ASHBURN, Va. -- The panic that sometimes gripped Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins in the past wasn’t noticeable. Instead, what happened time and again this past Sunday was a quarterback who reacted with poise in the pocket. It eliminated negative situations and led to some positive ones.
It’s not as if Cousins was awesome all day against the Philadelphia Eagles. But he was efficient and he operated just as he needed to and found the passes that were available most of the day. Nothing fancy, but effective. He didn’t have to make many jaw-dropping throws, but he did make the necessary ones. And he did prevent some negative situations.
Cousins’ mindset will produce aggressive throws -- as on the game-winning touchdown -- and that’s a good thing. But that mindset combined with throws that are a little off or late produce turnovers -- for Cousins and any other quarterback.
Cousins has now had two highly efficient games in his past three. He was more accurate vs. St. Louis, but he mastered the take-what-the-defense-gives-you concept against the Eagles, too. Atlanta’s pass defense is not terrific against the pass (ranking 21st in yards per attempt at 6.98) so the opportunity for consecutive strong games exist.
Here’s some more from the Eagles game after watching the film:
What I liked: Cousins’ poise. It's in direct contrast to his showing against them last season when he at times looked panicked in the pocket, particularly in the second half under similar pressure he faced in the first. Just look at the third-and-6 completion for 14 yards to Pierre Garcon on the game-winning drive. The pocket was starting to collapse as Cousins scanned the field -- his first look was to the middle and not Garcon. As the pocket tightened, Cousins stayed calm and found Garcon.
That poise was evident on the touchdown pass to Garcon, too. Actually, that was more about recognition and confidence. First, Cousins slid the protection to the left to keep that lane open to Garcon. It meant a backside rusher had a free lane to him, but Cousins turned and delivered to Garcon in 1.25 seconds. Had Cousins hesitated at all, there’s no touchdown. I wrote about Garcon on Monday and the trust he deserves and receives from the quarterbacks.
Quick decisions: The protection was solid, but Cousins helped as well. On a third-and-3 in the first quarter, the Eagles blitzed a free rusher inside. But Cousins hit his plant step and hit tight end Jordan Reed, who then lunged forward for a first down. Three plays later, Cousins threw incomplete to the back of the end zone for Crowder. But had he hesitated at all (he unloaded in 2.06 seconds), Cousins would have been sacked and a 38-yard field goal attempt instead would have been a 46-yarder. Another time Cousins saved a sack when the line was confused by an Eagles’ blitz and he hit Ryan Grant on a hitch for six yards. Little plays like that add up.
Noteworthy stat: This follows the quick decision section well, as of Cousins’ 46 pass attempts, 36 traveled 10 yards or less in the air, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Dink, dunk and move the chains. Cousins’ patience mattered and helped execute the game plan. Really, Cousins just needed to execute a good game plan. On Chris Thompson's 19-yard screen pass for example, Cousins sold a play-action pass to the right side before turning back to throw. The Eagles’ defense was out of position. Good call; good execution by all involved.
Play that I really liked: The 43-yard completion to receiver Rashad Ross. Yes, the ball was slightly underthrown, but it’s hard to say how much more he would have gotten given Jenkins’ speed racing over. Still, it did not hit him in stride. Regardless, I liked the play. Ross ran, in essence, a wheel route from the slot with Garcon running a deep post to take away the outside cornerback. The slot corner, playing zone, ran with Ross then looked back to Cousins only to realize he’d better keep sinking. Cousins’ eyes and Garcon’s route froze Jenkins enough to result in a wide-open pass.
What I didn’t like: There were a couple throws where Cousins needed to do a better job -- he got away with one, the 22-yarder to Jamison Crowder. That pass should not have been as dangerous as it appeared; Cousins hit his fifth step, took two hitch steps and then delivered. That gave the defense a chance to react to the ball and made the play too close. The reality is, it was an excellent route to beat that coverage and more anticipation was needed. Still, Crowder made a nice grab.
There were a couple times the safety nearly got Cousins. On one, I’m not sure Cousins held Malcolm Jenkins long enough with his eyes before unloading a deep ball to Garcon down the left side. Jenkins’ speed demands that you hold him as long as possible. Another time, Cousins didn’t connect with Crowder over the middle, with the ball skipping at the safety’s feet. Another time Cousins completed a pass without turning his feet as he probably could have done.