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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins needs to improve performance under pressure

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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins needs to improve performance under pressure

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 13, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 185 days ago. It will be 61 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 2; Preseason opener @ Falcons 29; Final roster cut 52

Cousins needs to improve his passing under pressure

They say that pass defense starts with pass rush. The flip side of that coin also is true; a passing offense starts with pass protection. This was especially true for the 2015 Redskins and is likely to remain vital this coming season.

All quarterbacks are less effective when they have pressure in their faces. In 2015 putting pressure on Kirk Cousins made a huge difference in his effectiveness compared to when he had no pressure.

According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins’ passing offense was the fourth most effective in the NFL when Cousins was able to stand in the pocket unmolested (as calculated by FO’s DVOA metric; see the post for details). But the offensive DVOA dropped from 69.0 percent all the way down to minus-110 percent when he was under pressure. That drop of 179 percentage points was the second biggest among all quarterbacks who dropped back to pass at least 200 times last year. Brian Hoyer of the Texans had the biggest drop, 190 percentage points.

Fortunately for Cousins and the Redskins the quarterback wasn’t under pressure very often compared to the rest of the league. The pressure rate was 20.5 percent; only four quarterbacks faced pressure less often. As a result of the protection and his ability to get the ball out quickly Cousins was able to enjoy a very productive first season as a starter.

But there were still 119 pass plays out of 569 total (21 percent) where Cousins was under pressure and performing at a severe disadvantage. One of the knocks on Cousins has been his inability to make plays off schedule, when things break down. This stat reflects that to an extent, although it should be noted that both Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, two of the games most noted improvisers, also ranked in the bottom half of passing under pressure compared to not being under pressure. Still, it’s something that Cousins to work on.

The FO article accompanying the stats doesn’t go into every QB in detail but they do a paragraph on Cousins:
Opposing teams only managed to get pressure on Cousins 20.5 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in football, which certainly helped him put up a career year. Washington's weak schedule (25th-ranked by DVOA) also played a part in his drastic improvement, so it will be interesting to see whether Cousins can keep up his level of play against tougher competition.
That last sentence is particularly interesting and perhaps why the Redskins seem to be willing to gather another year’s worth of evidence before they decide how much they are willing to pay him on a long-term contract.

The more Cousins can close the gap between how he performs with and without pressure the better off he and the Redskins will be.

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Devin Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why

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Devin Hester deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why

Devin Hester officially announced his NFL retirement on Tuesday after 11 years as the most feared return specialist in NFL history. 

Hester who spent a majority of his career with the Bears and Falcons finished with 20 return touchdowns, the most in NFL history. His 14 punt return touchdowns is also an NFL record. Hester also returned a missed field goal for an 108-yard touchdown. He became just one of eight men to score a kick return touchdown in the Super Bowl. 

It wasn't just what he did, but how he did it, and that matters. Hester was explosively and entertaining, sometimes taking a route well longer than the official length of his return touchdown. Hester had the combination of speed and quickness you only see once in a generation. 

Devin Hester is worthy of a spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and Brian Mitchell is why.

Hester is the greatest return specialist in NFL history. But Mitchell is the best return specialist in NFL history.

RELATED: NEW 2018 NFL MOCK DRAFT

There's a difference too, between greatest and best. Hester was feared. He was revered. But nobody did it better than Mitchell. Nobody has ever fielded more returns than Mitchell (1,070), and nobody has ever compiled more return yards (19,013) than he. Only Hester has more career return touchdowns than Mitchell (13).

While Hester was boom-or-bust on many of his returns, Mitchell always got yardage. He averaged at least 10 yards per punt return in nine seasons and led the NFL in 1994 with 14.1 yards per punt return. He played in 223 of 224 possible games. Nobody did it better.

Mitchell has still yet to get the call from Canton, Ohio for enshrinement. Mitchell was a nominee for the 2017 class, but did not receive enough votes. But with Hester now officially on the clock for enshrinement, one things become clear: A return specialist will head to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. 

Hester will get his name called, and when he does, it will be because of Mitchell. Nobody did it better than Mitchell. The omission of Mitchell has been a contentious point recently, and if the Hall of Fame has not been able to add Mitchell to their hallowed halls, what would it take?

Devin Hester. That's what.

Hester had to do things pro football world had never seen before. He had to do truly great things. Things that you couldn't do in the Madden video games.

If the Hall of Fame has been reluctant to add Mitchell, only a player like Hester would be able to budge them off their archaic line.

Make no mistake about it: Brian Mitchell deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

So does Devin Hester, and when he makes it, he'll have B-Mitch to thank. 

 

 

 

 

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Jordan Reed's unsatisfying 2017 season has come to an official end

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USA Today Sports

Jordan Reed's unsatisfying 2017 season has come to an official end

The Redskins made a roster move that many have anticipated for the last few weeks.

The team announced that 2016 Pro Bowl tight end Jordan Reed, who has missed the last six games with a hamstring injury, has been placed on injured reserve. That ends a very disappointing season for the five-year veteran.

It seemed that Reed was never fully healthy all year. He was placed on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list with a toe injury when he reported to camp in late July. Reed remained on PUP until a week before the start of the regular season, when he was activated.

MORE REDSKINS: 11 SECONDS OF MOMENTUM

In six games, Reed’s production was running well below his career averages in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. He was averaging just 7.8 yards per catch after averaging 10.5 per reception prior to the season.

It seemed like he was on the verge of breaking out in Week 7 against the Eagles, when he caught eight passes for 64 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season. But the following week against the Cowboys he suffered the hamstring injury early in the game and he hasn’t played since.

Reed was close to returning a few weeks ago but he suffered a setback and he just couldn’t get the hamstring healthy enough to play. With the Redskins now officially out of playoff contention, the decision apparently was made to put him on the shelf and start getting him ready for next year.

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In other moves announced by the Redskins, they put RB Byron Marshall (hamstring) and LB Chris Carter (broken fibula) on IR. Both were injured during the loss to the Chargers on Sunday. Carter will have surgery and face a long rehab. Perhaps Marshall could return after a few weeks but the Redskins needed to get a third running back on the roster.

That running back is Kapri Bibbs, who has been on the Redskins’ practice squad. Also signed to the active roster were practice squad linebackers Pete Robertson and Otha Peters.

Added to the practice squad were LB Alex McCalister, RB Dare Ogunbowale, and S Orion Stewart.

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.