LANDOVER, Md. -- The problems started at quarterback, and if they had ended there, maybe the Redskins could look at this game differently. But they can't. It ended 45-14 and was every bit as lopsided as that margin looks.
Yes, quarterback Kirk Cousins was dreadful. He's now started two games, and this is what he's done: played one terrific half, hit a few timely throws in another and then was dreadful in the next two halves, both of which were played Thursday night.
In six career starts, he has put up good numbers in three games and not-so-good numbers in the other three. He's a fourth-round pick who is either a young quarterback still developing or a guy who is what he is. Cousins needs to do a lot of things right to play well. When he doesn't, he can't rely on a cannon arm to avoid danger or his legs to bail him out. He knows that; the NFL world knows that.
Cousins can't stare down receivers and get away with it, as the New York Giants, who entered the game feeling they could pressure him into mistakes, said he was doing. Cousins turns the ball over a lot (four interceptions and a lost fumble against the Giants) for a guy who is said to be someone who can manage games well. He gets rid of the ball fast; he also takes chances on throws, and if he's off, it's a pick.
"On certain routes, he was staring down his targets," Giants safety Antrel Rolle said.
Again, are those youthful mistakes or just who he is? But if you think this week was revealing in a negative way, you can't ignore what the Philadelphia game revealed about him, either. Somewhere in there is the truth about Cousins. For better or worse, that truth will be discovered over the next six or seven games while Robert Griffin III recovers from a dislocated ankle. We'll know, and then we'll move on.
And if Cousins plays this way for the next month or two, then Griffin will return and continue getting that chance he needs to develop. If he ever does develop, they will have something special.
However, this franchise has a tough time supporting young quarterbacks because so many other parts need fixing. The Redskins have done a poor job building their secondary. Blame some of it on the salary-cap mess of the past, but that doesn't explain it all. Losing cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a ruptured Achilles tendon hurt quite a bit. Rookie Bashaud Breeland might be a quality starter in the future, but he's not there yet, nor was he expected to be. He'll compete and he'll probably get better -- and he was far from the problem, too.
Here's the problem. A team that wasn't extremely deep to begin with has had its depth tested too much already this season. The Redskins have a defense that provided reasons for hope in the first two games. But it, too, needs a lot of help and can't support a team that turns it over six times. No defense can. But the Redskins allowed 11 out of 16 third downs to be converted Thursday. Nobody made plays. Defenders in coverage consistently lost leverage. The pass rush did not do nearly enough. There are always excuses, but the coverage didn't help the rush and vice versa.
"There's nobody in this locker room who can watch this film and say 'I did my job,' because no one did," safety Ryan Clark said. "We were beat in every phase. Every player on their team was better than every player on our team tonight. We have to understand that. We have to own that."
The Redskins talked quite often this summer about the changed vibe and the new energy. It's the talk of a team with a new coach. But now, they're 1-3 with a schedule that tried hard to give them at least two wins to this point. In the first four games they faced quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Chad Henne and played a 1-2 Giants team at home in prime time. They won one of those games.
This past Sunday, the Redskins exited a loss to Philadelphia thinking they could do some good things. Now, they enter a long week before a Monday night game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks wondering about the direction they're headed. It's a familiar spot.