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Play of the day: Cousins performing under a pass rush

Jul 29, 2016, 12:13 PM EDT

Cousins passing camp 2016 USAT

RICHMOND—During 11-on-11 drills on Thursday, Ryan Kerrigan was wearing out the offensive line. On one pass play he got into the backfield and chased Kirk Cousins out of the pocket to the quarterback’s right side. Cousins kept his eyes downfield and spotted DeSean Jackson running near the sideline. He threw on the run and dropped the pass in between defenders to Jackson, who got both feet in before stepping out of bounds.

It was just one play on the first day of training camp during a practice without pads but there was some significance because it represented an area where Cousins struggled last year. When he had time to throw he was very effective. According to Football Outsiders, Cousins and the Redskins had the fourth most efficient offense in the NFL when the quarterback had time to throw. But when he was pressured Cousins’ efficiency dropped to 35 among the 37 quarterbacks who had at least 200 pass plays.

All quarterbacks are less efficient when they are rushed. But the ability to minimize the difficulties caused by the rush and to be able to make off-schedule plays is one thing that separates the good quarterbacks from the great ones.

That is not always the case. Jay Cutler was the quarterback who performed the best when under pressure last year and I don’t think anyone calls him great, or even very good. But when you see others in the top 10 such as Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, and Russell Wilson you can conclude that there is at least a loose correlation between remaining efficient in the face of the rush and having recognition as one of the best in the game.

That is where Cousins wants to be. He may never be great when under pass rush pressure but if he can improve to somewhere in the middle of the pack he can build off of his efficiency when he has time to throw and turn into a very good quarterback.

That process starts in practice with plays like the pass to Jackson. It is something to keep an eye on as training camp and the preseason unfold.

  1. skinsdiehard - Jul 29, 2016 at 12:27 PM

    Good points all of them. Cousins is just not that fast, so it hinders him. Brady and Roethlisberger are not fast either but have better feel and recognition than Cousins. I don’t know if practice will get Cousins close to their level. They just have more talent. However, I do believe Cousins can be a better QB than Mark Rypien who won a SB for us. Keep building the defense and he will have a chance for a SB win, especially if Rypien could do it.

    • redskins12thman - Jul 29, 2016 at 12:41 PM

      Agreed great points and observation. I do hope Cousins’ performance improves, including completing more passes and not turning the ball over, when he is under pressure.

      Hopefully, Cousins will also begin to recognize what the defense will do and call audibles which will hopefully result in offensive plays that combat what the defense wants to do. I know that Eli Manning and Aaron Rodgers are good at reading the defense and can dump the ball off for short passes that result in 3-7 yard gains.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 29, 2016 at 1:03 PM

      I don’t know that speed has much to do with it. RG3 was one of the fastest QBs in league history and he got sacked a ton. Marcus Marriota, fast, and got sacked like crazy last year. Russell Wilson was getting sacked and a crazy rate last year. So was Aaron Rogers and Andrew Luck (who are both very mobile). I know the offensive line has a lot to do with this, and I know we’re talking about performance under pressure, and not sacks. But I’m trying to say that slower QBs get pressured and do just fine too.

      It’s really more about poise, understanding the offense, and knowing what the defense is doing. If we’re talking about rolling to the right, then arm strength too. For example: if a defense is in a cover 2 and Cousins is flushed to his right on a blitz. He should know, without thinking, that there’s probably a coverage hole in the middle of the field and should immediately look for his receiver there or check down. The defense also probably shifted to cover the entire right side of the field but left a hole between this sideline and numbers on the left becuse that’s a difficult throw. So hit crowder in the middle or your check down in the flat. That way he doesn’t have to throw across his body to the left side of the field and he’s not throwing into double coverage on the right.

      Now, the Aaron Rogers can make that left sideline throw. But there’s also been great QBs who couldn’t. The thing about a statue like Peyton or Brady is that they know exactly where their receivers will be and what the defense is doing. So they have confidence to stare down pressure and deliver the ball. Coaches may not be able to teach poise, but QBs can gain confidence and perform better under pressure. Which includes getting the ball out fast. That’s more important than speed.

