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Need to Know: Has Redskins QB Cousins shaken the turnover bug?

Need to Know: Has Redskins QB Cousins shaken the turnover bug?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 11, four days before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints

—Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but the Redskins are getting him where he plays his worst—outside. In his career Brees has played 107 games outdoors and 104 in a domed or retractable roof stadium (remember his first five years in the league he played in an outdoor stadium in San Diego). His teams posted a winning percentage of .606 in domes and .542 outside. As far as his personal stats, his completion percentage is 5 points lower outside, his passer rating is 12 points lower, his passing yards per attempt drop 10 percent, and his passing yards per game drop 19 percent.

—The Redskins have had problems running the ball the last four games, as you well know. But in those four games they have faced the top three rushing defenses in the NFL in terms of yards given up per game. The Jets are first, the Falcons second and the Patriots third. Their other opponent in that stretch was the Bucs, who are right in the middle of the pack at 16th. A strong defense will not be a factor this week. The Saints give up an average of 122.6 yards per game, 25th in the NFL. If they can’t get a running game going this week they might want to look at going with the Run and Shoot attack on offense.

—There is some buzz that Jeron Johnson may replace Trenton Robinson at strong safety and that Will Compton could take Perry Riley’s place at inside linebacker. Johnson could help against the run and Compton could provide better pass coverage. The possible return for DeAngelo Hall, who has missed the last five games with a toe injury, could help, too. They will need all the help they can get as the Saints are the top-ranked offense in the NFL, gaining an average of 422 yards per game.

—Has Kirk Cousins broken out of his propensity to throw the ball to the other team? He has just one pick in his last nine quarters of play and even the most ardent Cousins skeptics admit that that one was on Pierre Garçon for having a very catchable pass go through his hands. The Bucs and Patriots aren’t among the league leaders in interceptions; New England is 11th with 2.9 percent of the opponents’ passes picked off and Tampa Bay is 21st with 2.2 percent. So it’s not like Cousins has been facing a group of ball hawks. The Saints are even worse at interceptions with 1.2 percent of opponents’ pass attempts, 28th in the league.

—Most figured the Redskins would have to score in the 30’s to beat the Patriots. That turned out to be true, at least in theory. Using static analysis, they would have won if they had scored 30 points, although in reality Tom Brady and the Patriots probably could have cranked it up and scored another touchdown or two if they had needed to. The Redskins will probably need to be somewhere close to 30 to win this one. The Saints have scored 26 points or more in five of their last six games. It’s notable, though, that the only game where they failed to score that many points was the only game in that stretch that was played outdoors; they scored 17 in their loss at Philadelphia in Week 5.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Panthers 11; Giants @ Redskins 18

In case you missed it

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Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins-Cardinals injury report: Reed out, seven questionable

Redskins

Out

TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.

DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.

Questionable

LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.

G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.

T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.

CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.

RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.

Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)

Cardinals

Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.

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Jordan Reed ruled out for Redskins vs. Cardinals; Vernon Davis set for start

Jordan Reed ruled out for Redskins vs. Cardinals; Vernon Davis set for start

After separating his shoulder against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving, Jordan Reed has officially been ruled out for the Redskins game in Arizona. 

Friday, coach Jay Gruden said Reed doesn't have sufficient range of motion to play against the Cardinals but remains hopeful he'll be healthy for the following game against the Eagles. Reed estimated that range was at about 30 percent Monday.

The decision to sit Reed against the Cardinals comes with little surprise. The 'Skins star tight end did not practice all week, even after having a few extra days to rest after the game last Thursday.

Playing without Reed is obviously a blow to the Washington offense, but No. 2 tight end Vernon Davis has been a strong development for Gruden's team this year. Thursday, Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay said that while losing Reed is a blow to the unit, the team can run almost all of the same plays and sets with Davis that they can with Reed. 

"Fortunately you’re in a situation where you feel really good about your tight end in Vernon Davis where he’s playing at an extremely high level in both phases in the run and in the pass game," McVay said.

As good as Davis has been, he's not the dynamic threat Reed presents. In the second half against Dallas — while playing with the injured shoulder — Reed hauled in two touchdowns and played arguably the best football of his career.

On the season Reed has 59 catches for 630 yards and five touchdowns despite missing two games earlier this year dealing with a concussion.

Davis has played in all 11 games this season and has 31 catches for 450 yards and two TDs. 

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