Redskins QB Kirk Cousins sees a difference; now he must show it

Kirk Cousins' improvement has yet to translate to consistent performance. AP Photo/Gail Burton

ASHBURN, Va. -- The game revealed many parts about his game, a mixture of promise and frustration. Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins lit up the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half last season, then at times resembled a different quarterback in the second.

He squeezed passes into narrow areas along the sidelines to Pierre Garcon and connected with DeSean Jackson for a long touchdown pass. Cousins also played panicked at times and compounded a bad decision on one throw with a floated pass that was intercepted.

At times it was a terrific day for Cousins in a 37-34 loss; other times it showed how far he still had to travel. When the Redskins host the Eagles Sunday, Cousins and the coaches hope he’s traveled far enough that last week’s showing vs. the Giants -- and last season’s miscues -- won’t repeat itself.

Cousins is a different quarterback than last season. That hasn’t yet morphed into meaning he’s anything other than a short-term curiosity for the Redskins. When you look back at his interceptions from last year, for example, the bulk of them resulted from bad throws, bad decisions or simply not seeing a defender. This season, two of his four picks resulted more from excellent defense than anything. However, the result is the same: four interceptions in three games, only four touchdowns and one win.

Against the Eagles last season, Cousins starred in the first half, completing 19-of-25 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. But in the second half, he completed 11-of-23 throws with one touchdown and an interception. Five-man rushes bothered him in the second half (completing 3-of-11 passes) but not in the first (9-for-11). Cousins, of course, watched that game this week.

“It was I guess a pleasant surprise to see how far I’ve come since that game. It was a productive game offensively, but, boy, we left a lot of plays out there. I thought my footwork was pretty inconsistent,” Cousins said.

There were times he didn’t step into throws. Other times he was throwing one way while his feet pointed another, something he’s improved this season. And yet other times he rushed throws, leading to incompletions and hurried throws when he could have taken a half-second more.

But he also connected on passes to Garcon down the sidelines where he had to hold the safety and drop the ball into tight areas. If the passes had been off even a little, an interception could have resulted. Those passes show his aggressive mindset and they excite the coaches. However, that mindset can lead to trouble on other throws.

“Some of my decision making or just my overall procedure of playing the quarterback position was inconsistent at times,” Cousins said. “I came away from watching that film saying, 'Wow it’s encouraging to see how far I’ve improved.’ It takes going back and watching that game to really be able to see that.”

A week ago he talked about being a different quarterback than the one who threw four interceptions vs. the New York Giants last season -- only to struggle in a 32-21 loss. Coaches say they see improvement -- he’s playing with more poise and with improved footwork, for example -- but at some point it must show up in a big win and consistent play. Otherwise, the questions about why he’s starting will intensify.