Redskins can stand by their man, but no excuses needed for Kirk Cousins

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Five observations on the Washington Redskins' offense after their 34-20 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday:

  1. I never bought into the notion of a double standard when it came to one thing (and one thing only, for those who never pay attention): the idea that Robert Griffin III did not get enough time. He had 18 months, encompassing two offseasons, two training camps, seven starts and hundreds of hours of meetings. The Redskins moved on. OK. I’m not rehashing anything here or taking shots, but I’m just stating a fact. That said, I get why people hear Redskins coach Jay Gruden talk about quarterback Kirk Cousins and wonder certain things. All Gruden needed to say Sunday was that Cousins needed to be better; there might be legitimate excuses that you can take into account -- behind closed doors. You can say you believe in him; he made mistakes he must clean up, he made some plays you liked, etc. Cousins can handle the criticism -- he always takes a harsh look at his own game. I've always respected that. He won’t fold if reasons for his poor play aren’t made. Please, nothing about the wind, either. I don't say that for the fans' sake, but teammates won't want to hear such talk. Have someone's back, but don't oversell a situation.

  2. Cousins said after the game that he probably should have thrown the ball away rather than keep trying to hit Ryan Grant with a pass that was intercepted. That’s correct; it’s what he should do more of at times. On this play, he might have had another option inside -- and the line was giving him enough time to scan some more of the field. I wonder if his internal clock was sped up because of the Jets’ reputation -- and because he was missing linemen. Cousins also didn’t put a whole lot of zip on that pass. But the other issue is that he often tries to make a play, even if one isn’t available. He’s not the typical game manager -- I’ve said that before -- for this reason. When the game reaches a certain point, Cousins feels as if he must make a play and will sometimes force the issue. Last Friday, he said he should have just thrown the ball away vs. Atlanta in overtime. Against the Jets, he challenged the side of a savvy corner in Darrelle Revis. “He baited him,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. Some will say of Cousins’ picks and inconsistencies: growing pains. Others will say: It’s who he is.

  3. Look, the Redskins forced three turnovers and blocked a punt for a touchdown -- and lost by 14. They’re a team built to run the ball, but they haven’t had a running back surpass 62 yards in the past four games. Alfred Morris and Matt Jones, the top two running backs, have averaged a combined 2.6 yards on their last 71 carries. No back has had a run for more than nine yards in the past two games. Nine! The entire offense is impacted by the loss of several key players, which then puts either a developing quarterback or mediocre-at-best one -- take your pick -- in a position to win games. Not gonna happen right now. The Redskins knew this before the season; they know it now.

  4. The offensive line did not move the Jets off the ball -- that should not be unexpected given what they had and who they were facing. But they were able to keep Cousins upright (one sack; credit to him as well for getting rid of the ball). The Jets seemed to rely more on four-man rushes, figuring that would be enough pressure and they could shut down the passing game with their coverage -- and force mistakes. But, without re-watching the game yet, the Redskins’ front seemed to handle itself as well as could be expected. The five players who started Sunday had a combined 14 NFL starts. That’s why my issue with the run game isn’t about this game. But I will say, the front did not seem confused by what its encountered, a credit to coach Bill Callahan. The Redskins committed just three penalties -- two were on offense, both on the same fourth-quarter drive. No holding penalties.

  5. In the second half, receiver Pierre Garcon received no targets. None. I have to look at the All-22 to determine what was going on with him, but that should never be the case -- not with what the Redskins were missing. “I can’t control it,” Garcon said. “I just go out and keep doing what I can do. I can’t worry about the targets.” No, he can’t. Garcon can only control what he does. But here’s a stat for you: Garcon has caught 21 passes in the first half of games this season, 11 in the second half. However, his targets aren’t dramatically different -- 29 in the first half of games, 21 in the second. I will say, the move he put on Revis that resulted in a touchdown was fantastic. Garcon, split to the right, sold the fade route by taking a hard step upfield to the outside. That caused Revis to open his hips, allowing Garcon to hop back inside for an easy score -- as Revis remained in place. Impressive.