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Why Kirk Cousins is thriving in Washington

Kirk Cousins ranks fourth in Total QBR since Week 10. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Through the first 12 games of the season, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins looked average: 251 yards per game, 17 TDs, 10 INTs and 57.7 Total QBR for a 5-7 team trying to stay afloat in the subpar NFC East. But after a three-week run to lock up the division title, highlighted by the quarterback's electric passing numbers (328 ypg, 9 TDs, 1 INT, 90.1 QBR), Cousins has justified the decision made this past summer by head coach Jay Gruden to give him the starting job over former first-rounder Robert Griffin III.

Today, using the film, let's break down why Cousins is lighting up the league while focusing on the down-field throws in Gruden's playbook, the play-action game and the impact of tight end Jordan Reed.

Keeping it simple

The word "efficient," when paired with a pro quarterback, is often looked at as a negative because it doesn't scream playmaker or point to a guy who can take over a game. But it's a positive with Cousins because it says the former Michigan State star is playing within the system to produce numbers.

That means making the correct reads, limiting disaster situations and getting the ball out on time in a balanced call sheet under Gruden. Whether he is throwing the curl to Pierre Garcon, targeting Reed on a skinny post or finding DeSean Jackson in a one-on-one matchup, Cousins is deliberate with his progressions and reads. Find the open target, or the favorable matchup, and let it go. Keep it simple. That's smart football.

Through the first 12 games, Cousins hit on only 45 percent of his passes thrown more than 10 yards downfield, with four scores and seven picks. The past three weeks? Man, the numbers have changed dramatically: 74.3 completion rate, five TDs, one INT, while bumping up his yards per attempt from 10.0 to 16.2.

But it also goes deeper than the stats when studying Cousins.