Homer to “drive to the ball.”

—It looked like Josh Doctson had a step on Bashaud Breeland on a deep pass but the CB recovered and knocked the pass away. 

—A few plays later Doctson got deep again, this time against Quinton Dunbar. This time the CB couldn’t catch up and Doctson hauled in the pass.

—In the early going in 11 on 11, Will Compton and Mason Foster are the inside LBs with the first team and Joey Mbu is at nose tackle. Both situations could change over the course of the next few weeks. 

—Nice cut by Keith Marshall on a run around right end. He planted his foot and cut upfield with some serious burst. He’s a dark horse when it comes to making the roster but I’m keeping an eye on him. 

—Cousins with a dart to Terrelle Pryor along the sideline. A sharp and accurate throw. 

—Rain is approaching but it should hold off until practice is over. Meanwhile, the clouds and breeze are cooling things down. Nobody is complaining.  

—Pryor was assigned to block Josh Norman on a running play. Norman made a business decision not to contest the block and there was light contact as Norman backed down the field.

—Rookie Robert Davis made a solid back-shoulder catch on the sideline. I’m not sure if Colt McCoy intended for the pass to be back shoulder but that was where it went and Davis reached to make the grab. 

—What was that? Nate Sudfeld heaved one downfield to nobody in particular. Kendall Fuller got an easy interception, his second of the day. 

—That is from Richmond for today. Come on back tomorrow, we’ll do it again.