The Redskins are in a third-down slump on offense.
Converting on third downs was one of their strong points the first nine games of the season. They got first downs on 56 of their 125 third-down plays (44.8 percent). They were at 50 percent or better in four games and they didn’t have a game where they converted less than a third of their third downs. The performance was a remarkable turnaround from their performance in 2014, when they converted just 31.5 percent of their third downs.
But the last couple of weeks they have been taking a trip down memory lane to last year. Against the Panthers they were two for nine on third down and in the Giants game they were four of 15. Add it up and you get a six for 24 conversion rate, which is 25 percent.
A significant part of the third-down problem has been first and second downs. In the first nine games they had an average of 6.1 yards to go on third downs. The last two games the average distance to cover has been 7.2 yards. That’s not a huge difference but it is significant.
Kirk Cousins and the passing game have not been as efficient on third down lately as they were earlier. In the first nine games, Cousins completed almost 70 percent of his third-down passes with a 95.5 passer rating. The last two games Cousins has completed just 58 percent of his third down passes and has a passer rating of 46.2.
“We’re concerned about it,” Jay Gruden said when asked about the recent third-down struggles. “We have high standards for our third-down offense. We were pretty efficient there for a while. In the last two weeks we have been down. There are a couple reasons for that. We just have to put our finger on them and make sure we get the corrections made and try to get better at it because those are key, key elements of our success is converting third downs to enable us to keep drives going, keep our defense fresh, maintain the time of possession that we like. That is something we have to continue to work on.”
Perhaps it’s just a two-game blip and they can get it going again. The Cowboys aren’t a very good defense overall but they do rank seventh in the NFL in third-down defense so it will be a challenge to get things going again.