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Is the Redskins' pass protection slipping?

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Is the Redskins' pass protection slipping?

Things are looking up for the 2017 Redskins in many ways. They are in the top half of the league in many key statistical categories. But there is one key area where they excelled last year that needs some work in 2017.

Kirk Cousins has been sacked seven times in Washington’s three games. That’s not a huge number but if you look at it in context there is some reason for concern.

Last year through three games, Cousins had been sacked four times. The difference between last year and this season is worse when you look at the number of pass attempts. Last year through the first three games Cousins had 125 pass attempts. Doing the math, he had been sacked on 3.2 percent of his pass plays.

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This year, Cousins has thrown 97 passes, making the sack rate 6.7 percent. That’s 16th in the NFL. They were the fourth best in the league in 2016

If you project the numbers out over a full year, you can see that this could become an issue for the Redskins. Last year, Cousins attempted 607 passes and he was sacked 23 times. If you project the 2017 numbers out over 16 games, Cousins would throw 517 passes and get sacked 37 times.

That is not a recipe for success in this offense. Although they occasionally have been successful in getting some first downs from behind the chains, working from second and 18 after a sack a few times a game will lead to more punts than sustained drives. And while Cousins has never missed a snap due to injury, the more he gets hit the higher the risk of that streak ending.

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Yes, we have a relatively small sample size here. This is more in the category of something to keep an eye on than it is a cause for high concern.

Still, preventing sacks is an area where the Redskins have been among the best in the league the last two years (they were fifth with a sack rate of 4.6 percent in 2015) and it’s no coincidence that they have enjoyed some success in those two seasons.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

Though the refs did, the Redskins saw nothing wrong with Clay Matthews' hit on Alex Smith

A few years ago, the hit would've been celebrated. Last year, it would've gone down as a drive-ending sack.

But in 2018, with the NFL's new emphasis on defenders not being able to fall on quarterbacks with a lot of force, Clay Matthews' very normal-looking third quarter takedown of Alex Smith was ruled roughing the passer.

As a result, the Redskins got to stay on the field. And for the second week in a row, Matthews found himself at the center of a very controversial call.

"Unfortunately, this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't like and I think they're getting soft," the veteran said after Washington's 31-17 win over Green Bay. "I've been playing this game for over 20 years and that's how you tackle."

Matthews has a point. In a sport that's concerned about dirty or dangerous collisions, this looks like a flawless hit:

But the roughing the passer flag was tossed not because of where Matthews hit Smith or when he hit him. The issue, in the eyes of the officials, is the way he finished the sequence.

"I had judged that the defender landed on the quarterback when he was tackling him with most or all of his body weight and that's not allowed," referre Craig Wrolstad said following the contest. "That was basically my key, that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight."

The person on the not-so-fun end of the exchange had no problem with it, though.

"It's tough," Smith said during his time at the FedEx Field podium. "I'm glad I don't play defense... I felt like he’s playing football. He’s played a long time. He hit me right in the strike zone."

Smith wasn't the only 'Skin to speak out in support of Matthews, either.

"What else do you want the man to do?" Josh Norman (who actually has the same agent as Matthews) asked reporters in the home locker room. "Like, seriously, what else do you want the man to do? "

"When I saw it, there was no malicious, ill intent," Norman continued. "I understand the rules of the situation, but at the same time, it sucks being a defender now. They hit your pockets and then they hit you for a penalty."

The NFL is clearly trying to make itself safer, which is both smart and necessary. But its approach in how its doing so has been confusing in a few critical areas, and this part of roughing the passer enforcement has temporarily surpassed the catch rule and the helmet rule as the most muddled of them all.

After all, when the QB and other opponents have no complaints about a tackle but the refs and the wording of the rule do, there's a disconnect. One that should be addressed.

"I think there's some gray area here with this that needs to be ironed out," Smith observed.  

For a signal caller who was accurate for much of the afternoon, that statement might've been the most on-point part of his day.

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Trent Williams to undergo 'minor' surgery, expected to play in Week 5

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Trent Williams to undergo 'minor' surgery, expected to play in Week 5

Following an offseason procedure on his right knee, Trent Williams looked back and better than ever during Redskins' OTAs prior to the start of this season. However, we have now learned that Williams' knee has been bothering him despite the successful offseason surgery.

According to ABC 7's Erin Hawksworth, Trent Williams will be undergoing a 'minor procedure' on his right knee Monday.

The procedure is believed to be a 'clean up,' to ensure Williams' knee has held up post-surgery.

With Week 4 being an early bye-week for the Redskins, Williams has a little extra time to recover before his anticipated return during Week 5 vs. the New Orleans Saints.

The 30-year-old is in his ninth season with the Redskins and has been selected to the Pro Bowl six times. 

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