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Need to Know: Redskins look for Cousins to continue success in two-minute drives

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Need to Know: Redskins look for Cousins to continue success in two-minute drives

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, August 10, one day before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: AM walkthrough before travel to Atlanta, no media availability

—The Redskins last played a game 213 days ago. It will be 33 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 9; Final roster cut 24; Cowboys @ Redskins 39

Cousins hopes to continue success in two-minute situations

In practice last week Kirk Cousins led an impressive two-minute drill that ended in a touchdown.

“He did good in that drive,” said Jay Gruden. “He does a good job of taking what the defense gives him. We just harp on that. He hit some check-downs, some underneath routes, and guys got up the field and got lined up and we can run off a lot of plays in that situation. As long as we don’t have any negative plays, we can move the ball and be quick and efficient and he was efficient today.”

Leading scoring drives as the clock is running down last in the first half or late in the game is not an area where Cousins needs a great deal of improvement. He was pretty good at the two-minute drill last year.

Cousins led the Redskins to a score on 13 drives that ended with two minutes or less remaining in the second and fourth quarters. Six of those drives either tied the game or put the Redskins in the lead. That includes the game-winning drives against the Eagles and Bucs and the 24-second, 46-yard drive that led to a Dustin Hopkins field goal to send the Atlanta game into overtime.

In all of his passes in the last two minutes of a half, Cousins completed 42 of 68 passes. That completion percentage of 61.8 is lower than his number on all passes for the season (69.8%). But he threw five touchdown passes and no interceptions and his passer rating was a solid 106.8.

All of the success he had doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t continue to work on it. In fact, practice is likely to be the only chance he has to take his two-minute efficiency to a new level. He won’t play long enough in the first two preseason games to reach the 2:00 mark of the first half and he won’t play at all in the fourth. He may get his hands on the ball late in the first half in preseason Week 3 against the Bills if he is still in the game and if the situation is right. But that one possible opportunity will be all until the start of the regular season.

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Need to Know:Redskins faced one of the toughest schedules in NFL in 2016

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, May 28, 16 days before the Washington Redskins start their mandatory minicamp on June 13.

Timeline

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/27) 60
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 74
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 105

Note: I am on vacation this week in the Outer Banks. Need to Know will be a mix of new content and some of the most popular posts of 2017.

Redskins faced one of NFL’s toughest slates in 2016

(originally posted January 28)

As the Redskins came off their 2015 playoff season and looked towards 2016, one thing jumped out. Even before any games were played it looked like their path to a repeat playoff appearance would be difficult, more so than it was when they went 9-7 and took the NFC East title.

The 2015 schedule looked fairly easy when applying the eyeball test. They played just two games against teams that made the playoffs and those teams, the Patriots and Panthers, plus the Jets were the only teams they faced that finished the season with winning records.

The eyeball test was borne out by the numbers. According to the stat gurus at Football Outsiders the Redskins faced the 28th toughest schedule in terms of the DVOA of opposing defenses and the opposing offenses added up to the 24th most difficult.

The going was considerably tougher in 2016. The Redskins played seven games against teams that were in the playoff field. The defenses they faced stacked up as the toughest group of any NFL team. They played nine games against teams that finished in the top 11 in defensive DVOA. The offenses they faced were a little better than average, ranking 13th as a group.

While the Redskins’ season was widely regarded as a disappointment, it would be reasonable to say that given vastly improved quality of the competition that they did well in only having their record drop by half a game.

Of course, the goal is to be good enough to prosper and make the playoffs no matter what mix of teams the luck of the draw happens to put on the schedule. They will need to get there in a hurry. Awaiting the Redskins on their 2017 schedule are seven 2016 playoff teams plus one more that finished the year with a winning record.

The fortunes of NFL teams can’t always be predicted in advance, especially more than seven months before the season kicks off. But it’s safe to say that the 2017 slate will be challenging. If they are going to improve their record they are going to have to improve their level of play dramatically.

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.