After receiving tons of criticism for drafting two quarterbacks within the first three rounds, Mike Shanahan and the Redskins are the ones laughing now after Cousins' late-game heroics against the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday in the absence of an injured Robert Griffin III. Captain Kirk could be called upon to lead Washington again, as RG3 is uncertain to play in Week 16 after suffering a mild knee sprain according to Shanahan via The Washington Post.
In addition to Cousins of course, let's take a look at a trio of stars who must step their game up if RG3 can't play in Week 15.
Alfred Morris, RB
Not that Redskins starting running back Alfred Morris hasn't been getting it done this season, after all, he's the leading rusher on the NFL's No. 1-ranked rushing unit. With the team's second-leading rusher, RG3, potentially out for Sunday's clash with Cleveland, Morris will need to makeup for the lost production on the ground.
The rookie back is closing in on 1,300 yards this season, and only needs 72 more yards to reach that mark. He should easily surpass it though considering he's rushed for at least 113 yards in each of Washington's past three games.
However, there is little margin for error for Morris this weekend. If Griffin is out, the Redskins will be down a player who's accounting for roughly 58 rushing yards per week. Cleveland's rush defense has been below average this season, but with one less rushing threat out on the field, Morris' production will be vital to Washington's success.
Ryan Kerrigan, LB
Ryan Kerrigan leads the Redskins in sacks this season with 6.5, but the second-year player hasn't recorded a sack in Washington's last two games. He will need to be more of a presence in the Redskins' pass rush this Sunday at Cleveland if they are to have success disrupting the Browns' offense.
Getting to the quarterback won't be easy for Kerrigan, though. Cleveland has given up just 24 sacks in 13 games this season, ranking them seventh in fewest sacks allowed in 2012.
So long as Kerrigan is exploding off the ball and staying disciplined in the run game, Washington's defense will be fine. The key for Shanahan's Redskins will be to build a lead early and unleash Kerrigan on the Browns' pass protectors the rest of the way.
Santana Moss, WR
Which player will be the biggest key vs. Cleveland?
A 12-year NFL veteran, Santana Moss will need to put his experience to use in Week 15 at Cleveland if RG3 can't suit up under center. Moss is the team's leading receiver by yardage (468) this season, and is tied with Pierre Garcon for most plays of 20 or more yards (eight).
If Cousins gets the start, you can bet he'll be looking No. 89's way early and often. Moss will need to work hard to get open on Sunday and do his best to provide Cousins, who is still a rookie despite the poise he demonstrated last week, with an easy target.
Even more importantly though, Moss will need to step up his game in key moments. He made some big catches in last week's come-from-behind victory over the Ravens and he'll need to copy that blueprint this weekend.
It will take a total team effort for an RG3-less Redskins team to win its fifth in a row this weekend, but if these stars don't bring their A-game, Washington's playoff hopes will take a hit in Ohio.
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