Redskins QB Kirk Cousins developing, but questions remain after loss

Kirk Cousins threw the ball just fine Sunday, but he didn't do a lot to really put his stamp on the game -- like the QB on the other side. AP Photo/Bob Leverone

ASHBURN, Va. -- The problem with Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' game Sunday at the Carolina Panthers wasn’t so much that he threw the ball all over the place. He really only made one bad throw -- it just happened to be intercepted.

No, the problem was that there wasn’t a whole lot to grab onto; there weren’t enough throws that made you nod your head and say, ‘Wow.’ I’m not dismissing how Cousins has played of late -- he had just played a solid three games -- and I’ve seen the progress. But the question after this season won’t just be about progress, it’ll be about his ceiling. He was the best option to start this season and nothing has altered that belief; one scout I spoke to Sunday said he felt that was the case last season as well. But what about for, say, the next three seasons?

And that’s certainly not to say they shouldn’t bring him back; if you don’t want him, tell me the alternative in free agency or the draft. You can’t just say, “Anyone.” That’s not a solution.

Re-signing Cousins only means they like him enough to start for now; but they could always draft another quarterback in, say, the third round. I’m good with that scenario; I'm also fine letting this season play out to see how he and the team end before striking a deal. Cousins has strong parts of his game and other parts that are concerning. But the Redskins also must strengthen the roster rather than forcing another quarterback (if there’s one you love, great; take him).

Cousins obviously has played well at times -- efficient and smart -- and owns two game-winning drives. The coaches like him, but no one is going overboard, either. You don’t hear players second-guessing him being in charge. I think if the run game ever takes off, then you’ll see another step in Cousins’ game as well; I’m sure you could say that about a few quarterbacks. But play-action is a strength and he’s only used that action on 13.1 percent of his dropbacks (96.6 passer rating), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Also, most quarterbacks Sunday would have failed the eye test because of the guy on the other side -- Cam Newton. He was sort of good, you know? Cousins threw the ball just fine, but he did not do a lot to really put his stamp on the game. In some ways, it’s good because he’s being smarter with the ball. But I know there are times the Redskins feel he could be a little more patient waiting for some routes. Cousins is not equipped at this point to overcome the many issues that arose Sunday (some of which he obviously contributed to) against an excellent team. That’s not an indictment; it’s just reality. Maybe he will be someday.

I’m not about to go overboard after any of Cousins’ games -- one way or another. The Redskins have been willing to give him the season; that’s been clear for a while. That means every game is a piece of the puzzle. And it means there will be some games you like and some you do not; they all contribute to the picture, though.

Throw I liked: The touchdown pass to receiver DeSean Jackson. Of course, that’s an obvious one, but I picked it because there weren’t a whole lot that stood. But also because Cousins did a good job holding the safety in the middle. It’s inconceivable to me why the safety wasn't cheating to Jackson's side considering it left another safety one-on-one with Jackson as an inside receiver. But Cousins held Kurt Coleman in the middle first by looking to his left, then the middle and then finally turning to the right and unloading the ball. I also liked a 13-yard out to Pierre Garcon, which was thrown with good anticipation. As Garcon cut, the ball was already in the air.

Throw I didn’t: Well, another obvious one -- the interception. There’s not a whole lot of new ground to break here; Cousins was under duress and did not fully plant his feet before he threw. Really, it’s that simple. It was the right decision; Jackson was wide open. It was a bad throw. There weren’t many bad throws on the day.

The fumbles: The Redskins want their quarterbacks to keep two hands on the ball until they go to release it, preventing possible fumbles. On Cousins’ first fumble, Kony Ealy jarred it free as he never felt the pressure. On the second, Cousins never saw the blitzer (Matt Jones was supposed to pick him up). Also, on the first sack/fumble, I’m surprised Cousins didn’t feel or see Ealy; Cousins was looking to the right side of the field -- Ealy rushed from left end. But Cousins didn’t move up in the pocket or slide enough and trouble followed.