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By his own standards Cousins’ performance isn’t measuring up

Sep 20, 2016, 9:18 AM EDT


Kirk Cousins likes to look at numbers. Two, in particular, get his attention.

“I always like to look at third down and red zone as two important ones,” the Redskins quarterback said last week. “You know, if you’re over 50 percent in both of those, you’re going to be near the top of the league, in a better position that most teams, so that’s something we’re always going to look at.”

Cousins was referring to the overall performance of the offense on third down and inside the opponent’s 20 yard line. But he certainly examines his own performance in those areas and he can’t be happy with what he sees so far this season, especially considering how good his numbers were in those key areas in 2015.

Let’s take a look at his performances on third down passes this year compared to 2015 (stats via Pro Football


First thing, let’s establish that 2016 is a small sample size, so it would be a mistake to draw any lasting conclusions. But this year’s numbers do serve as a snapshot of how Cousins has played in the first two games this year. And it’s not good compared to the previous year or the rest of the league (the league’s QBs have a cumulative 89.4 this year).

I also took a quick peek at Cousins’ third-down numbers for the first two games last year, during the period he supposedly was struggling. He completed 75 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions, a passer rating of 84.8.

How about Cousins’ passing stats in the red zone?


Again, the small sample size warning applies here. But like with the third down numbers you don’t need any kind of advanced degree in statistics to figure out that Cousins isn’t getting it done in an area where he got it done last year. To look at an even smaller sample, through two games last year Cousins had thrown five passes, completed four for two TDs and a passer rating of 127.1. And remember this is when he supposedly was struggling.

Overall, Cousins’ numbers don’t look bad. He has completed 65.2 percent of his passes for 7.8 yards per attempts with a passer rating of 90.2. Those are respectable. But he needs to get it done in pressure situations and by the very numbers he uses to evaluate the performance of the offense it’s just not happening.

  1. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 20, 2016 at 9:57 AM

    1. Not enough preseason game time.
    2. Too much pressure from the franchise tag/contract year situation.
    3. Might not be the QB we all hope he is.
    4. Just a slow start, it’ll all be fine.

    Take your choice of any, or even a couple of the above.. We’re going to find out. Hope for 4!

    • chimps000 - Sep 20, 2016 at 10:43 AM

      nice list.

      I’m wondering about his true ceiling- is he a guy who at his best
      is a good game manager and can be successful with great skill players and good protection (like pretty much every other QB in the NFL) or is he a guy who can win games despite poor pass protection and despite a lack of great skill players?

      If he is the latter, then he isn’t worth the big money and I would roll with McCoy and sudfield and maybe draft another QB this offseason.

      • cmehustle - Sep 20, 2016 at 10:54 AM

        Me too. I mean he’s just not consistent. People complain about Andy Dalton, but I would kill for him right now. Even someone like Jay Cutler. Cousins is looking more and more like just a guy to me.

        • firesnyder - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:21 PM

          So quickly you fareweather fans turn on Kirk. He will come out of this. Relax. I agree he looks jumpy and uncomfortable. He is too strong-of-mind to not get this figured out. Patience.

      • chimps000 - Sep 20, 2016 at 5:31 PM

        I like Kirk, I liked him last year, I want him to do well. I think the oline has too good pass protection, and there is too much talent on this offense, for him not to have good to great STATS by the end of the year. I think you could plug the majority of NFL starters into the current redskins offense, and they would also have very good STATS.

        I just think his ceiling could be around 15-20th best QB in the league, and its a legit question if he is worth 40-80 million guaranteed.

        I wonder about his arm talent sometimes… Cooley (who is sharp as hell) likes to say how far Kirk can throw it, but when I watched his terrible overthrows from last game, its like he is putting every single muscle into that throw, and maybe that’s where the inaccuracy comes in.

        I think maybe he is very comparable to Andy Dalton, just not as consistent as Dalton is. Dalton is a good QB, but his arm is limited, and he makes 16 million per year.

      • skinsgame - Sep 21, 2016 at 4:18 AM

        If he is the latter, he IS worth big money. Read your post again.

    • redskins12thman - Sep 20, 2016 at 1:21 PM

      I think it’s a combination of 2 and 4 (at some point).

    • snyderisanidiot - Sep 20, 2016 at 2:08 PM

      It can not be the pressure getting to him. Last year he had way more pressure on him and he performed.
      Bottom line it looks like its number 3, he just is not that good. A mid range talent that is just that, mid range.

      • lezziemcdykerson - Sep 20, 2016 at 6:43 PM

        Yeah I don’t want to hear about a QB not being able to perform under pressure for any reason that’s his job.

    • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 7:26 PM

      I’m going with 4 I think. After rewatching the game I have decided that this offense is so good that it can land 50 on almost anyone, perhaps except Denver. It is in order to criticize Kirk for all his missed throws on Sunday, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that the passes were there to be had. If we say that Cousins was average in the Dallas game, and he did make some good throws as well, then all we need from him is to improve to above average and the team should start winning.
      I’m much less worried about the offense than I was after the game. They will be fine once things start clicking. The defense is another matter though. We had better score lots of points here would be my suggestion.

