Washington Redskins: Could Kirk Cousins Lead the Offense If RGIII Sits Out?
First, they extended their winning streak to four games—their longest such streak since 2007—and kept their playoff hopes alive.
Second, the catalyst for their playoff push, Robert Griffin III, suffered a knee injury that appeared to be serious enough to sideline him for the Redskins three remaining games this season.
At this point, all we know is that Griffin suffered a knee sprain and was forced to leave the game, appearing to be in considerable pain. He went to the lockerroom and came back to the sidelines sporting a knee brace, but he walking under his own power.
The MRI after the game confirmed the injury to be a sprain, but that doesn't mean Griffin isn't going to miss time. (h/t Yahoo! Sports)
For the second time this season, Griffin suffered an injury that knocked him out of the game, and this most recent injury could thrust backup quarterback and fellow rookie Kirk Cousins into a starting role.
In the worst-case scenario, Griffin misses the final three weeks of the season, leaving Kirk Cousins to lead the Redskins down the stretch. Cousins made big plays late in the game against Baltimore, validating the Redskins decision to spend a fourth-round pick on him back in April.
Cousins, however, is not the dynamic player that Griffin has already established himself as this season.
With Cousins under center, the Redskins offense would become decidedly more predictable, at least by NFL standards. The read option doesn't work without the speed that Griffin brings to the table, and the pro-style offense Cousins ran at MSU is not the offense the Redskins, or offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, have drawn up.
Cousins also lacks the sheer arm strength that Griffin has. This shortens the field a bit and allows defenses to play both the run and the pass more effectively.
If there is one similarity between Cousins and Griffin it is their ability to improvise and keep plays alive outside of the pocket.
Granted, Griffin has the ability to either complete passes on the run or take off running, whereas Cousins can really only pose a threat completing passes.
How much does the offense change with Cousins under center? Shanahan tailored his offense to the skills Griffin brought to the Redskins, and while Cousins may be well-versed in the terminology, defenses simply don't have to respect his running ability in the same way that they do Griffin's.
Against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 5, Cousins showed both his ability to make plays as well as make rookie mistakes.
He hit Santana Moss over the middle for a 77-yard touchdown, but came back on the next drive and threw a pair of very rookie-like interceptions that ended the game for the Redskins.
Not to take away from Cousins for the 11 passes he's thrown in his NFL career, but the limited sample size and the unconventional offensive system make it difficult to envision him having the easiest time guiding the Redskins offense.
Beyond the physical differences, Cousins hasn't been the player to spark the Redskins to their four-game run.
Without Griffin, who will be the spark to keep Washington rolling towards the playoffs?
Rookie running back Alfred Morris has been arguably more impressive than Griffin based off where he was drafted as well as the fact that he was buried on the depth chart during the preseason.
Morris and Griffin have benefited from playing with one another, so it is difficult to say that one has been more important to the Redskins success than the other.
Over this four-game stretch, Morris has run for 437 yards and two touchdowns, while Griffin has thrown for 913 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Though Cousins made two critical plays to bring the Redskins back against the Ravens, there is no guarantee that he can do it over the course of an entire game. It would be a lot to ask him to conjure chemistry with receivers he hasn't worked with in practice and handle all the things NFL defenses throw at him on the fly.
There are far too many arguments against Cousins and his chances at succeeding in Griffin's stead for him to actually take ahold of this team and carry them the rest of the way, right?
The discussion could go on forever, especially with the growing concern regarding Griffin's ability endure the physical punishment his playing style and the Redskins offense leaves him exposed to.
Washington may be a different team with Cousins under center, but the spark that Griffin embodies has lit a fire under everyone in the lockerroom. Not to imply the Redskins could make the playoffs on autopilot, but they've won close games in unexpected ways.
Griffin may be the catalyst, but the Redskins are rolling. Losing him for one game or more isn't going to bring their momentum to a screeching halt. It may force them to find other ways to win, but that's life in the NFL.
Cousins was drafted for a reason, and since the Redskins have kept him active while keeping Rex Grossman inactive, he has to be capable of something.
We can think of Cousins as the Todd Collins of this iteration of the Redskins, minus the decade of experience in one offense. He's poised, he's capable, and the Redskins have found ways to win without amazing games from the quarterback position.
It is a very real possibility that Cousins gets the call over the final three-game stretch of the season. Whether he's ready or not, the Redskins are going to have to find a way to win without Griffin.
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