The Pro Football Writers Association named Cousins and Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman as the NFL’s Most Improved Players. Both deserved the honor, and, in Cousins’ case, the numbers illustrate just how much he got better.
Entering 2015, Cousins had made nine career starts and appeared in 14 career games. In those games, Cousins threw for 18 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. In six games in 2014, he threw for 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions in five starts and one relief appearance. But he was benched and replaced by Colt McCoy. Cousins did not play the rest of the season, though there was strong support among some coaches for him to return.
This season, Cousins got the starting job in late August and never let it go. He didn’t get off to a hot start, throwing six touchdowns and eight interceptions in his first six games. But Cousins did look sharper, showing more poise than he did in his first three seasons and more command of the offense. In the final 10 regular-season games he threw 23 touchdown passes to only three interceptions as the Redskins went 9-7. They averaged 32.8 points per game during a four-game winning streak to close the regular season.
One reason the coaches wanted to start Cousins: They saw his improvement throughout the offseason and into the summer. Teammates did, too, which is why some of them went to the coaches to offer their opinion. They expressed their faith in him throughout the season. There’s no doubt Cousins was helped by the talent around him in the passing game -- tight end Jordan Reed, receivers DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder -- and a coaching staff that managed them well.
For all the talk of moves made in the offseason -- and they were solid -- one that can’t get lost was making the move to a player already here. Not only did Cousins improve, but so did his team.
The pending free agent is now in line for a big, new contract, not to mention increased expectations.