      • COSSkinsFan - Sep 20, 2016 at 8:57 PM

        I think it’s 1 and 4. Everyone knows Kirk needs to play better. If he throws accurate ball on any of the four throws; to Crowder, DeSean, Doctson or the int I think we win the game despite all of our other mistakes/poor play. I totally agree with your assessment of our point scoring potential. We went into the season knowing we would have to score a ton of points, but we are built to as long as Kirk performs competently. I’m not a Packer fan but grew up in the heart of packer country. A few years ago Aaron Rodgers got of to a slow start and looked terrible. People thought he was done and of course he became himself again. Kirk is still a young qb so we will have to wait and see if he can right the ship. I’m confident he can. Hopefully before this season slips away. He spoiled us last year, but all it takes is one good game to start him on track again. He was awesome at state.

        • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 9:44 PM

          Each season is a different animal in my view. Although discouraging for fans and teammates, even experienced QBs sometimes need a little patience to find their groove in a new season. What we should be looking for is improvement game to game from Kirk. As long as he doesn’t regress dramatically at any point and there is improvement each week from where he is now that will be good enough. The rest of the team then needs to step up, coaches included. Kirk’s got a tough job, as your example with Rodgers illustrates. And you could have listed others. Jay Cutler for example has looked no better than Kirk has so far in 2016. It does no one any good to load more pressure on Kirk after just two games as if he owes us an MVP season just because he got paid market starting money for one year.
          Worst case we stink this year, which I don’t think we will, and end up drafting QB high in the 17 draft. Best case Captain Kirk reappears and we go on a tear with this offense and he gets hired long term in February. We left four or five TDs on the field on Sunday, abandoned the run, again, and our D has massive issues. These are the things we can hope get fixed. The QB situation is set, and no realistic person would suggest that Colt would be any sort o0f improvement. On top of that there has been some suspicious play calling, particularly in the red zone, that hasn’t helped a whole lot. All the fades to Doctson were silly. Give the rookie one shot. if he gets it you throw ano9ther one. If he doesn’t he can sit and watch the rest of the game. Either that or you get up by a couple of scores and then try to break in your new shiny toy. You don’t do it when you desperately need a TD to avoid being humbled by a weak Dallas team.

  2. sidepull - Sep 20, 2016 at 10:01 AM

    Yup, he knows he blows.

    By the same token he is capable of getting up off the mat and playing lights out. He better get it done because this defense clearly is not going to carry him game in game out. Fortunately its still early. He has weapons. A lot can change in this division over the rest of the season. He better get it together. There were players getting open all day against the Cowboys but he just wasn’t hitting them like last year. He hits some of those and its a win in spite of the Redskins defense.

    • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 7:27 PM

      He did hit some of them and wasn’t as awful as people are pretending. He was worse against the Steelers. Below average there and average against Dallas. Here’s to above average and a win against the Giants!

      • bangkokben - Sep 21, 2016 at 9:14 AM

        Here’s the problem as I see it: the coaches see Kirk’s struggles and tailor a more conservative traditional run/pass ratio and Cousins improves to above average but we still lose because now instead of potentially scoring 50 we’re shooting for 24. The defense still sucks, the run game still gets three yards a carry and Tress Way is punting 7 times a game meanwhile we lose 30-24.

        • Skulb - Sep 21, 2016 at 2:33 PM

          Maybe. But isn’t it better to start conservative and build up rather than to go all out from the get? And whatever they do, Gruden should have learned after RGIII-Gate to stick up for his players publicly. But apparently not. Hey, let’s just tell Pam Oliver during half time, on national TV, that our QB stinks! That’s gonna help.
          It’s just really difficult for me to take this team, and the coaches, seriously right now. They all come off as amateurs after two weeks, so it’s no wonder Kirk has problems.

  3. cmehustle - Sep 20, 2016 at 10:35 AM

    As always, I think QBs get too much credit with things go right (see Tebow, Tim) or too much blame when things go wrong. He hasnt done that well this season when we need him to, but the defense hasnt done anything at all. Our D line needs the national guard, and we went out and paid $15 mil a year for a guy to play in our zone scheme. We drafted a reciever and a guard our last two first round picks because we didnt need help on the Dline (Leonard Williams!!!!!!) or at DB. So again, its definitely not all Kirk. But he needs to step it up inside the red zone and on third down.

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 20, 2016 at 11:34 AM

      You can turn that around, though.

      We have invested in receivers and the O.L. They might not be great at run-blocking, but a lot of QBs in the league wish they had Kirk’s pass protection. And/or his array of targets.

      The Dallas D with all of its suspensions was at least as lame as ours. We should have put up more than 30 on them.

