ASHBURN, Va. — A year after so much success in the red zone, Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins are about as bad as it gets in the NFL from inside the 20 right now.
Heading into Sunday’s game against the visiting Cleveland Browns, the Redskins (1-2) rank 31st out of 32 teams in turning red-zone possessions into touchdowns, going just 3 for 14 so far — a success rate of 21 percent.
That includes an 0-for-4 showing last week during what Washington managed to turn into a 29-27 victory over the NFC East rival New York Giants.
“That is an emphasis of ours,” left tackle Trent Williams said Wednesday, “and we’re going to continue to work the kinks out.”
Last season, when the Redskins went 9-7 and made the playoffs by winning their division, Cousins led the team to TDs on 58 percent of their red-zone chances, which ranked 11th in the league.
“Any time we get close, we’ve got to make plays, that’s all. Regardless of what we call, it’s about executing it. Each individual has to hold himself to a higher standard and try to change what’s been happening,” receiver DeSean Jackson said.
“Field goals are good to put points on the board, but instead of having three points, we would rather have six.”
A lot of last season’s success came via passes to tight end Jordan Reed, a route-running marvel with size and speed who proved to be pretty much impossible for foes to cover 1-on-1.
Especially down close near the end zone, Cousins always seemed to be able to rely on finding Reed in a favorable matchup, they connected for 11 TD passes.
This season? Zero.
One reason: Teams are sometimes using two defenders against Reed in the red zone, and the Redskins aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities that creates for other members of the offense.
“There is a combination of things that make it go astray, but he has to be a big part of the red zone moving forward,” coach Jay Gruden said. “But if he does get doubled, someone else has to win.”
So what else is at the root of the red zone woes?
For one thing, save for the late drive that led to the go-ahead points against the Giants, the running game has been almost non-existent.
The Redskins average 19.7 rushes per game, 29th-most in the NFL, and gain only 3.8 yards per carry. So that limits their options down near the end zone.
For another, the play-calling has been questionable at times, particularly when the Redskins repeatedly tried — and repeatedly failed — to complete fade routes for scores in a Week 2 loss to Dallas.
Cousins hasn’t always been at his best in these situations. He threw an interception on third-and-goal at the 6 in the fourth quarter against the Cowboys. There was the wasted opportunity at the end of the second quarter against New York, when Washington left a timeout in its pocket and let the clock run out.
And so on.
“What’s, I guess, comforting, but also troubling, is that we were so productive in the red zone last year, so we know we can do it,” Cousins said. “We know we should be doing it. And when it’s not happening, that’s when you feel like, ‘We’ve got to be better, because we can be.'”
Notes: Jackson (knee and ankle), CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle), LG Shawn Lauvao (ankle), WR Josh Doctson (Achilles), and DB Dashaun Phillips (hamstring) all missed practice Wednesday. Jackson said: “I should be ready to go by the end of the week.” … Gruden described himself as “very, very” concerned about Doctson’s inability to play last Sunday and continued Achilles issues. “We’ve had all of the tests and there is really nothing there that we should be concerned about from a long-term problem, it’s just he is dealing with some pain,” Gruden said. “We don’t know why it is, but we have to try and figure out what it is and get it fixed.” … K Dustin Hopkins was picked as NFC special teams player of the week after tying a team record by making five field goals against the Giants. He is 11 for 11 on field-goal attempts this season and has made 15 in a row going back to last season.
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