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Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Redskins Playbook: Looking at Kirk Cousins' Week 2 hits and misses

Kirk Cousins played better in Week 2 than he did in Week 1, but the quarterback still didn't play as well as he's proved capable in previous seasons. He finished the 27-20 win over the Rams by going 18 of 27 for 179 yards with a touchdown. Important for Cousins, after three turnovers in a Week 1 loss, he did not fumble or throw an interception in Los Angeles. 

RELATED: WEEK 2 NFL POWER RANKINGS

Digging deeper into the numbers, one trend has emerged: Cousins and the Redskins are not having much luck in the downfield passing game. Stats provided by Pro Football Focus.

  • This season, Cousins has not completed a pass longer than 20 yards in the air. Against the Eagles in Week 1, Cousins missed on five deep attempts. Against the Rams, Cousins didn't have a deep attempt. 
  • Not surprisingly, Cousins does much better when he's not under pressure. On the season, the Redskins passer is completing nearly 70 percent of his passes without pressure, and that number drops to just below 43 percent under pressure. 
  • Cousins took four sacks against the Eagles, but that number dropped in half against the Rams.
  • Against the Rams, Cousins found his greatest success throwing to his left. On attempts to his left side, he completed all five attempts. Throwing over the middle or to the right, he threw 19 passes and completed 13. Week 1 Cousins also found his best success throwing to his left. 

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In a muddled NFC, why not the Redskins?

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

In a muddled NFC, why not the Redskins?

That sound you hear could be a door opening for the 2017 Redskins.  

Aaron Rodgers is injured. The Cowboys were struggling with Zeke Elliott in the lineup and he may not play until after Thanksgiving. Seattle’s defense has been strong but their success could be limited by a weak offensive line. The Falcons are still haunted by blowing a huge lead in the Super Bowl.

The Eagles, who are the only one-loss team in the NFL, currently have the best record in the NFC and they are playing well. The Redskins get a shot at them Monday night. A win would put them in excellent shape.

The Redskins are one of eight NFC teams that have two losses. Of the others, the Packers could well be heading south without Rodgers behind center. The Redskins have beaten the Rams and they will get their shot at the Seahawks, Vikings, and Saints in the coming weeks. The other teams with two losses are the Falcons and Panthers. And the Redskins will get a chance to make the Eagles a two-loss team on Monday.

It is early in the season but not too early for the Redskins to take a look around and think about not only getting into the playoffs but doing some damage when they get there.

MORE REDSKINS: MUST-SEE PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS 26, 49ERS 24

They are a well-balanced and effective team on offense. This stat will shock many—The Redskins have just about as many rushing attempts as pass attempts. The play selection is 158 passes and 149 runs, a pass-run ratio of 51 percent to 49. Washington is sixth in the NFL in total offense and 11th in offensive DVOA.

Their defense is not dominant but it has improved. They have been fighting injuries; just when it looks like they may get Josh Norman back from a broken rib, Jonathan Allen goes out with a Lisfranc injury. They are 12th in total defense in terms of yards but they are fourth in defensive DVOA.

That doesn’t look like it adds up to a Super Bowl team but, as noted, it’s still early. The Redskins still have time to improve. Here is some low-hanging fruit they could grab over the next month.

Get another receiver or two involved in the offense—It’s kind of cool that running back Chris Thompson is leading the team in receiving yards with 340 and that 33-year-old tight end Vernon Davis is second with 225. But the Redskins’ offense could be much more productive if another pass-catcher can string together some big games. Between Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, and Jordan Reed, one or two could be on the verge of breaking out.

Get Rob Kelley healthy and rolling—The Redskins are continuing to run the ball despite the production not being where it needs to be. Kelley is averaging 4.5 yards per carry while replacement Samaje Perine is averaging just 3.0. If they can get the extra yard and a half per carry they get from Kelley for the rest of the season their offense will be very tough to stop.

