Friday Conversation: Matt Williamson

December, 20, 2013
12/20/13
9:00
AM ET
Former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson isn't yet sold on Kirk Cousins for a simple reason: He needs to see more. Williamson is now ESPN's NFL scout, and provided insight into how someone in his position views Cousins and the Redskins. On Saturday, I'll post a story with his thoughts on Robert Griffin III.

What did you see from Kirk Cousins Sunday?

Williamson: There’s a lot to like. I don’t want to get too excited about him, because it’s such a limited amount of snaps so far. I feel like a quarterback is like a pitcher in baseball. Sometimes quarterbacks come into the league and get starts and look like Case Keenum did with the Texans. It’s like a pitcher in the first couple games going through the league, and then teams have tape on him and realize he doesn’t have a curveball. There isn’t enough yet of Cousins to where everyone knows how to defend him.

Do you like him?

[+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
AP Photo/Nick WassESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes how Kirk Cousins has performed in his limited playing time.
Williamson: He’s talented. He has a good, not great, arm. He seems to have a good feel for reading defenses. He has some pocket presence. He will take risks. He’s not a checkdown specialist. He will throw picks in his time. He won’t be Alex Smith and have five or six interceptions a year if he’s a starter. I bet there’s a lot of interest in him around the league to see what he does the next couple games. But I’d have a hard time putting a true grade on him. It’s just not enough [of a sample].

How much is enough?

Williamson: That’s a tough call. With a quarterback you want to see more than you would with anyone else. I always felt when I was evaluating a college kid for the NFL that you’d want a minimum of four games and have them be spread out. At quarterback you want to see more. A rule of thumb was let’s see four college games from different points in the season. At quarterback you want to double that. These are the hardest to evaluate to begin with, because there are so many factors that can make it look better or worse. But I think he’s exceeding expectations every time he’s in there, and the offense seems to flow better with him in there.

What do you think of him in the pocket?

Williamson: He’s a decent enough athlete with his drops, and he’s light on his feet and feels pressure well. He’s not a statue back there. He’s not going to be confused with RG3 athletically, but I’d need to see more. It’s hard to say he has great pocket presence. There’s just not enough [games].

What do you remember thinking about Cousins before the draft?

Williamson: Nothing stood out in a good way and a bad way. I didn’t see a huge negative with the guy, and I didn’t see a massive positive with him. That’s a good thing. If you’re grading every attribute one through 10, he’d get a lot of sevens and eights and not a lot of fours and not a lot of 10s ... He doesn’t look overwhelmed [now]. He will push the ball down the field, and he’s not afraid to pull the trigger. That’s highly promising.

What are you still looking to see?

Williamson: I would like him to prove he can deliver the football accurately when his feet aren’t set. That’s a true test. Guys like Jay Cutler and Joe Flacco, when they can’t step into a throw can still throw strike on the sidelines because they’re a natural gifted thrower. RG3 can definitely do that. He can make throws like that even when conditions aren’t optimal. I don’t know if Cousins can. I’d like to see how he handles pressure, the blitz in particular, where you know this blitz is coming and will I make the right read and hit my hot receiver in stride and not flinch and not only make the right play mentally, but make the right play physically with big scary guys coming down on him. And the last thing would be consistency. Is he consistently getting better and is he doing something almost week to week? Andy Dalton is a great example. He’s still highly streaky. He’s not gifted enough to be highly streaky. I don’t want a roller-coaster quarterback who, when he’s down he’s too far down to win, or if he’s down in the playoffs we have no chance.

When you look at their defense, how much work needs to be done?

Williamson: A lot. They have a huge decision to make with Orakpo. He’s somebody I would like to keep. Kerrigan is a quality player, but I look at edge rushers like I look at wide receivers. Orakpo would be a No. 1. Kerrigan is a No. 2 pass-rusher, and if the No. 1 goes away, [Kerrigan] might go away, too. It’s imperative to keep [Orakpo], especially because of the state of the secondary. They used picks on guys, and not surprisingly none of those guys changed the course of the secondary in their rookie year. That doesn’t mean they won’t be decent players. You rarely see rookie corners play well, so I could see it being better in Year 2. But it’s still a bad secondary. You can’t ignore it. London is clearly done. Perry Riley is more like a No. 2. He’s fine, he’s a starter and he can play every snap. But he’ll probably never go to a Pro Bowl. I’m fine with him, but they have too many of those guys. I don’t think replacing Fletcher will be all that difficult. He’s a liability in coverage. They need more in the secondary, and I don’t think throwing another second-round pick at the problem is the best solution. They need to get a corner or safety coming off his first contract. That might cost a little, but at least you know he can play and isn’t over the hill.

What do you think of Barry Cofield?

Williamson: I’ve always been a fan, and I’m surprised he faded this season. But he’s not the problem. He’s capable of being very good. He’s not Vince Wilfork, but he’s an active nose guy and can play every snap and not embarrass you in pass situations. One more defensive end would be nice. They’re one of the few defensive lines with a three-man front that does not have a distinguished pass-rusher on the line, someone who when you go to your nickel you kick this guy down as a tackle with Rak and Kerrigan and he has a chance to make a play. If they had that and kept Orakpo, that pass rush would be a lot better.

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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