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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

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The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

The seven best undrafted free agent signings the Redskins have made since 2010

Every NFL training camp is different, but there are a few consistent things you can count on happening at each one each year.

At some point, for example, a star will say that he's "just excited to hit a guy wearing a different colored jersey" after about a week of practicing against his teammates. Also on the list: a coach will tell reporters that his defense plans on being more aggressive and hopes to create more turnovers in the regular season.

One of the more pleasant camp traditions, meanwhile, is that undrafted rookie who goes from stand-in to stand out and makes the team by impressing in drills and preseason contests.

But while there will be plenty of time in the coming weeks for trying to figure out who'll do that for the Redskins in 2017, let's instead look back at a handful of the players who've already accomplished that in the past with Washington. Here are the seven best undrafted free agents the franchise has unearthed since 2010.

MORE: PLAYING OVER/UNDER WITH KEY STATS FOR KIRK COUSINS IN 2017

Logan Paulsen (2010)

No one will ever mistake Logan Paulsen's film for Rob Gronkowski's, but the former UCLA Bruin held down the third tight end spot for the Redskins from 2010-2014.

His two best years came in 2012 and 2013, where he posted 25 and 28 catches respectively, scored four total times and was on the receiving end of this magical fourth-down pass from Robert Griffin III against the Giants, a play that might've just been the peak of Griffin's rookie year. Now 30, Paulsen is reuniting with Kyle Shanahan out in San Francisco, continuing to exceed expectations and extending what's been a fruitful NFL career.

Will Compton (2013)

Will Compton's made a steady climb up Washington's roster since entering the league as a free agent linebacker out of Nebraska.

He was cut in his first season back in 2013 but latched onto the practice squad. He eventually debuted near the end of 2013, though, and made the 53-man squad the next go-round. 2015 was when he first started playing regularly, then last year he started 15 contests while also serving as a captain.

In 2017, he'll have to compete with Zach Brown and Mason Foster for a starting gig, but he figures to play plenty no matter the outcome and he's one of Jay Gruden's most trusted defenders. Not bad for a guy who has admitted he "wasn't confident" as a rookie:

Houston Bates (2015)

Special teams often is the avenue a college free agent has to take to make a roster, and Houston Bates is an example of one who's been there, done that. He's appeared in 24 games for the Redskins in his first two NFL campaigns and will look to recover from a torn ACL he suffered last December so he can add to that total in year three.

Before that injury, he was Washington's most active special teams player with 292 snaps in 14 contests.

Quinton Dunbar (2015)

Quinton Dunbar has not only overcome being an undrafted free agent; the former Florida Gator has also made the successful transition from wide receiver to cornerback, too.

Like his classmate Bates, Dunbar has participated often in 2015 and 2016, and like Paulsen, his biggest moments have come against the Giants. As a first-year pro, he picked off Eli Manning in the end zone to the delight of a raucous FedExField crowd, and as a sophomore, he helped complete a risky fake punt and also notched another (absolutely insane) INT in New York:

Rob Kelley (2016)

This offseason, Jay Gruden joked that Rob Kelley has worked his way up from "ninth-string" to starter. He laughed as he said it, but it may not have been that big of an exaggeration.

Kelley never rushed for more than 420 yards at Tulane, but he ripped off 704 last year for the 'Skins. Now he's the top option in a talented backfield, and while Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson are nipping at his heels for carries, Gruden has repeatedly said how much he loves Kelley. He'll be fed plenty in 2017.

Anthony Lanier (2016)

Anthony Lanier's on this list not for what he's done, but for what he's projected to do. Gruden uses not one but two really's to describe how excited he is about Lanier, and a couple of months of working with assistant Jim Tomsula might be all the lineman needs to make the jump from a project to a problem. 

Maurice Harris (2016)

Last on the list is a receiver who displayed sure hands and a knack for converting third downs in limited action last year. Maurice Harris now looks like he'll be an early option off the bench in Gruden's offense and should see the field far more often than he did in the second half of 2016.

You may not be fully sold on Harris, but it sounds like his teammates are, so don't be surprised if he breaks out and develops into another option for Kirk Cousins:

RELATED: RANKING THE REDSKINS ROSTER FROM BOTTOM TO TOP

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Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Need to Know: Redskins by the numbers—First-down rushing, forcing fumbles

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, July 23, four days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 203 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 49 days.

Days until:

—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 18
—Preseason vs. Packers at FedEx Field (8/19) 27
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 41

The Redskins by the numbers

5.01—The average yards per carry against the Redskins on first down last year.

I have noted this before but I took a closer look and it’s even worse. In 2016, four running backs—Isaiah Crowell of the Browns, DeAngelo Williams of the Steelers, Jordan Howard of the Bears, and Ezekiel Elliott of the Cowboys—gained over 100 yards against Washington on first down alone. It took Elliott two games to get there but the other three made it in one. If the Redskins don’t get this fixed (this is the second year in a row they have been last in the league here) their defense won’t get much better.

3.85—The Redskins average offensive gain per carry on first down.

This is not a very good performance here — the average is 20th in the NFL. But it does represent a significant improvement from 2015, when they were last in the NFL at 3.3 yards per carry. One difference was negative plays. Two years ago, they had 63 first-down plays go for no gain or a loss of yards. Last year they had 48 such plays. Rob Kelley, who was fourth-best in the league as a rookie last year at gaining yardage after being contacted behind the line, can claim a lot of credit.

8—The number of opponents’ fumbles the Redskins recovered this year.

A total of 17 other teams recovered more fumbles than the Redskins did last year and their recoveries were exactly half of what they were in 2015, when they had 16, the most in the league. It wasn’t surprising that their recoveries fell. The numbers crunchers say that fumble recoveries aren’t “sticky,” meaning that there tends to be a lot of variance for each team each year. And that makes sense as a lot of recovering fumbles is the bounce of the ball.

But it should be noted that the Redskins forced just 22 fumbles last year after forcing 36 in 2015. You have to get the ball on the ground to recover it and the Redskins could do a better job of forcing fumbles in 2017

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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