Examining Kirk Cousins' starts

Aside from the up-and-down pattern, dramatic conclusions often are reached about Kirk Cousins' future after each game. Here’s a look at his starts and the prevailing thought after those games:

Redskins 38, Browns 21 (Dec. 16, 2012)

Stat line: 26-of-37, 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, 1 interception

What stood out: Cousins struggled from the pocket in the first quarter. But the Redskins did a better job thereafter of moving him and killing the Browns, intent on stopping Alfred Morris, with their boot game. Cousins found a rhythm and repeatedly made big throws.

The takeaway: The Redskins potentially have a strong backup behind Robert Griffin III. For the first time in a long time, it appears Washington is set at quarterback.

Falcons 27, Redskins 26 (Dec. 15, 2013)

Stat line: 29-of-45, 381 yards, 3 touchdowns, 2 interceptions

What stood out: Cousins looked sharp and the passing game had a rhythm. The problem, of course, is that he also threw two costly interceptions. It’s a theme. Cousins led Washington on a drive late in the game, but the Redskins failed on the two-point conversion.

The takeaway: Cousins could perhaps increase his trade stock, if nothing else. And while it’s just one start in a season gone bad, is there any way there could be a controversy entering 2014 if this continues?

Cowboys 24, Redskins 23 (Dec. 22, 2013)

Stat line: 21-of-36, 197 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception

What stood out: Nothing. He was ordinary. He forced more passes, one of which was intercepted and a couple of others that were not. He made some nice throws, too. But in the fourth quarter he completed just 2-of-8 passes and failed on Washington’s last drive. The Redskins had a minute left starting at their own 13 and moved 4 yards.

The takeaway: One good game and one mediocre one. The jets cooled big time on the idea of a future controversy. And while some stuck with the "he could fetch a first-rounder" line, most realized that was not going to happen.

Giants 20, Redskins 6 (Dec. 29, 2013)

Stat line: 19-of-49, 169 yards, 2 interceptions

What stood out: The coaches appeared intent on killing his trade value by having him throw so much in terrible weather. Cousins was off-target on numerous throws and could have had more than two interceptions. It was the best defense he had faced as a starter.

The takeaway: What controversy? Griffin would clearly be the starter entering 2014. Goodbye first-rounder and likely a second. Some clung to a belief he could fetch this, but it was never realistic.

Eagles 37, Redskins 34 (Sept. 21, 2014)

Stat line: 30-of-48, 427 yards, 3 touchdowns, 1 interception

What stood out: Cousins’ poise in the pocket and the timing of the passing game. He built on a terrific relief showing in the previous game. However, in the final two quarters, Cousins completed three long passes but overall struggled against the five-man rush, too often looking hurried. It was a stark contrast to the first half. And the Redskins failed to even get a field goal attempt after taking over on the Eagles’ 41 late in the game.

The takeaway: One great half and one in which he struggled still produced 34 points and 511 yards of offense. So six of his eight quarters in 2014 were very good. Is he the real quarterback of the future?

Giants 45, Redskins 14 (Sept. 25, 2014)

Stat line: 19-of-33, 257 yards, 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions

What stood out: Cousins had a pedestrian first half, but a horrendous second one. He forced throws, as he had in the past, and lost the poise that had earned him praise a few weeks earlier. The more Washington struggled or fell behind, the more Cousins pressed to make it all up with one throw. He stared down receivers and bypassed smarter throws to try to score two touchdowns on one pass.

The takeaway: Cool it on the future talk; Cousins’ youth showed (he's 26) and he has some work to do to be a quality starter. But now the question becomes: Can he develop into a quality starter, or is his tendency to turn the ball over -- and, more importantly, the panicked play that leads to those turnovers -- one that will never be fixed?