      • redskins12thman - Jul 29, 2016 at 6:49 PM

        I think it is decision making speed. RGIII was very fleet-of-foot but he would hold onto the ball for a long time (relative to other QBs); that’s one of the reasons he got sacked so much.

        • Trey Gregory - Jul 30, 2016 at 3:17 PM

          Yeah that’s basically what I was trying to say. Guys will get caught if they don’t get rid of the ball. And a statue can avoid a sack if he gets it out fast. A lot of that is understanding what the defense is going and understanding the offense. That comes with experience. Speed helps, but it’s not necessary. And it’s not more important than poise and understanding the game.

          One thing about RG3. He was fantastic at scrambling and avoiding pressure in 2012. I remember watching him get flushed to the left, dance around, then roll back right and throw the ball. The defense had like 5 times to grab him but couldn’t. I remember saying “he will never get enough credit for plays like that.” Because they don’t show up on the highlights. But then that stopped after 2012. I believe partially because he lost confidence, poise, and didn’t understand the new offense. He was very familiar and confident in the 2012 offense. He knew how to execute it. He was lost in a more pro style offense. Thst led to sacks despite all his speed. And he was still plenty fast after that injury.

    • jvdrock - Jul 29, 2016 at 6:44 PM

      I think Cousins is a much better athlete than you give him credit for. A lot of plays that breakdown can be successful when the QB and his receivers have an understanding of what they like to do. Jackson is particularly good at this. This is Kirk’s first full preseason as the starter so those reps in OTA’s and this preseason will go along way towards that comfort level.

      • Trey Gregory - Jul 29, 2016 at 6:49 PM

        Who said Cousins is a bad athlete? Someone said he’s not as fast as some other guys. And that’s true. It’s an indisputable fact.

  2. skinsdiehard - Jul 29, 2016 at 12:47 PM

    Rypien had top-notch protection but still never completed 60% of his passes nor threw for a lot TD’s. In 1990 and 1991, he was sacked only 6 and 7 times respectively. He had one of the best WR corps of all time, so someone had to be open but he couldn’t find them.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 29, 2016 at 1:06 PM

      That was a little bit of a different era too though. QBs must be able to do those things well these days. Every now and then there might be an anomaly like the 2015 Broncos. But generally speaking, the good teams will have good QBs.

  3. Mulagenne - Jul 29, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    Cousins will be fine without having to look over shoulders. That’s what was his main concern and him getting used to pressure and making throws will come with experience. It’s actually good he didn’t try and make those throws because we remember a year or two back he would try and get picked.

    As long as his recievers communicate with him after plays they will be fine. Me personally it’s about the defense looking good in preseason and when the season start they collapse in the fourth quarter. So defense is a huge factor if they are gonna make the playoffs this year and not Cousins because he has shown putting up points is what he likes to do. Defense, Defense, Defense and even more Defense!

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 29, 2016 at 6:47 PM

      I think every QB, scratch that, every single player and coach on every teams likes putting up points.

  4. Trey Gregory - Jul 29, 2016 at 2:37 PM

    Rich: can you tell us how far Cousins threw the ball? I’m assuming it was on the right sideline?

    I have to wonder if Cousins is actually improving here or if he just looked better because he knew it was practice. And someone wasn’t actually coming to take his head off. But it’s still good to hear. Especially if it was a realitivly deep pass outside the numbers. That’s not an easy throw.

  5. Luke - Jul 29, 2016 at 4:33 PM

    I call Jay Cutler great. Just not on the best team

    • bangkokben - Jul 31, 2016 at 5:17 PM

      Unless you’re a relative, this has to be sarcastic.

      • Trey Gregory - Jul 31, 2016 at 7:54 PM

        I actually think Cutler is better than he gets credit for. But not great. There’s about 12-15 QBs I would take over him. That doesn’t put him in great territory. But I think this Washington team could do well with him.

