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Need to Know: Cousins, Redskins have improved dramatically on third down

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Need to Know: Cousins, Redskins have improved dramatically on third down

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, November 13, two days before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five stats to know for Week 9, Redskins vs. Saints

—The Redskins have improved dramatically on third down from last year. In 2014 they were among the worst in the league, getting first downs on just 31.5 percent of their third-down plays. This year they are converting at a 43.9 percent clip, tied for eighth in the NFL. And it’s not just a matter of having shorter distances to go; they have improved on both attempts with six or fewer yards to go (49.9 percent in 2014, 64.2 percent this year) and with seven yards or more to go (13.3 percent to 24.1 percent). The Redskins have scored five touchdowns on third down through eight games this year after scoring just three all of last year.

—One of the reasons that the Redskins have improved on third down is that Kirk Cousins is playing better on third down compared to last year. In 2014 he was among the worst quarterbacks in the league on third down. Here’s a comparison of his numbers:

—Another area where the Redskins have accomplished a solid turnaround is when it comes to sacks allowed. They gave up the second most in the league last year, 58. That included a six-game stretch from their ninth through their 14th game where they gave up 36 sacks. That was the most sacks allowed in a six-game span since the 1997 Cardinals. So far this year they have given up nine sacks, tied for the fewest in the NFL. They allowed two sacks in Week 2 and have given up no more than one in any other game. The lack of sacks allowed and the third-down success are undoubtedly related.

—Will the Redskins be able to get on a roll offensively against the Saints? New Orleans has allowed 11 pass plays of 40 yards or longer this season, the most on the NFL. But this could be a case of the stoppable force meeting the movable object. The Redskins have just one such play themselves all year. Of course, DeSean Jackson, who led the NFL is receptions for 40-plus yards last year with 13, missed most of the first seven games before returning rusty against the Patriots last week. The Saints have given up 24 touchdown passes. Since the 1970 merger only the 1981 Colts have given up that many touchdown passes through the first nine games of the season.

—There was a lot of hand wringing earlier in the year when the Redskins were racking up penalty flags at a frightening pace. But that has changed over the last few weeks. They have had 51 accepted penalties against them this year. There are 25 NFL teams that have more. Washington has been penalized 441 yards, fewer than 26 teams. Since being penalized 10 times against the Eagles in Week 4 they have been flagged just 16 times in four games. It should be pointed out that they lost three of those four games so perhaps the correlation between avoiding penalties and winning isn’t as strong as some might think.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:50; Jay Gruden and Sean McVay news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Panthers 9; Giants @ Redskins 16

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Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins Week 15 injury report: Two out, seven questionable vs. Cardinals

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown may want to power through his myriad of injuries but he won’t be able to do it this week.

Brown is one of two Redskins who have been declared out for the game against the Cardinals on Sunday. Jay Gruden listed his injuries as toe/ankle/Achilles/hip. This will be the first game that Brown has missed with the Redskins and his first since he was with the Titans in 2014.

Also out is safety Montae Nicholson, who will miss his fourth straight game with a concussion.

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

Listed as questionable are OT Morgan Moses (ankle), OT Trent Williams (knee), OLB Ryan Anderson (ankle), WR Ryan Grant (ankle), WR Maurice Harris (concussion), DE Terrell McClain (toe), and C Chase Roullier (hand).

Williams’ status for Sunday is very much in doubt. His usual pattern since sustaining a knee injury in Week 4 has been to sit out the first two days of practice and then participate in the third. However, he was not on the field on Friday during the portion of practice that was open to the media. Jay Gruden said that he did join the team at some point but he didn’t indicate that he took part in any football activity.

He has missed three games and it would not be surprising if he missed a fourth on Sunday. If Williams can’t go, Ty Nsekhe will start at left tackle.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Roullier has been out the last three games with a broken right (snapping) hand. He has had the cast off of it for a couple of weeks now and he could be ready to go on Sunday.

Harris was out of the game against the Chargers last Sunday with a concussion. He has been practicing on a limited basis all week. The chances that he can pass the concussion protocol seem good, although with concussions it is always difficult to know for sure.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

  

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Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

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USA Today Sports Images

Why ailing Zach Brown has plenty of incentive to keep playing

Redskins linebacker Zach Brown missed practice for a second straight day on Thursday, putting doubt into his availability for the game against the Cardinals.

Brown is leading the league in combined tackles and, probably, in injuries.

The team’s injury report says that he is dealing with four of them—toe, Achilles, and ankle with an illness piled on top of those.

“They’re hindering him quite a bit,” Jay Gruden said of Brown’s laundry list of ailments.

“Sickness is starting to clear up a little bit but he’s still a little sore. We’ll see if he makes any progress tomorrow. It’d have to be pretty significant, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

MORE REDSKINS: IS GALETTE ON HIS WAY OUT?

The illness might clear up but the other injuries are unlikely to go away until a few weeks into the offseason. He is getting treatments that include massage, laser, and acupuncture but rest is the only thing that will get rid of the problems.

Some have wondered why Brown persists with multiple injuries and the team now mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. For one thing, playing is what he does.

“I like to play the game,” said Brown last week.

RELATED: WEEK 15 POWER RANKINGS

“I like to play the game with passion and I hate to lose. I try my best to help people do better, just trying to help some of the young guys. At the end of the day, you rest when the season’s over.”

There are financial considerations as well, on a couple of different fronts. Brown will be a free agent in 2018 and he is risking further injury that could lower his value on the market. He says that does not factor into is thinking.

“Last two years I was on the free agent market, it’s the way I play,” he said. “If that was the case I would have just shut it down already.”

There are other, more immediate financial considerations as well. Brown has per-game roster bonuses of $15,625 that are paid if he is on the list of 46 active players. And he has incentive bonuses of up to $2.3 million according to Over the Cap. It’s safe to say that at least some of those bonuses will be attainable only if Brown is able to play effectively in all or nearly all of the scheduled 16 games.

RELATED: REED LIKELY TO STAY IN 2018

Brown hasn’t spoken about the incentive bonus money being important and, given his answer to the free agency question, he probably wouldn’t. But this is not a player who has made a ton of money in his career. According to Spotrac, if he hits on his roster bonuses and on his likely to be earned incentives this year he will have about $7.7 million in career earnings. That’s a good chunk of money but once you take away taxes, a cut to his agent and other various and sundry expenses it’s not “set for life” money. It’s likely that his bank account would notice whatever he can collect in incentives.

Gruden has said that Brown is a player who could go on Sunday even with only one practice under his belt. We will know a lot more about his status this afternoon when his practice status for Friday and his game status for Sunday will be announced on the injury report.