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Redskins' Cousins passing more often and more effectively on first down

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Redskins' Cousins passing more often and more effectively on first down

Kirk Cousins is having his issues this season but passing on first down is not one of them. Passing on third down, however, has been an issue.

The Redskins have run 85 offensive plays on first down this year (stats via Pro Football Reference) and Cousins has passed on 50 of them. Last year through three games Washington had 87 total first-down snaps and Cousins passed 40 times.

In this case, more is better. Here is a comparison of Cousins’ first-down passing results between this year and Weeks 1-3 last year.

If you want a sign that Jay Gruden and Sean McVay are getting more pass happy, this is it, albeit in a small sample size. But if you are going to gain 9.2 yards per pass attempt on first downs, why not try it more often? The Redskins are averaging a respectable 4.2 yards per first-down rushing attempt so running isn’t futile but if you can gain more than twice as much, passing nearly 60 percent of the time is not a bad option.

However, Cousins and the Redskins aren’t getting it done on third down. Cousins’ third-down passer rating this year is 72.5 compared to 84.9 through three games in 2015. That’s a major reason why the Redskins’ third-down conversion rate is 39.5 percent, 17th in the NFL. For the 2015 season they ranked fifth at 43.5 percent.

The Redskins should think twice before changing their approach. They are averaging 6.5 yards to go on third down; the league average is 7.3. Cousins and company are in a position to succeed; they just need to execute a little better.

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Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

Updating Redskins' injury list after loss to Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins went into today’s game against the Cardinals somewhat banged up and they exit with a couple of additional injury concerns in the form of concussions.

Center Spencer Long left the game in the second quarter. Initially it was announced that he had been evaluated for a concussion but that he had been cleared. But after halftime the word came down that he had been retested and it was determined that he does have a concussion. Long has entered the concussion protocol.

Veteran John Sullivan, picked up earlier this season when Kory Lichtensteiger went on injured reserve, filled in a center the rest of the way. He is a capable fill-in but if Long is out he would be the only available center. The Redskins might have to sign a center if it looks like Long will be out of action against the Eagles.

In the fourth quarter safety Will Blackmon left the game. According to Redskins coach Jay Gruden he was being evaluated for a concussion and a stinger. His exact status is unknown. Gruden will give more information during a conference call with reporters on Monday.

[MORE: JOSH NORMAN ON HIS CRUCIAL FOURTH-QUARTER PENALTY]

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Josh Norman on his crucial fourth-quarter penalty vs. Larry Fitzgerald

Josh Norman on his crucial fourth-quarter penalty vs. Larry Fitzgerald

GLENDALE, AZ—The Redskins had a couple of chances to stop what would eventually turn into the Cardinals’ game-clinching drive in the fourth quarter. The first one came when they went for it on fourth and one at their own 34. It was a gutsy call by Arizona coach Bruce Arians and David Johnson make him look smart by popping off a 14-yard run.

The Cards earned that one. But it looked as though they got something of a gift a few plays later when Josh Norman was flagged holding receiver Larry Fitzgerald. It was a borderline call, granting Arizona a gift third and five conversion. Two plays later Carson Palmer went in for the kill, throwing a 42-yard touchdown pass to J.J. Nelson.

On the field, Norman seemed to be none too pleased with the penalty flag. He said after the game that he thinks that Fitzgerald may have stolen a flag.

“He [Fitzgerald] was within five yards. Larry is a wily vet,” said Norman. “I'd been doing it all game, kind of . . . He breaks out and I go for the ball and the flag got thrown. We'd like to see that not happen in that situation because there was some good position, some good leverage. And a flag came out.

“It is what it is. You can't blame a call on that, blame a call on this. It's whatever, man.”

Norman is right. The Redskins blew plenty of chances to take control of the game and the blame can be spread around on both sides of the ball. But the flag will loom large as the Redskins try to shake off this loss and get ready for the Eagles next week.

[MORE: ANGRY JAY GRUDEN SAYS REDSKINS 'NOT EVEN CLOSE' TO THINKING ABOUT PLAYOFFS]