RELATED: COUSINS' STRONG GAME GOES UNDER THE RADAR

Make some plays on special teams—Jamison Crowder is 24th among the 26 qualifying punt returners with an average of 5.0 yards. His longest return was 12 yards, the shortest longest return among qualifiers (if you can follow along with that). Tress Way is 25th in net punting average. He had a chance to make life very difficult on a rookie QB on Sunday but his punt with a minute left landed five yards deep in the end zone. Dustin Hopkins, who will be out Sunday, has missed both of his field goals from beyond 50 yards and he missed a PAT against the 49ers. Add it all up and their special teams DVOA is 24th in the league. They need to make something happen.

Shut down something—The Redskins are in the middle of the pack in both opponent net yards passing attempt with 5.9 and in opponent yards per rushing attempt at 4.0. Most good defenses take away one aspect of the offense and make the other team beat them with a predictable attack. I think that the Redskins can improve their passing defense when they get Josh Norman back.

Certainly, there are some other “ifs” involved for the Redskins to become legitimate NFC title game contenders. They start on Monday in Philadelphia. If they can go in and get a win, they would be no worse than tied in the loss column for the best record in the NFC. If they lose, they fall 2.5 games behind the Eagles with Philly holding the head-to-head sweep.

It's too early to start sorting out tiebreakins scenarios but it's clear that the opportunity is there for the Redskins’ taking, we’ll see if they can step up and grab it.

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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Need to Know: Cousins' strong game vs. 49ers goes under the radar

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Bob Youngentob for NBC Sports Washington

Need to Know: Cousins' strong game vs. 49ers goes under the radar

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, October 17, six days before the Washington Redskins visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night football.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: No media availability

Days until:

—Cowboys @ Redskins (10/29) 12
—Redskins @ Seahawks (11/5) 19
—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 37

Last look at Redskins vs. 49ers

—It’s gotten to a point where a Kirk Cousins game where he completes 67 percent of his passes for 330 yards, 8.9 yards per attempt, and two touchdowns as he did against the 49ers and it’s just another day, not worthy of any special note. But since 1990, a Redskins quarterback has had a line of at least 67 percent completions for 330 yards or more, 8.9 yards or more per attempt, and two or more touchdown passes just four times. Cousins did it earlier this year against the Raiders and he did it against the Packers last year. Brad Johnson also did it in 1999 against the 49ers. Add in the fact that Cousins led a fourth-quarter rally with two drives that produced 10 fourth-quarter points and that he scored the touchdown himself on a seven-yard read option run and you have a very good game that flew under the radar.

—The 49ers came into the game ranked 31st in third-down conversions on offense and on defense. The Redskins ensured that they will stay near the bottom. Washington hit on 50 percent of its third downs, converting seven of 14. Opponents had success on 47.4 percent coming into the game. Defensively the Redskins allowed six of 17, a 35.3 percent success rate, a little better than the 29.7 percent the Niners offense had going in. The 49ers converted just one of their first eight but after C.J. Beathard came in at quarterback they got rolling, converting five of their last nine.

I thought that Mack Brown might be more of a chance to run the ball with Rob Kelley out but that was before we knew that Chris Thompson was going to be the featured back. In fact, Thompson said that he didn’t know that his workload would go up until the night before the game. Back to Brown, he got two yards on two carries. He came in for a handoff on third and one in the second quarter. Perhaps he would have had a chance to do something but he got no blocking on the right side, particularly from tight ends Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed. His chance will have to wait for another day.

—Reed had a quiet day receiving with four catches for 37 yards. He confessed to not being 100 percent last week and his average of 7.9 yards per catch on the season speaks to something not being quite right. He did make a couple of key catches, though. After Thompson got tackled for a loss of nine yards on first down, Reed kept the drive alive with receptions good for 10 and 14 yards. That drive ended with Samaje Perine scoring on a three-yard pass reception for a touchdown to put the Redskins up 14-0. Still, it would be good to see Reed have a breakout game with something like seven receptions for 95 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

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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