        • bangkokben - Jul 31, 2016 at 8:02 PM

          I think Cutler’s reputation is well earned. He made a pro-bowl once as an alternate with a Shanahan offense that puts up a ton of yards and QB’d a Bears team with Briggs and Urlacher to an NFC championship appearance. Without that he is Jeff George. How many seasons did he have Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Matt Forte? I think every year there are at least 15 QBs that give every NFL team a better chance to win. Average is fine unless you have the arm talent Cutler has. Then it is a waste.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 1, 2016 at 7:04 PM

          I think Cutler only had all three of those players at the same time for one season. Maybe two. And even then, injuries took them away for large chunks of time. There was a point where Forte was almost literally the offense for that team. They had no other real threats. They’ve also had some pretty horrendous OLine play. But most of all, it’s been a rotating door of coaches, particularly his offensive coordinators. Even very good QBs need consistency in an offense to really play well. The best will overcome, but not be as good. Guys below that are significantly handicapped if they’re constantly rotating systems and coaches.

          It all depends on where you personally see Cutler for me to say that he’s better than you give him credit for. But I know people who think he’s worthless. Just terrible. That’s not true. He’s not great, but he’s not terrible. He does have an amazing arm, plays with poise, and is tough. Get him some consistency for a couple years and I think he can be a low top 10 QB. But overall he’s been about average for his career. Which is different than terrible.

        • bangkokben - Aug 1, 2016 at 8:13 PM

          He’s never been any where close to the top ten (within 10%) and there’s little reason to believe he’ll get there in his career. He likely has five years left so if he gets there it’s just before he retires which is fine but also a product of the inevitable retirement of those QB’s older than him: Brees, Palmer, Romo, Brady, Manning, and Rivers to name a few.

          He’s average. Nothing more and the reason there is all the hyperbolic negativity is how long the league’s media and his fans have tried to sell him as the next thing.

          Your rationale of having multiple coordinators is valid for his lack of consistency but also a product of who Cutler is — a coach killer. (After success in 2010, he and Mike Martz couldn’t get along and Lovie Smith was forced to fire Martz the following year.) Marc Tressman fixed Cutler…uh, no he didn’t. Adam Gase fixes Cutler and gets hired as a head coach. As for that lack of consistency, after ten years you are who you are and if you ask me (and maybe Brandon Marshall who played 37 games with Cutler in Denver and 39 games in Chicago), I’ll take Ryan Fitzpatrick and his noodle arm over Cutler and his constant belief that his arm will bail him out.

        • redskins12thman - Jul 31, 2016 at 9:16 PM

          I’d much rather have Cousins (as QB) over Cutler.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 1, 2016 at 6:57 PM

          I never said I would rather have Cutler than Cousins. Just that I think Cutler is better than a lot of fans give him credit for (maybe no one here, but other people I’ve heard) and that this team could win with Cutler.

  6. Jajuan Dinkins - Jul 29, 2016 at 5:03 PM


    • Rich Tandler - Jul 29, 2016 at 5:17 PM

      Your first comment here and that’s what you’re going with.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Aug 1, 2016 at 4:57 PM

        HAHAHAHA well I guess points for honesty… but why the hate? If he comes out and lights it up you still gonna hate him?

  7. Abetoir - Jul 29, 2016 at 8:07 PM

    I don’t understand why a lot of people bad talk Cousins. I was really happy when he got drafted, and I feel he is a great athlete. College champion at MSU, pretty sure he set some records there too, sure he was a later pick and was in RG 3’s shadow, remember when he came in and won games that had to be won to get into the playoffs. I think he has tremendous upside, and he continues to improve. I think he will be a great quarterback for some time and I hope it’s with us.

    • Trey Gregory - Jul 30, 2016 at 2:12 AM

      Well, people like to be contrarians. And Washington fans have a bizarre schism from the RG3 vs Cousins days. Some people drew their line and won’t back off from hating Cousins even though RG3 is gone. Other people also have completely unrealistic expectations. If a QB isn’t as good as Rogers or Brady then they automatically suck. There’s no room for improvement.

      Basically, there’s a ton of idiots out there. That’s why.

