Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC East [Print without images]

Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Redskins film review: Kirk Cousins

By John Keim

1. Yes, the Redskins looked a little different with Kirk Cousins at quarterback than with Robert Griffin III. But to suggest they unveiled a whole new set of plays is just wrong. They scrapped the zone read and the pistol look, but the plays and routes are the same ones they've used all season. You're not going to use Cousins on the zone read, so you have him throw off more bootlegs, etc. It's what they did in Cleveland last year; I don't remember many people harping on this “different offense” theory after that game. If Griffin had been more accurate this season, you would have seen a lot more plays work.

2. Also: Atlanta's defense is bad. But the Redskins' offense did little in the second half until that final drive. That sort of gets lost in the whole narrative of this game. After halftime the Redskins went three-and-out; interception; three-and-out; three-and-out; fumble; interception. Then came their near game-winning drive. The fumble series was the only one prior to the last one in which they gained any first downs (four).

3. It helped that Cousins had time to execute deeper plays, such as the 62-yard pass to receiver Aldrick Robinson. Cousins faked a handoff, dropped and turned and stepped into his throw. He had a clean pocket, which, often times, Griffin did not. Anyway, it made a difference as he hit Robinson in stride. Another time Cousins looked left, right and then threw to Alfred Morris over the middle for 8 yards (on a first-and-18). Cousins took 3.3 seconds and wasn't hit.

4. The Falcons did a better job in the second half in coverage, partly by playing man on one side and zone on the other. When they just used zone, there were too many gaps to find.

Washington's Kirk Cousins
Kirk Cousins completed 29 of 45 passes for 381 yards, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions against the Falcons.
5. On the first interception, the Redskins ran a two-man route off play-action. They're predictable in that they love running play-action from deep in their own territory. It often works. Not this time. Cousins looked to the left side for Pierre Garcon, but he never looked back until he passed the 20-yard line. Too late. So Cousins went back to Aldrick Robinson and made a bad throw. Simple as that.

6. His other interception was just a bad throw as well. Right read; guy was open; failed to lead him.

7. Cousins did have one missed opportunity. Looked like he was hoping to hit Robinson downfield, but the Falcons' corner had man coverage with safety help over the top. But Cousins took a bit too long to get away from Robinson. Had he done so, he would have seen Garcon breaking open over the middle. Instead, he eventually threw it away.

8. It absolutely helps Cousins that he doesn't run. Griffin can compensate for some sloppy technique at times with his ability to extend plays (I know, not a good year for him). Cousins can't do that, so he has to make sure he operates with more urgency in the pocket. As Griffin matures, that technique should improve. Has to. But I think he knows that.

9. On one play outside the pocket, Cousins, with a defender 5 yards from him, had to plant and throw to an open Moss for 16 yards. It's a throw Griffin has sometimes not made. But the hard part is playing that sort of “game” where you try to figure out what he would have done or if he would have had the same success. Impossible to know.

10. On the failed two-point conversion, the Redskins ran a rub route. It was the fourth play in a row they had done so and the Falcons adjusted. Receiver Josh Morgan looked open, but the problem was, he ran where he thought Garcon's man was going to be. But Garcon's man, Desmond Trufant, came up hard and covered him tightly. Morgan sort of hesitated before continuing on; he did not look ready to catch a pass.

11. I like how Cousins moved his feet in the pocket. When his body shifted one way, his feet did as well -- usually with a strong base -- so he was always ready to throw and could make an accurate delivery. On the 53-yard touchdown to receiver Pierre Garcon, Cousins slid left, pump faked, reset his feet and hit him in stride. By the way, on this play guard Chris Chester bumped a blitzing linebacker off stride to buy time. Chester missed a few run blocks early in the game, but he did a nice job here.

12. There's another footwork example that's better. With 2 minutes left in the game, Cousins looked right off the snap, then left, pumped the ball and jumped back to the right. His feet were moving with him the whole time, allowing him to make an accurate pass to Robinson for 11 yards on third-and-6. If you want to be a consistent passer, you must have consistent feet.

13. By the way, Cousins unloaded that pass -- again, going right to left and back to right and with a pump fake in there -- in 2.9 seconds.

14. Back to the film. The word decisive has probably been used 500 times to describe Cousins' performance. Make that 501 because he was, well, decisive with his reads and his throws. It enabled him to look quickly off primary targets. On the play in which Santana Moss fumbled in the second quarter, Cousins looked right, then back to his left and unloaded a nice pass to Moss for 17 yards -- all in 1.8 seconds.

15. Not sure what happened on the first quarter pass in which Cousins anticipated Robinson doing something different. The receiver kept running a go. But Cousins, maybe because the corner had leverage on him, threw it as if Robinson was going to stop 10 yards earlier.

16. The pressure on the sack-fumble was pretty quick: 2.4 seconds. There wasn't much Cousins could do; it was a three-receiver route and none of them were looking back at the ball when the ball was hit.

17. Cousins and tight end Fred Davis teamed up for a nice 23-yard touchdown. Credit Davis for selling the run on the bootleg. But the throw enabled Davis to run under it and made sure he was the only one with a chance to make the catch. A pretty play all around.