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Need to Know: Interceptions could derail Cousins' comeback attempt

Need to Know: Interceptions could derail Cousins' comeback attempt

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, September 11, two days before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Miami Dolphins.

Can Cousins cut down on his interceptions?

Yesterday in this space I took a look at a positive aspect of Kirk Cousins’ play in 2014, his exceptionally low sack rate. But there is another,  side to that coin, one that could stop his second opportunity to gain a foothold as a starting quarterback in a hurry. The knock on that was that he all too often threw an interception when he should have taken a sack.

I asked Jay Gruden about Cousins’ knack for avoiding sacks and he brought up the interception issue.

“Sometimes unfortunately he threw some interceptions because he was trying to get the ball out so quick,” said Gruden. “He wasn’t exactly seeing where he was throwing sometimes which caused him problems. Sometimes a sack is better than a pick. I think his pocket awareness is good. We’ve just got to make sure he sees all his throws and protects the football.”

Cousins attempted 204 passes and threw nine interceptions, a 4.4 percent interception rate. Robert Griffin III was intercepted on 2.8 percent of his passes (6/214) and Colt McCoy’s interception rate was 2.3 percent (3/128).

In the NFL last year 2.5 percent of passes were intercepted. Had Cousins thrown enough passes to qualify he would have had the worst interception rate in the league, worse than rookie Blake Bortles, journeyman Josh McCown, Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith. If you project his interceptions out over a 16 game seasons he would have had 29 interceptions. No quarterback threw more than 17 last year.

Cousins is well aware that he needs to cut down on his interceptions if he is going to remain a starter in this league. For that matter, if he can’t protect the ball he will have a hard time even finding work as a backup. The last thing that teams want from a quarterback they might need to put into a game in a pinch is for him to turn the ball over.

Rest assured, Cousins will not throw 29 interceptions this year. If he is on pace to do so after several games he will no longer be behind center.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:15; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice (approx. 12:30)

—It’s been 257 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 2 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Rams @ Redskins 9; Redskins @ Giants Thursday night 13; Eagles @ Redskins 23

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Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Need to Know: Redskins looking for consistency from Preston Smith

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, December 9, two days before the Washington Redskins play the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:05; Jay Gruden and news conference and open locker room after practice approx. 2:00

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 15; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 23

Injuries of note vs. Cardinals:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot),
Thursday injury report

Around Redskins Park

—The Redskins’ third-down defense is the worst in the NFL in a long time. They are giving up first downs on 48 percent of opponents’ third downs. Since 2002 only one team, the 2011 Chargers, has been worse over the course of a full season. The Redskins have a chance to improve in the last four games of the season. Their remaining opponents rank 15th, 22nd, 26th, and 27th in converting third downs on offense. So, while the damage is done perhaps they can avoid historically bad territory.

—Perhaps one of the reasons why the Redskins haven’t done well on third down is because Preston Smith, a player they were counting on to generate pass pressure and rack up sacks, isn't getting that done. He has 3.5 sacks on the year, two of them coming into one game. What are they looking for out of Smith? “Consistency is the truest measure of performance,” said defensive coordinator Joe Barry. “You have got to show up every single week . . . Preston is giving great effort, he’s trying. He just has got to show up in the statistic column.”

—Barry was candid in admitting that they were taken by surprise when the Cardinals snapped the ball on the fourth and one play from their own 34 in the fourth quarter. “I think everyone was a little shocked that the ball actually was snapped and they ran a play, but that’s football,” Barry said. The center’s hand is on the ball, ball is ready, the ball can be snapped, we have got to be ready to execute.” Should the season go south from here that play will be remembered as the turning point.

—Although whether or not the season goes south will largely be dependent on the play of Kirk Cousins, he doesn’t think about the pressure. “I just go about my business. I think you take it one game at a time, that’s the best way to manage it, and just enjoy the process,” he said. “We’ll see where we are in a few weeks but I can’t play the game today, I can’t play next week’s game today. All I can do today is prepare and go to practice and have a great practice, and I thought today I had a great practice and that’s a good step.”

—Jay Gruden wants to see the defense improve in two specific areas in addition to third downs. “Turnovers the last couple of weeks and red zone,” he said. “Those are three big time areas of concern . . . We’ve been lacking in all three of those categories of late.” They have had just one takeaway in their last three games and in their last five games teams have punched it into the end zone on 14 of 17 red zone opportunities (82.3%).

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A little more left arm use by Reed on this catch. #Redskins

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Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

Redskins injury report: Three return but still plenty of question marks

The Redskins’ injury report is looking a little better today, three days away from their game against the Eagles. 

DE Chris Baker (ankle), CB Will Blackmon (concussion), T Ty Nsekhe (ankle), C Spencer Long (concussion) didn't practice today. That is a substantial reduction of the number of players who were out of practice on Wednesday.

Going from out yesterday to limited participants today were S Donte Whitner (illness), DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee/foot), and DE Anthony Lanier (leg).

Also limited were TE Derek Carrier (knee), ILB Will Compton (hip), TE Jordan Reed (shoulder), G Brandon Scherff (ankle), and OLB Preston Smith (groin).

A player moving from out of practice to limited is no guarantee that he will be able to participate come Sunday but it’s a step in the right direction.

On area of concern is the offensive line. Three players who started against the Cardinals have not practiced this week. One was Nsekhe and he already was headed to the bench after the return of Trent Williams from suspension.

RELATED: Five Redskins who need to perform vs. Eagles

According to Jay Gruden, the line will have enough bodies even if Long, Nsekhe, and Lauvao are out. Second year guard Arie Kouandjio would start at guard and John Sullivan, who finished up after Long left the game on Sunday, would be the starting center. They could activate Kory Lichtensteiger from injured reserve to back up guard and center and Vinston Painter would be the backup tackle.

It appears that Reed is making progress from the AC joint separation he suffered in his left shoulder on Thanksgiving Day in Dallas.

“He looked good out there today,” said Gruden. “He’s still a little sore. Right now I have absolutely no idea (if he will play).”