    • redskins12thman - Jul 31, 2016 at 9:26 PM

      In hindsight, the drafting of Cousins turned out to be a very shrewd move by the Redskins, one that was heavily criticized by pundits at the time it was done. The Redskins gave up a lot to get RGIII, costly from that standpoint, but not sure what the Rams did with all of them. We could use Aaron Donald but I’m unsure if he was obtained with one of our picks or that of the Rams.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Aug 1, 2016 at 5:06 PM

        Call me the most confused pundit at the time of the draft. We had glaring O-line needs… (still have them not as glaring now though) and we draft another QB?!?! I remember my friend ran out the shower at LA Fitness like “Did you see we drafted another QB?!?! WTF are they doing” We rolled our eyes the whole way home.. that stopped during the preseason when Kirk played well. That subsided a lot when he came in for RGIII and threw that strike of a TD to Moss. Then played well vs the Eagles. I remember being in the car with that same friend having the Me:”well Kirk was a good insurance plan” Him:”Would we have needed an insurance plan if we had drafted a lineman” Me: “yeah, RGIII was hurt on a running play nothing any o linemen can do there” Him:”You think Shanny knew this was gonna happen?” Me: “you think you slick holding that blunt don’t you” Haaa good times.

  8. lezziemcdykerson - Aug 1, 2016 at 5:17 PM

    I wonder what Kirk showed last off season that Gruden didn’t see that first off season. Yes, I know being a first time head coach and new to the franchise he probably most certainly couldnt just bench RGIII. Especially since he sold himself as being a QB guru. I’m just saying how did this happen? Why did it happen this way? I can’t help but feel that if we had made the decision to go with Kirk earlier in camp and gave him a real off season we might not even be having this “pay him, vs tag him” debate. Even declaring that there would be open competition would’ve helped, at least then he would’ve been getting first team reps. We demoted him to third string anyway so we could’ve traded him during camp or early in the season B more had a QB go down early. Cleveland did as well though they did have good johnny in the mix at the time. Just can’t help but think we could’ve handled this much better.

    • Trey Gregory - Aug 1, 2016 at 6:55 PM

      Everything that happened with RG3 could have been handled better from the second they drafted him. There could seriously be a book about all the mistakes made during his tenure in Washington.

      I don’t personally blame Gruden too much for last offseason though. None of us know for sure, but I have the feeling it wasn’t completely his decision. I think Gruden made a lot of mistakes his first year, and grew a lot in his second. Maybe that did have something to do with it. I just find it more likely that Dan and Bruce wanted to prove they didn’t make a colossal mistake with RG3 and forced the issue.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Aug 1, 2016 at 8:58 PM

        I can see how it came off as me placing the onus on Gruden but I meant as the organizational decision. Clearly Gruden is the talent evaluator, him and Scot, so probably a lot of respect for those opinions in the clubhouse. All of last off season was just… we should’ve put Robert on the trading bloc instead of relegating him to third string. That wasn’t fair to either sides. When did Flacco get injured? Geno got hurt in camp he could’ve went there and been a number three. Scot might still have ties to the niners organization they wouldn’t have even had to change their offense to accommodate him. The Browns halfway into the season were having QB problems. There was a market for him, in season injuries make every one desperate. What did we end up with? Nothing really. A buncha picks for 2017. Late round picks at that. Scot wanted 10-12 picks this year right? We could’ve gotten 2-3 for a HEALTHY (well.. relatively he just came off of a concussion) RGIII. I just hope Kirk plays well this year so this saga can end.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 2, 2016 at 2:39 AM

          I understand the frustration about coming away with nothing for RG3. I’m as mad as any fan on how it all went down. And in reality I have no clue what actually went on behind the scenes. But I think they were open to trading him, just no offers came in. McCloughan was quoted in the season as saying they hadn’t received a single call about RG3. And we can speculate for two good reasons.

          1) Because they exercised his 5th year option. So any team that traded for him would have to give up a pick AND pay him $15 mil in 2016, which was guaranteed for injury. At the same time, that’s giving away a pick for an expensive one year rental. No guarantee he resigns with the team. Why do that when you know, in all likelihood, you can grab him off the free agent market in a few months? For zero draft picks?

