Second-String Cousins

About Kirk Cousins: I whiffed. Now there is a pile of crow sitting on a plate in front of me. It was nice and steaming hot about two weeks ago, when it was becoming clear my evaluation of the Washington quarterback missed the mark. I waited and waited, hoping that Cousins might turn in a performance that let me off the hook, but in the wake of the quarterback getting the hook against Tennessee, it is time. Fork in hand, I settle in for this cold, rancid feast.

Last month, I concluded the following:

“If Jay Gruden and the coaching staff work to his strengths in the play-action game and down the field and Cousins refrains from forcing throws to help his defense out when necessary, Washington may be able to stay in the NFC East race even with Griffin on the shelf.”>/p>

It is little consolation that my praise was not as effusive as some. Still, I did highlight what I viewed as three of Cousins’ positive attributes: His touch and accuracy on the deep ball, his work in the play-action game, and his ability to throw on the run.

About those…

Deep Ball

On this play from Week 4, Washington is backed up in their own territory facing 2nd and 9. Cousins is under center and has 21 personnel in an offset i-formation. The Giants counter with their base defense and show Cover 1 in the secondary, with strong safety Antrel Rolle (#26) down in the box to defend the run. Seeing this, Cousins attempts to hit Pierre Garçon along the left sideline on a go route:

Look at this still from the moment Cousins releases the ball:

Both underneath routes are open but Cousins instead forces a throw to Garçon deep. His receiver might have a step on the cornerback, but free safety Quintin Demps is in perfect position to provide help over-the-top. It will take a perfect pass for a completion. Instead, Cousins overthrows Garçon by five yards and Demps is able to secure an easy interception.


My first review of Cousins also illustrated how the Michigan State product was very effective in throwing off of run simulation. Again…oops.

On this play from Week 6, Cousins is under center with 12 personnel on the field. The Cardinals have their base 3-4 defense on the field. Cousins takes the snap and executes a run fake to Alfred Morris, and then scans the secondary for a downfield target. Garçon is covered so Cousins looks to his checkdown route, which is Morris on a short curl:

The quarterback essentially throws a jump ball. It falls incomplete but Cousins is lucky not to have it intercepted (which would have been his 10th pick of the year). This is not the confident and determined passer I saw on the earlier film, when he almost exploded out of play-fakes to deliver strong throws to his wide receivers.

Born to Run

The final touted aspect of Cousins’ game was his ability to make a strong and accurate throw while on the move, which leads us to Washington’s Monday night matchup with the defending Super Bowl Champion, Seattle Seahawks. Trailing by a touchdown, the offense faces a 2nd and 5 situation early in the contest. Cousins is in the pistol formation and Washington’s 11 personnel are on the field. The Seahawks counter with nickel personnel showing Cover 1 in the secondary:

Cousins and Morris fake the stretch run to the left side of the offense, and the quarterback exits the fake looking forDeSean Jackson along the right sideline. To be fair there is pressure on Cousins, but the quarterback fails to even keep the pass in the field of play:

The Weaknesses?

Still there.

In my earlier evaluation of Cousins I illustrated two flaws: His average arm and a tendency to force throws. From the article:

“Finally, while Cousins can throw the ball deep with touch and accuracy, his arm is not strong enough for him to rely on when making intermediate throws over the middle into tight windows:”

In another Week 6 play, Washington has their 11 personnel on the field with Cousins in the shotgun. The offense has trips to the left with Jackson split wide to the right. Arizona shows blitz across the board with 10 defenders on or near the line of scrimmage. Free safety Rashad Johnson is playing the deep centerfield role in a Cover 1 alignment. Off the snap the Cardinals stay with Cover 1, but Johnson rolls to the trips side of the field. On the backside a nickelback comes out of blitz posture, joining with the cornerback to double-cover Jackson. Cousins looks to hit Andre Roberts on the seam route, but he floats the ball right into the waiting arms of the free safety. The two highlighted weaknesses in a nice little crow capsule.


Playing quarterback at any level is difficult. While not as arduous, the task of evaluating quarterback play is also challenging. With respect to Kirk Cousins I evaluated his film, found areas of his game that were solid and impressive, and made a call. I got that call wrong. Well, to be fair I did get part of my analysis exactly right: The weaknesses that I identified in the previous piece are still present and glaring. Having taken a few victory laps in previous articles, it’s only fair that I suck it up and chow down on a heaping helping of avian flesh.

Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.

Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.

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