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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 14, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Lions 9; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 16

Around Redskins Park

Kirk Cousins has had success in his three career starts against the Eagles. The Redskins are 2-1 in those games and Cousins has thrown for an average of 360 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 105.1.

But those were different Eagles teams, especially defensively. It looks like defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has the Philly D going very well. They have gone from the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense to near the top of the heap.

There are many reasons why the Eagles are better against the pass but you really don’t need to look much further than their pass rush. Pass defense starts with pass pressure and the Eagles are one of two teams in the league who have sacked the quarterback on more than 10 percent of opponents’ pass attempts. The scary part for the Redskins is that they didn’t have one big game that inflated their pass rush stats. They have 14 sacks in four games and have three sacks in each of two games and four in each of the other two.

Fortunately for the Redskins, keeping Cousins upright is one of the strengths of the offense. They are third in the NFL when it comes to pass protection, allowing sacks on just 4.0 percent of pass plays. Part of this is an offensive line that is built for pass protection and part is Cousins’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

The line that will start on Sunday has been charged with just four sacks in five games, per Pro Football Focus. Morgan Moses has two on his ledger and Shawn Lauvao and Trent Williams have one each. Spencer Long has started two games and played half of a third and has not allowed a sack while Brandon Scherff has played every snap this year and has zero sacks.

It should be noted here that the Redskins have not faced the toughest of pass rushes so far this year. The highest ranked team in defensive sack percentage they have faced is the Ravens, who are 16th. They have also faced the Cowboys (21st), Browns (27th), Steelers (29th), and Giants (32nd). (Yes, Redskins fans are allowed to snicker at the non-performance of the Giants defense after they loaded up on free agents in the spring.)

One thing that Cousins needs to be careful of is ball protection. The Eagles have recovered four fumbles this year and three of them have come on sack and strip plays.

The key matchups will come on the offensive left side, the quarterback’s blind side. Half of the Eagles’ 14 sacks have come left DE Brandon Graham (3 sacks) and left DT Fletcher Cox (4). They likely will more around and stunt some so LT Williams and LG Lauvao will have their hands full.

I think that they key number here is three. If Philly gets fewer than three sacks of Cousins the Redskins have a good chance of winning. If they get more than three the home team probably is in trouble.

Tandler on Instagram

Good defensive play by Whitner. #Redskins

A video posted by Rich (@richtandler) on


In case you missed it

https://audioboom.com/boos/5162359-episode-11-jp-tandler-talk-eagles-plus-a-surprise-visit-and-tisch-s-take?t=0

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!