From week to week I generally do five good and bad breakdowns from the Washington Redskins game. This week after the huge Monday night loss to the Eagles I’m going to focus my breakdown on Kirk Cousins. The Quarterback position is by far the biggest glamor position in all of sports. But with that notoriety comes the harsh criticism after tough division losses or key losses in general. This week I’m choosing to highlight Kirk Cousins because this seemed to be a do or die game for Kirk as far as proving what he is as a franchise QB.
1) Big moments too big
Kirk when in rhythm has the ability to shred defense’s to almost near perfect numbers. We saw that week two against Oakland. I mean 25/30 for 365 yards and 3 td’s. That’s 83.33 for a completion percentage. Kirk has had games like this as do most top talented QB’s. But what Kirk will be graded on ultimately are his wins and losses. Name any franchise caliber QB in the NFL and they all do certain things that make them great. What they all have in common is that all franchise QB’s make good pass catchers look great. They know where to throw the ball through tight windows to give their guy a chance to make a play. Most importantly franchise QB’s have this passion and leadership traits to take over games in big moments to lead their teams to victory.
You can go back to Kirk’s first action as a pro to now and time and time again when the lights are brightest he folds. This past draft I said no matter what the Redskins decide to do with Kirk Cousins, if DeSean Watson were available you make that section! Houston is finding out why I made that claim. You can have the best team in the league with all the talent but eventually the QB will have to make a play. Franchise QB’s have that “it” factor. Kirk in every big moment in the 4th quarter has found a way to not make the big play. On Key third downs when other teams start to fight back Kirk will throw a ball away instead of making a statement play to get his team back on track.
With the loss Monday night Kirk Cousins falls to 0-6 on Monday Night Football. During the regular season the lights are always brightest on Monday night. Division games are huge and against NFC East opponents Kirk’s record is 7-11 over the course of his career. Cousins has never thrown a touchdown while trailing with 2 minutes left. Nobody is denying that Kirk Cousins has the ability to win a lot of football games and lead a team. But to be considered a top 10 QB and to warrant the type of leadership and respect and financial obligation he desires, he will have to find a way to change his performance when his team needs him the most.
2) Check down and 3rd downs.
As has been a key to the Redskins winning and losing or simply converting 3rd downs. Time and time again Kirk has shown no interest in throwing a ball up to one of his young bigger targets. Instead Kirk feels more comfortable dumping it off or throwing to his Running back in the flat. Those decisions can pay off big if you convert or catch a defense keying in on a WR down the field. The problem is teams see on film Kirk has no desire to make those throws. So on 3rd and 7 kirk throws a check down or a drag at 3 yards out, and the defense is there to keep the player from converting on 3rd down. While those yards and the 66.1 career completion percentage are nice to look at post game on a stat sheet. Those plays are the difference between 5-1 and 2-3 this year.
Last year Kirk had a win and in chance to end the season against the division opponent New York Giants who had clinched their playoff seed the week previous. Instead of letting the ball rip, he dinked and dunked this team to multiple 3 and out’s looking like the moment again was way too big for him. Back to this week while yes he threw for over 300 yards and 3 TD passes. One score was on a timely delay route to the left side after the trips left flooded across the field clearing the left side for Thompson. That was the only TD score when the Eagles weren’t clearly in control of the ballgame. But when you watch this team Kirk never jumps out on offense as the reason why they are moving down the field. We do so many screens and delay route plays where the offensive line gets out front that literally does all the work. Kirk is gaining chunk yards passing when he’s not even reading a defense pre-snap or throwing his guys open.
3) Situational awareness
To date when you watch QB’s around the league they all take what a defense gives them. When a player jumps and the offense gets a free play all franchise QB’s take a shot in that situation. Not Kirk. How many times have the Redskins lined up this year with a heavy side defense and ran right into the strong side? Audible out throw a quick strike or a toss to the unbalanced side of the defense. To simply put it when a defense gives you something take it and make them pay. Kirk doesn’t make teams pay. He is very effective from 20 to 20. But inside the red zone you have to know where to put a ball to give your WR a chance. On the opening drive Kirk had Josh Doctson wide open in the back of the end zone. Instead of lobbing the ball over the defender’s head he threw the ball to the front corner out of bounds and gave his target no chance to make a play.
4) The Jordan Reed effect
Jordan Reed when healthy is one of the top offensive players in the league. Kirk Cousins first year as a starter in 2015 was his best statistical year outside of passing yards. Kirk threw for 29 TD’s 11 INT’s with a 69.8 completion percentage. That year was Jordan Reed’s most productive season due to him being available for 14 games. Last Season while Reed was on the field the Redskins were in control and had realistic playoff hopes. Once Reed got hurt Kirks numbers tailed off as did the dominance of the offense. This season Jordan has been a shell of himself due to injuries dating back to training camp.
Jordan has been a huge safety net for Kirk as kirk trusts him at any spot on the field. But Kirk has shown flashes of looking like a true franchise QB. But what continues to show up is he is a Pro bowl player when he has a healthy Reed. While without Reed even with two 1000-yard pass catchers last year he simply didn’t look the same. All these points are what lead to the real issue with Kirk Cousins. Is Kirk a true franchise QB, or is he the type of guy that can manage you to a victory with all his weapons healthy and getting great separation for him to be comfortable let it rip? These last 11 weeks are going to be huge for Kirk Cousins.