  4. fwhalstead1 - Sep 20, 2016 at 11:28 AM

    Prediction: He has a bad 1st half missing WIDE open receivers and doesn’t check to the run when he’s supposed to against the Giants this week he’ll be pulled for Colt! Jay’s fate is tied to WINNING and Kirk left at least 24 points on the field against the Cowboys. That 20 mil he signed for means nothing – he either produces or he sits. That Cowboy loss was all on him! Truth is that this offense is BUILT for STRONG QB play with some running sprinkled in. The plays are there! They were there against the Steelers as well, although the entire team is not good enough to beat teams like the Steelers. Still, Dallas DID NOTHING to stop Kirk – Kirk stopped Kirk!

    • garg8050 - Sep 20, 2016 at 12:40 PM

      Last year’s playoff berth bought both Gruden and Cousins a little rope for this year.

      Cousins needs to just settle down and play football. Not overthink things, just go out and play. Try to be more instinctive and less mechanical. He’ll be fine.

      • snyderisanidiot - Sep 20, 2016 at 2:18 PM

        Cousins has a terrible track record. We can not be over confident in him. His horrible play already has me looking to the 2017 mock draft.
        I believe he will turn it around this year, however, he has left some serious questions about one of the most important traits of a Quarterback: CONSISTENCY – Something Kirk apparently lacks. The franchise can not rest on the shoulders of a guy who can’t get it done week in and week out. Kirk needs to show some bullocks and go out and smoke the Giants in the Meadowlands. Cousins needs a big game, bad.

        • goback2rfk - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:21 PM

          Kirk had 2 bad games in a row give the guy a break. He is the best QB the Redskins have had in 25 years. And that is pretty sad. He lost 2 games but I bet he wins the next 2. He will turn it around. I think..

        • redskins12thman - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:27 PM

          I would rather have Kirk Cousins on the Redskins next season, competing for the starting job, then letting him go.

    • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 7:31 PM

      Maybe, but if you think that is happening in week 3 you’re crazy. It will happen the instant the team is eliminated from the playoffs, and not a moment sooner. It might not even happen then, because what use would it be to play Colt on a dead season? It’ll be Kirk until no playoffs and then possibly Nate if the team has decided to move on from Kirk. The odds of Colt starting this season are quite slim.

  5. redskins12thman - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:21 PM

    I think Cousins would be the first to admit his deficiencies so far this season.

    I wonder how much the Redskins are just trying to do what they did last season (with a few new wrinkles of course) and the other teams have studied the Redskins and determined how to disrupt the offense.

    • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 7:33 PM

      It definitely isn’t that, because receivers were wide open. In my opinion the red zone packages have been sloppy, both from coaches and the QB, and we have continued our trend of abandoning the run too soon. Matt Jones played easily his best game as a Skin against Dallas and finished with 13 carries. Make that 25+ and you have yourself a win there. It’s not all on Kirk. Why is he throwing 50+ times pr game?

  6. renhoekk2 - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:38 PM

    The Eagles and Giants both rank in the top 10 in defense. The Eagles are giving up 12pts a game, the Giants are giving up 16pts a game. Dallas and Philly are top 10 in rushing attempts and the Giants are 11th in attempts. The Redskins? They are giving up 32.5 pts a game and are dead last in rushing attempts. If the Redskins were giving up 12 pts a game and Kirk was turning around and handing it off 33 times a game like Wentz instead of leading the league in passing attempts at 45/gm the Redskins would be 2-0 right now instead of 0-2.

    • ET - Sep 20, 2016 at 4:32 PM

      The Eagles have played two terrible teams thusfar, so we really have no idea of their capabilities. The Giants have some promise, granted. But we’re fortunate that the NFC East is still relatively craptastic.

      • renhoekk2 - Sep 20, 2016 at 4:53 PM

        Agree. Just saying everyone’s perspective of Cousins would be different if he was actually getting help from somewhere else. Anywhere else. Playing QB in the NFL is so much easier if you only need to score say 17 pts a game instead of 33 to win. And it’s also a lot easier to play QB in the NFL if you are turning around and handing the ball off 33 times a game instead of only 13.

    • Skulb - Sep 20, 2016 at 7:35 PM

      The Giants played a toothless Dallas team, although I’ll give them props for shutting down Drew Brees. But the Eagles have played what right now looks like perhaps the two worst teams in the NFL. Let’s see how they do against the Steelers before we make any grand proclamations about them.

  7. hk2000 - Sep 20, 2016 at 3:54 PM

    You all are going down swinging, aren’t you?

    • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 20, 2016 at 10:36 PM

      It’s a tough crowd…

  8. Beirne - Sep 20, 2016 at 6:27 PM

    Has anyone noticed that the Bucs’ Jamies Winston threw for 4 tds in game one and 5 intsnin game two? It’s the NFL, folks…life isn’t easy for QBs…. Nor should it be. Still, HTTR!

  9. skinsgame - Sep 21, 2016 at 4:23 AM

    There were throws from Kirk on Sunday that looked like they came off the heel of his hand. Inaccurate, sloppy, low passes. He looks bad. No need to sugar coat it. He’s pulling a Griffin and regressing right now. Missing wide open receivers at a higher rate than even Jason Campbell used to.

  10. bangkokben - Sep 21, 2016 at 9:17 AM

    Great work, Rich! Fantastic piece. Archives

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