Fans of the Washington Redskins experienced a collective panic attack during Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons, watching in helpless horror as starting quarterback Robert Griffin was knocked from the game in the third quarter with a concussion after taking a shot from Atlanta linebacker Sean Weatherspoon.
The Redskins were then forced to turn to another rookie, Kirk Cousins, under center, and while Cousins struggled somewhat in his NFL debut, all is not necessarily doom and gloom if the Redskins have to roll him out there when they host the Minnesota Vikings in Week 6.
Of course, this could all be moot. Griffin is reportedly doing much better on Monday after not knowing what quarter it was after getting whacked by Weatherspoon, with Cousins himself telling Mike Jones of The Washington Post that Griffin seemed none the worse for wear when they met Monday.
“We had our mandatory rookie success program this morning, and Robert was there,” Cousins said. “He seemed fine, seemed in good spirits. He appeared to be doing well.”
However, given the NFL's emphasis on "player safety" (insert 18-game schedule or replacement official comment here) and the league's concussion protocols, Griffin will have an array of hoops to jump through before he's cleared for a return to action. And there's still a very real possibility that the electrifying rookie could be sidelined for a week.
Were that to be the case, the Redskins would ostensibly turn to Cousins, since he's been active for all five games this season while veteran Rex Grossman has not.
Things started out well enough for Cousins, who found wide receiver Santana Moss for a 77-yard touchdown pass, but after throwing interceptions on the game's last two drives, Cousins expressed his frustrations to The Post's Mark Maske.
“It’s difficult,” Cousins said. “But you don’t sign up to play the game at this level not expecting it to be difficult. So the bottom line is I didn’t get it done the way I wanted to today. But what I have to look at, the perspective I’m taking, is I’m going to learn from it, get better. And I’m going to pick up things that are invaluable going forward.”
Granted, Kirk Cousins is not Robert Griffin, but there are a few reasons to think that he could hold down the fort fairly well if pressed into action as the starter against Minnesota.
First, it's obvious that the Redskins must see something they like in Cousins, who threw for over 3,300 yards and 25 touchdowns last year at Michigan State, or head coach Mike Shanahan wouldn't have made Cousins the primary backup for Griffin over Grossman to begin with.
Yes, the interceptions that Cousins threw were unfortunate, but Cousins wasn't terrible against Atlanta, completing 5-of-9 passes for 111 yards. Given a full week of practice time with the first team, it's not unreasonable to expect Cousins to fare better in his first NFL start.
Also, with a solid ground game propelled by yet another rookie in Alfred Morris, the Redskins have an offense that would allow Cousins to play within himself, using the run to set up the sort of short passes and play action that was Cousins' staple in East Lansing.
Finally, there's one very important quality that Kirk Cousins possesses that increases the chances of the Redskins getting back to .500 this week if Griffin is forced to play the role of clipboard holder.
He is not Rex Grossman.
And that's one fact there's just no arguing with.