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Checking In With Kirk Cousins' Checkdowns: Know Your Enemy

Kirk Cousins will start for the Redskins, but he isn't starter material.

Patrick Smith

When we think of Kirk Cousins, we think of his 2012 season when he came off the bench in relief of an injured Robert Griffin III and threw a game winning touchdown against the Ravens, then eked out a win over the woeful Cleveland Browns the following week. A performance that had Jon Gruden saying he would trade a first round pick for Cousins. Because after all, as Matt Flynn, Kevin Kolb, Rob Johnson, Scott Mitchell and many others have shown us over the years, a couple of good games off the bench is a true talent indicator.

What we don't think of is his 2013 season, where he started 3 games and appeared in 2 others, and was awful.

Year Comp Att Yds TD INT TD% INT% Y/A Rating
2012 Start 26 37 329 2 1 5.4 2.7 8.9 104.5
2013 Starts 69 130 747 4 5 3.1 3.8 5.7 64.5

Any hopes the Redskins had that he would be a tradeable asset in the offseason were, like their 2013 season, a massive disappointment. Cousins got worse each game, against bad defenses no less. Against the Cowboys trash fire of a defense, Cousins played slightly better than the two headed monster of an injured Mike Vick and Matt Barkley. But we still have memories of 2012, and after his substitute appearance for the injured RGIII in which he threw for 250 yards and 2 TDs against an atrocious Jaguars team, people are forgetting about 2013.

They shouldn't. Cousins isn't a starting NFL QB. He lacks the arm strength to be anything more than a backup.

Let's take a look at Cousins against the Falcons last year, keeping in mind the Falcons defense was one of the worst in the league last year, decimated by injuries to the point where they were starting neighborhood panhandlers and the Falcons version of Shoulder Pads Guy. Atlanta finished the season 29th in INTs in 2013 with a total of 10. 7 of the Falcons 21 turnovers on defense (24th in the league) came in this game.


Knowing he has help behind him, William Moore jumps the route, and picks off Cousin's poorly thrown ball. A good play by Moore, but also a weak, off target throw by Cousins over the middle, which is a throw a QB must make to be a starter.


Having a weak arm doesn't just mean making poor throws, it also means throwing to shorter routes at the expense of players who are open further down the field. Circled in red is the receiver Cousins throws to, in yellow is a open receiver with space down field. Cousins is once again picked off because he under throws his receiver. These two plays were twenty percent of the Falcons INTs in 2013. A truly terrible defense had a field day against the Redskins.


Again the receiver highlighted in red is Cousin's target, and a better option in yellow. This was nearly intercepted because either the receiver ran the wrong route, or Cousins simply could not drive the ball down the field to his receiver. Had he been able to throw to the receiver in the middle of the field, he'd have a first down.


With a more open receiver on the near side who has leverage, Cousins is nearly picked off on a shorter throw.

All of this was on display last week against the Jaguars.


On the left a receiver with space and leverage on the defender is neglected for the shorter throw. On the right, both receivers have space for a well placed throw, but Cousins dumps it off.


With his WR open downfield and entering a soft spot in the zone, Cousins checks down.


Cousins throws to the comeback route rather than hit the open player down the seam with plenty of space to pile up yards after the catch.

A starting QB in the NFL must make these throws. He also had a spectacular case of "happy feet."


Cousins has a receiver open, then a second one opens up on a throw a starting QB should make. What does he do?


With nothing but green grass in front of him and no pressure from the Jaguars line, he takes off, and even slides too early, he could have gained a couple of more yards.

To be fair, Cousins did complete some deep passes. He just needed a receiver so wide open the defender is going to be yelled at when they review the film.


Dwayne Gratz is for some reason going to completely ignore Darrel Young, who he is lined up over top of, and try to cover the inside receiver.


They don't come much easier than that.

Similar to Nick Foles in Week 1, Cousins could have dropped a shell shocking embarrassment on the Jaguars defense, but didn't throw to open receivers. Perhaps the hot takes are right and Cousins is the ideal QB for Gruden's offense. If the Eagles offense performs like it did last year against the Redskins, then the Redskins are going to need a big day from Cousins in order to win. Against Jacksonville the Redskins got the win, but against better competition, Cousins' performance isn't good enough.

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