          2) Because nobody was really interested. Not enough to trade anything. Some fans are really upset we exercised that 5th year option because they think we could have recouped some draft picks if we didn’t. I personally doubt it. RG3 played poorly, really poorly, in 2013, 2014, and the 2015 pre season. I don’t think teams were champing at the bit to trade away a draft pick for him. The evidence of this is the interest (or lack there of) that he received in free agency. When it cost teams nothing, they didn’t even have him in for a workout. Only one team showed him any interest and they had Manziel and Hoyer to deal with last year.

          I think that’s just reality. Gruden and McCloughan probably wanted to cut him but Snyder wouldn’t have it. Seriously, there were reports about that. Annonomous reports, but it’s more than a theory I came up with. Snyder would have been OK with a trade but he wasn’t going to send his boy to the unemployment office. I’m not even sure we could have gotten a 7th for him. Maybe a conditional 7th, but I kind of doubt it.

          And before anyone accuses me of being an RG3 hater (I’m not saying you Lezzie, but someone will), please don’t. I love RG3. I’m a Baylor alumni. He won a Heisman for my school, launched the football program into national relevance, got a brand new stadium built for us, went to my pro team and gave me one of the most exciting seasons of my life, and even tweeted me on my birthday. I have a damn shrine to the guy above my TV. I want nothing but good things for him. But he played poorly the past couple years so I have a hard time seeing much of s trade market for him.

        • lezziemcdykerson - Aug 2, 2016 at 1:07 PM

          Well if you look at the current QB market 15 mil a year isn’t terrible for a guy who, when healthy, is capable of being a decent QB. Maybe we didn’t get any offers.. that’s a shame. I feel like RGIII had a lot of growing up to do but he played all hurt all the time. He needs to take better care of himself. Learn how to read a defense, speeding up his release. These are things that can be coached up. Hue might be able to get it done. I think we could’ve got higher than a 7th rd pick if his option wasn’t exercised. Which is the whole gripe I have. Why not declare it an open competition so both get 1st team reps? Where was the communication on this decision?

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 2, 2016 at 1:44 PM

          It absolutely should have been an open competition. That’s where I think Snyder came in.

          As far as the trade without the option. A team would be sacrificing a draft pick to get a questionable player for less than a full season. Not even the offseason included. Then he would become a free agent. That’s a tough sell in my book.

          As far as the rest: I think RG3 showed tremendous potential as a passer in 2012. Not just with his legs. He had a downright beautiful deep ball, timing, accuracy, and made off script plays. But he was in no way ready to run an NFL offense. That potential never developed. He should have had at least one year on the bench. Probably 2-3 to develop into an NFL QB instead of an athlete who could throw the ball. I could seriously write pages on everything that went wrong with RG3. But in a nutshell, he wasn’t ready, mentally, to run the pro style offense they tried to implement in 2013-2014. Also, his confidence took a huge blow, his health, and I believe he eventually lost the locker room. And that was that. You can’t win if your team doesn’t believe in you. I think that was ultra evident in the Lion’s preseason game. The OLine improved dramatically after RG3 left. Had little to do with how the QB played but with how hard they wanted to play for him in my opinion.

        • Trey Gregory - Aug 2, 2016 at 2:23 PM

          Oh and you’re right that $15 mil currently isn’t bad for a starting QB. But the market wasn’t as high last year. And that’s assuming he won the starting job. Or was better than the current starter. Could you say, for sure, that RG3 was better than Howyer in Houston? McCown in Cleveland? Kap (or even Gabbert) in San Fran? Etc. etc. Because I can’t. So that’s a ton to pay a backup.

          I personally think teams should have viewed RG3 as a project. Take him as a backup and try to develop him over a couple seasons. He would still have a long career ahead of him if it worked. He would be a decent backup if not. I worry about him in Cleveland though. I think Jackson is a great coach but it’s a bad team that won’t be able to help him. He should have offered to play for the Jets on a one year deal for free to prove his worth. He might not survive this season. Archives

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