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Need to Know: Has Redskins QB Cousins shaken the turnover bug?

Need to Know: Has Redskins QB Cousins shaken the turnover bug?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, November 11, four days before the Washington Redskins host the New Orleans Saints.

Five early thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints

—Drew Brees is still one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL but the Redskins are getting him where he plays his worst—outside. In his career Brees has played 107 games outdoors and 104 in a domed or retractable roof stadium (remember his first five years in the league he played in an outdoor stadium in San Diego). His teams posted a winning percentage of .606 in domes and .542 outside. As far as his personal stats, his completion percentage is 5 points lower outside, his passer rating is 12 points lower, his passing yards per attempt drop 10 percent, and his passing yards per game drop 19 percent.

—The Redskins have had problems running the ball the last four games, as you well know. But in those four games they have faced the top three rushing defenses in the NFL in terms of yards given up per game. The Jets are first, the Falcons second and the Patriots third. Their other opponent in that stretch was the Bucs, who are right in the middle of the pack at 16th. A strong defense will not be a factor this week. The Saints give up an average of 122.6 yards per game, 25th in the NFL. If they can’t get a running game going this week they might want to look at going with the Run and Shoot attack on offense.

—There is some buzz that Jeron Johnson may replace Trenton Robinson at strong safety and that Will Compton could take Perry Riley’s place at inside linebacker. Johnson could help against the run and Compton could provide better pass coverage. The possible return for DeAngelo Hall, who has missed the last five games with a toe injury, could help, too. They will need all the help they can get as the Saints are the top-ranked offense in the NFL, gaining an average of 422 yards per game.

—Has Kirk Cousins broken out of his propensity to throw the ball to the other team? He has just one pick in his last nine quarters of play and even the most ardent Cousins skeptics admit that that one was on Pierre Garçon for having a very catchable pass go through his hands. The Bucs and Patriots aren’t among the league leaders in interceptions; New England is 11th with 2.9 percent of the opponents’ passes picked off and Tampa Bay is 21st with 2.2 percent. So it’s not like Cousins has been facing a group of ball hawks. The Saints are even worse at interceptions with 1.2 percent of opponents’ pass attempts, 28th in the league.

—Most figured the Redskins would have to score in the 30’s to beat the Patriots. That turned out to be true, at least in theory. Using static analysis, they would have won if they had scored 30 points, although in reality Tom Brady and the Patriots probably could have cranked it up and scored another touchdown or two if they had needed to. The Redskins will probably need to be somewhere close to 30 to win this one. The Saints have scored 26 points or more in five of their last six games. It’s notable, though, that the only game where they failed to score that many points was the only game in that stretch that was played outdoors; they scored 17 in their loss at Philadelphia in Week 5.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Saints @ Redskins 4; Redskins @ Panthers 11; Giants @ Redskins 18

In case you missed it

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Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

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USA TODAY Sports

Redskins activate K Dustin Hopkins, waive K Nick Rose

After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.

Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.

Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either. 

RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW

Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return. 

Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games. 

The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury. 

MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

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Week 15 Redskins vs Cardinals Preview: Show up, or get blown up

For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond. 

The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.

Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it. 

  1. Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come. 
  2. Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions. 
  3. Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus. 

Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-

We didn't spend last week playing checkers.

News & Notes:

  • Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
  • The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed. 
  • D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
  • Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week. 
  • Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.

Want more? Listen up!

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