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Five observations from the Redskins' loss to the Cardinals

Five observations from the Redskins' loss to the Cardinals

GLENDALE, AZ—Here are my five observations on Cardinals 31, Redskins 23:

—Jay Gruden said that the Redskins “underachieved” against the Cardinals today. He was right but he didn’t go far enough. At 6-5-1, the Redskins have underachieved all year. They have left points on the field with red zone and goal to go problems. With the talent they have on offense they already should have double-digit wins instead of fighting to stay above .500.

—I’m not going to forget the defense here. They have given up 31 points two weeks in a row. One of the touchdowns today came after a turnover so the Cardinals had only 10 yards to go but they did have a chance to get away with just a field goal but they couldn’t make a third-down stop. On their first drive the Cardinals converted on third and 11 and third and 12. That set the tone for a day on which Arizona converted 10 of 16 on third down. The D helped carry the team for a while in late September and in October but the unit is fading when it needs to be getting stronger.

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

—Kirk Cousins probably didn’t cost himself any money in a new contract today but he sure did get off to a bad start. He misfired to a few open receivers when he had time to throw. Some of these plays may have gone down as “drops” since the receiver got both hands on them but they could have been better passes that produced yards after the catch. After he got warmed up he hit on some nice passes, especially a 59-yard bomb to DeSean Jackson early in the second half to set up their first touchdown. But it wasn’t enough to overcome the tough start.

—Back to the defense, the Cardinals came into the game with two viable offensive weapons, RB David Johnson and WR Larry Fitzgerald. The Redskins knew that if they could stop those two the Cardinals would have a tough time scoring. But both made plays, particularly Johnson, who had 175 yards of total offense and had a touchdown rushing and one receiving. Not everyone is Bill Belichick but you have to be able to scheme to take away the team’s most obvious threat.

—The Redskins have lost two straight, the Buccaneers won against the Chargers so for the first time in a few weeks the Redskins are on the outside looking into the NFC playoff picture. That’s not where they want to be and there is a pretty good chance that they can return there next week with a win over the Eagles. But they need to play to their potential.

[MORE: BRIAN MITCHELL RIPS SOME PLAYERS' EFFORT]

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Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Landon Collins: 'You never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting'

Kirk Cousins started 57 games during six seasons with the Redskins and, well, um, it's hard to come up with one word to describe his time in Washington. 

There were certainly highs, none higher than the hot streak Cousins went on late in 2015 to capture an NFC East title. The Redskins closed that season on a four-game win streak where Cousins threw 12 touchdowns against just one interception. 

There were also lows. In Week 17 of 2016, the Redskins needed a win in the season finale to get in the playoffs while the Giants had already clinched the NFC East title. The Redskins had everything to play for, the Giants ended up resting a number of their starters. Still, the Redskins lost, and Cousins threw a dagger interception late in the game to seal their fate. For the game, Cousins finished with 287 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, but the pick to Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie was the season killer. 

The point here is not to drag Cousins. He was the most durable and most stable quarterback the Redskins have had in decades. He never got hurt, and while he turned the ball over, he could deliver downfield strikes and run the team's offense at all times. 

The point here is to say Cousins is not always the most consistent QB, and that's backed up by Redskins safety Landon Collins.

"Like I was with the Giants, you never know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're getting. Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins over there," Collins said on Monday.

Collins faced Cousins plenty of times when the safety played for the Giants, and New York found plenty of success against the quarterback. In nine career games against the Giants, all as QB of the Redskins, Cousins threw 12 interceptions. 

So when Collins talks about slowing Cousins down, it's not from a hypothetical place. 

"Pressure. Pressure. When I was with the Giants, I know we put a lot of pressure on him, put a lot of guys in his face, a lot of blitzes, lot of different systematic fronts and stuff like that, disguises," the Redskins safety said. 

Cousins will come into Thursday's game against the Redskins on fire. He's thrown 10 TDs against just one INT in the Vikings last three games, all wins. In Detroit on Sunday, Cousins went for more than 300 yards passing with four touchdowns and wasn't sacked once. 

"Right now he's playing like a Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins," Collins said. "We would say at the Giants, 'You don't know what kind of Kirk Cousins you're going to get.' Right now they're getting Pro Bowl Kirk Cousins, and he's playing at a high level right now."

At 1-6 the Redskins defense doesn't scare anybody. The team has had some success upfront, however, causing pressures and getting to passers. Washington has 16 sacks on the season and the front five has gotten things going after a very slow start.  

Cousins isn't unique. Pressure causes turnovers for defenses. Players on both side of the football know that, and that's what Collins want to see in Minnesota against Cousins.

"That's the biggest game plan: try to force him into mistakes. Right now he's playing at a high level, so it's going to be hard. He's playing against a lot of good teams and he's been going against a good defense. That's probably made his skill level and his play much better."

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Chris Thompson says confidence is a major factor in decision on whether or not to start Dwayne Haskins

Chris Thompson says confidence is a major factor in decision on whether or not to start Dwayne Haskins

After yet another Redskins' loss, the questions of when is Dwayne Haskins getting the starting spot? grow louder and louder.

Many question the rookie's readiness. Surely, putting Haskins in a game with a volatile offensive line would be detrimental to his confidence. For deciding when to put Haskins out there, should the possibility of shattering a young quarterback's confidence play a major role? Running back Chris Thompson says yes.

“Confidence is definitely everything. It’s everything," Thompson said on The Sports Junkies Monday. "For quarterbacks and young quarterbacks at that, young players period.”

Thompson said critics on social media and analysis on sports networks such as ESPN are inescapable and can have a larger influence on younger players.

“We can’t seem to stay away from it [social media] and on top of playing bad, which already messes you up,” Thompson said.

In the meantime, Thompson said the coaches are working with Haskins on preparing him for the future.

‘I think the coaches are really just trying to groom him and get him ready for the future and not really try to push him too much now," Thompson said.

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