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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

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Need to Know: Key to the game—Redskins need to slow Eagles' sack attack

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, October 14, two days before the Washington Redskins host the Philadelphia Eagles.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 12:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30 p.m.

Days until: Eagles @ Redskins 2; Redskins @ Lions 9; Redskins vs. Bengals in London 16

Around Redskins Park

Kirk Cousins has had success in his three career starts against the Eagles. The Redskins are 2-1 in those games and Cousins has thrown for an average of 360 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception and a passer rating of 105.1.

But those were different Eagles teams, especially defensively. It looks like defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has the Philly D going very well. They have gone from the middle of the pack in terms of pass defense to near the top of the heap.

There are many reasons why the Eagles are better against the pass but you really don’t need to look much further than their pass rush. Pass defense starts with pass pressure and the Eagles are one of two teams in the league who have sacked the quarterback on more than 10 percent of opponents’ pass attempts. The scary part for the Redskins is that they didn’t have one big game that inflated their pass rush stats. They have 14 sacks in four games and have three sacks in each of two games and four in each of the other two.

Fortunately for the Redskins, keeping Cousins upright is one of the strengths of the offense. They are third in the NFL when it comes to pass protection, allowing sacks on just 4.0 percent of pass plays. Part of this is an offensive line that is built for pass protection and part is Cousins’ ability to get rid of the ball quickly.

The line that will start on Sunday has been charged with just four sacks in five games, per Pro Football Focus. Morgan Moses has two on his ledger and Shawn Lauvao and Trent Williams have one each. Spencer Long has started two games and played half of a third and has not allowed a sack while Brandon Scherff has played every snap this year and has zero sacks.

It should be noted here that the Redskins have not faced the toughest of pass rushes so far this year. The highest ranked team in defensive sack percentage they have faced is the Ravens, who are 16th. They have also faced the Cowboys (21st), Browns (27th), Steelers (29th), and Giants (32nd). (Yes, Redskins fans are allowed to snicker at the non-performance of the Giants defense after they loaded up on free agents in the spring.)

One thing that Cousins needs to be careful of is ball protection. The Eagles have recovered four fumbles this year and three of them have come on sack and strip plays.

The key matchups will come on the offensive left side, the quarterback’s blind side. Half of the Eagles’ 14 sacks have come left DE Brandon Graham (3 sacks) and left DT Fletcher Cox (4). They likely will more around and stunt some so LT Williams and LG Lauvao will have their hands full.

I think that they key number here is three. If Philly gets fewer than three sacks of Cousins the Redskins have a good chance of winning. If they get more than three the home team probably is in trouble.

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In case you missed it

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As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

As injuries linger at WR, Jay Gruden believes a trade might help Redskins

The Dallas Cowboys traded for Amari Cooper on Monday, and with that, alarms go off around the NFL that it's wheeling and dealing season. The trade deadline hits in one week, and for teams looking to bolster their squad before the second half of the year, it's time to see what areas could improve. 

For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, the injury situation at wide receiver means that his team could use help at the position. 

"We could probably use one more there if we could," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast. 

Asked if there was one area the team could bolster via trade, the coach explained that if wideouts Jamison Crowder or Paul Richardson could come back from injury right away, the Redskins would have no need to trade for another receiver. Unfortunately for the Redskins, neither injury situation is very clear, and some reports show that Crowder could miss a few more weeks working back from an ankle injury. 

"I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what [Michael] Floyd’s done coming in here," Gruden said. 

Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.

While the Cowboys struck first in the receiver trade market, more players remain reportedly available, including Broncos WR Demaryius Thomas and Dolphins WR DeVante Parker. 

Thomas is a five-time Pro Bowler in Denver, but at 30 years old and with some trade value, it makes sense for John Elway to consider his market. The Broncos are 3-4 and have an underperforming offense. 

Parker was a first-round pick in 2015 but has not had a 1,000-yard season in Miami. Making matters more complicated, Parker's agent Jimmy Gould called Dolphins head coach Adam Gase "incompetent" to a host of different media outlets. Parker has only been active twice this season though he contends health is not an issue. 

Gruden remains confident that 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson will get going, and he is a similar big target as Thomas and Parker. Should Richardson miss significant time, the Redskins would lack a true speed threat.

There's certainly no clear indication that Washington will make a move before the NFL trade deadline, but as things stand now with injuries, there is a need. Remember, too, the Redskins are long on 2019 draft picks with 10 selections in seven rounds.



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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

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A day after loss to Redskins, Cowboys trade for Raiders WR Amari Cooper

The Dallas Cowboys are in desperate need of a playmaking wide receiver. The lack of talent at wide receiver has been evident throughout the first seven weeks of the 2018 NFL season, with wide receivers accounting for just five of the Cowboys' eight passing touchdowns.

Following the 20-17 loss to the Redskins on Sunday, the Cowboys decided to make a quick fix, trading a 2019 first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders in exchange for star wide receiver Amari Cooper, according to multiple reports.

Cooper, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has just 22 catches for 280 yards and one touchdown in the first six games. The former Alabama star had an equally disappointing 2017 campaign and has grown frustrated with his role in John Gruden's new regime.

Cooper will instantly become the Cowboys best deep threat and will allow Cole Beasley to shine both in the slot and spread out wide. Beasley leads the Cowboys with 33 receptions for 350 yards and two touchdowns.

Rookie Michael Gallup, who scored the Cowboys' only passing touchdown against the Redskins, has the second most targets among Dallas receivers, hauling in 10 of his 22 targets for 190 yards. Tight end Geoff Swaim has 19 catches for 205 yards and running back Ezekiel Elliott has 25 catches for 175 yards.

Prescott is averaging just 202.2 passing yards per game, and while Cooper may not be a true top-tier wide receiver, he is the next best thing and will allow the offense to be more dynamic in its play-calling.

Cooper will make an estimated $13.9 million in base salary in 2019, meaning the Cowboys will have to pay a pretty penny to keep him.

The move makes it clear that the Raiders are shifting toward a full rebuild. It also shows that Dallas understands it didn't have enough firepower to compete for a divisional title.

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