Cousins avoiding hits, sacks

ASHBURN, Va. -- The sacks and hits piled up, prompting Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan to make a change. The main reason Shanahan said he benched quarterback Robert Griffin III was to keep him healthy for the offseason.

Griffin was sacked 24 times in his last five games and hit on a number of other plays. Through two starts, Kirk Cousins has been sacked once and avoided many other hits. Some of that stems from Cousins’ ability to be more decisive and make quicker throws. And he’s more comfortable operating that way than Griffin.

But keep in mind, too, that Griffin’s ability to extend plays leads to more chances for sacks and hits by the opposition.

“Kirk has had a lot of practice getting rid of the ball quickly,” Shanahan said. “Robert will do that as well. That’s one reason I did not want him to take as many shots as he was taking. ... Sometimes it’s the quarterback, sometimes it’s the offensive line. Kirk has had more repetitions getting rid of the ball quickly. That’s some of it.”

Cousins rarely extends the play so he has to unload in a hurry. It forces him to get off his primary target in a hurry if he doesn’t like what he initially sees. On a third-and-9 late in the game Sunday, the Cowboys rushed six. Cousins looked right, where Pierre Garcon was one of two receivers aligned. But it was clear off the snap that Garcon would not get open quickly. So Cousins looked back to the middle and hit Aldrick Robinson on an underneath cross for 14 yards – all in 2.4 seconds. Another tenth of a second, or two, and Cousins would have been sacked.

Another time, Cousins faced a four-man rush. Dallas looked to be in press man before the snap and the Redskins had a pick play on the left side to free Garcon. But Dallas switched to a zone at the snap. Cousins saw this and quickly left Garcon, hitting tight end Fred Davis over the middle in 1.6 seconds. He avoided more disaster when DeMarcus Ware drove right tackle Tyler Polumbus into his lap on a 19-yard crossing route to Garcon (2.9 seconds).

Almost every pass he threw was unloaded in less than 3.0 seconds.

Again, all this means is Cousins does a good job of avoiding hits. At times in order to avoid hits he threw down the middle of the field and had two passes almost intercepted. He was bracing for a hit on his one interception; not sure his feet were set in the right direction either and that led to a throw behind Santana Moss that was tipped. Two other near interceptions occurred under pressure.

Mobile quarterbacks tend to get hit more often. And, as Dallas’ Tony Romo displayed time and again, the ability to extend plays is vital. But getting rid of the ball faster is still an area Griffin must improve.

“It’s like anything; it comes with practice,” Shanahan said.