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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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Hypothetical first-round trade could be a good one for the Redskins

Hypothetical first-round trade could be a good one for the Redskins

On Monday, Redskins college scouting director Scott Campbell publically sent out the message that the Redskins are open for business when it comes to making a trade in the upcoming draft. Peter King of the MMQB.com put one into his mock draft that just might catch the Redskins’ interest if it is proposed when the draft starts on Thursday.

The deal has the Redskins swapping first-round picks with the Texans. Houston needs a quarterback and they won’t get one they want with pick No. 25. So they send that pick plus their second-round pick, No. 57 overall, to the Redskins for pick No. 17. With that pick the Texans take Deshaun Watson of Clemson. At No. 25, Washington selects ILB Jarrad Davis of Florida.

There is a lot to consider when trading back in the first round, the most important of which is the players on the board when you trade back. If you bypass the chance to get a game-changing talent who fits your system to add a pick later in the draft you could end up regretting it.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 10.0

In King’s mock draft, these players who have been connected to the Redskins during the draft process are off the board—RB Christian McCaffrey, LB Haason Reddick, OLB Derek Barnett, LB Reuben Foster, DL Jonathan Allen, and OLB Takkarist McKinley. The next four players off the board after the Texans take Watson are two offensive tackles, a tight end, and a wide receiver. None of those would fill a major need for the Redskins. A trade back seems to be a reasonably safe move.

The other factor to evaluate is the value of the deal and that works out well for the Redskins if you look at the traditional trade chart. The 17th pick is worth 950 points. The point values for picks 25 and 57 add up to 1,050. The 100-point difference is about a pick in the middle of the fourth round. The Texans may ask for a later pick back in return and the Redskins could gauge how desperate Bill O’Brien is to get his quarterback of the future in the building.

Davis, who ends up with the Redskins in this scenario, is an interesting prospect. His athleticism and high motor fit those of a high first-round pick. But he missed time in his last three seasons with the Gators due to injuries, including problems with both ankles last year. There is some buzz that the Redskins are considering Davis with the 17th pick so to could get him at No. 25 and pick up a second-round pick in the process would be quite a coup.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins mock 2.0 goes offense early, defense often 

In an interesting side note, King reported that the Redskins are “divided” on Florida State running back Dalvin Cook. He unquestionably has talent but he has three arrests in his past and a high fumble rate. No. 25 might be a better spot to take a chance on Cook than No. 17. King also mentions Missouri edge player Charles Harris as a possibility at No. 25 as well.

Among the players the Redskins may be able to add with that additional second-round pick are Michigan DL Chris Wormley, G Dan Freeney of Indiana, CB Cordrea Tankersley, and CB/S Desmond King of Iowa.

This is all a hypothetical scenario. King is not reporting that such a deal is in the works. But it does make sense for both the Redskins and the Texans and it would not be surprising to see something like this deal unfold on Thursday night.

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.

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Need to Know: With 10 draft picks, the Redskins are ready to deal

Need to Know: With 10 draft picks, the Redskins are ready to deal

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, April 24, two days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 17
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 29
—Training camp starts (7/27) 93
—Redskins opener vs. Eagles (9/10) 138

Let’s make a deal

Even though the Redskins have 10 picks going into the draft, Scott Campbell, the team’s college scouting director, said that they will still be open to making deals to add more.

Washington has one pick in each of the seven rounds plus additional selections in the fourth, sixth, and seventh rounds. Campbell said that the team will be happy to add picks if the right deal is on the table. He is not concerned about having too large a draft class competing for a limited number of competitive roster spots.

“Yeah, I don’t know if you can have ‘too many guys,’” said Campbell. “I think the main thing to get better is you want to add competition to the team and anywhere you can add competition, even positions where you think you may be set depth-wise, you know, add more competition. Get the best players in here and I think it pushes each other and makes everybody better.”

It’s a matter of improving the odds of finding players who can help them.

“It’s not an exact science, Campbell said of the draft. “You’re not going to hit on all the guys. You’d like to think you can, but I mean that’s not reality, no one’s ever done that. Just increasing the odds of adding the more players, the more guys that can help us, that’s great.”

Campbell specifically mentioned the team’s two fourth-round picks, which are the 115th and 123rd overall selections, as possible capital to move up or as bait to trade back and get more picks.

What could they do with those picks? If they make a deal that goes by the draft value trade chart, they could trade their second-round pick (17th in the round, 49th overall) and the higher of the two fourth-rounders for the 11th pick in the second (42 overall). If they see a player they like in the third, that same fourth round pick would move them up to from the 81st overall pick (17th in the round) to the 68th overall pick (4th pick of the round).

The return for moving back in the fourth round is not very high. You’re looking at a fifth-round pick in return for moving all the way back from 115th overall to the end of the fourth round. That’s OK if you’re in a range where there just aren’t any players you like but you are very unlikely to get a game-changer in the fifth.  

With 10 picks it would be surprising if the Redskins just used all 10 of them without making any moves. It’s just a matter of if there will be a blockbuster deal involving their first pick or if there are more minor deals on Saturday afternoon.

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.

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