By Kevin Ross II
It’s tough for some to process this mentally, but Kirk Cousins was the best passer in the NFC last week. Period.
Cousins outperformed the likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton, and Elisha Manning as he was later named the NFC Offensive player of the week. Cousins single-handedly built the coffin that Robert Griffin’s career in DC will rest in. But more importantly for Kirk, his performance may have solidified him as the team’s quarterback of the future.
It would be in the best interest of the franchise to sign Kirk Cousins today, to an extension that would keep him around for the next 2-3 years at minimum. There are two obvious reasons behind this logic : 1) The way things are shaping up Kirk’s play is only going to improve this season, thus increasing his market if he becomes a free agent 2) He is far from his ceiling as a passer and he has the potential to be a top 10 quarterback.
Kirk’s play is only going to improve this season thus increasing his market value.
Against Tampa Bay, Kirk Cousins set a franchise record for pass completions, as he connected on 33 passes. This was done without two starting offensive lineman and his most dynamic weapon on offense, DeSean Jackson. When Jackson makes his return, the Redskins offense under Cousins could potentially raise havoc on the remaining teams on their schedule.
Jackson’s availability would immediately improve the run game as teams are less likely to crowd the box and leave Jackson with one-on-one coverage. An improved run game would lead to more effective play action passing, and in-general, would open things up even more for Cousins. To make it plain, Cousins is beginning to make a league wide stir, and is winning awards even without his best receiver. His play can only increase with Jackson.
Looking at the statistics right now, Cousins is ranked 13th in passing yards with 1,737, and he has done this without any form of a deep threat. If Jackson is available for the remainder of the season, Kirk will finish the season ranked in the top 10 for passing yards. So if you are the general manager of the Texans, Browns, Eagles, Rams, and 49ers, Kirk Cousins might be very attractive. The last thing that Scot McCloughan wants is a bidding war for a quarterback that he could have signed during the season.
He is far from his ceiling as a passer.
Right now, only three starting quarterbacks complete a higher percentage of their passes than Washington’s Kirk Cousins : Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, and Russell Wilson. Kirk connects on 68.7 percent of the passes he throws, which is a testament to his throwing accuracy but also his pre-snap reads. Cousins is known to be intense in the film room, and is very analytical in his approach to the game. On Sundays, he’s able to use his hours of film room study to dissect the defense before the ball is snapped, and pre-determine his opponents’ weak spots. This allows Kirk to quickly pass the ball, as he has already determined the best receiver to hit.
As a result, Cousins has only been sacked eight times and only two other starting quarterbacks have done a better job at avoiding sacks: Andy Dalton and Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a great feat to have as sacks are momentum killers and drive enders. However, more importantly, getting rid of the ball quickly and not taking hits and sacks significantly reduces a quarterback’s injury rate, which is key for franchise quarterbacks. This is a part of Kirk’s game which he has mastered. But it also shines the light on what may be the weakest part of his game.
At this point of his career, Kirk trusts his pre-snap reads to a fault. And if the defense shows one look but quickly changes their coverage and blitz schemes after the ball is snapped, Cousins is beyond lost. He can no longer depend on his pre-snap observations and he must now read the defense live. He has struggled at this part of his game, and this is why we see the high interception totals. Improving this aspect of quarterbacking only comes with time, reps, and coaching. Meaning that as good as Cousins has been, he still has a lot of room for improvement – he’s not close to his ceiling. Cousins is worth the gamble, because if he’s able to improve this portion of his game, then he’s a top 10 passer hands down.
Scot McCloughan has shown the propensity to ignore public outcry and to do exactly what’s in the best interest of the Redskins. And right now, that would be to extend Mr. Cousins.
Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.