Grading Kirk Cousins' First Start for Washington Redskins
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Now, it was a rocky start as the rookie signal-caller began 1-of-6 with an interception and getting sacked on his first four possessions.
Thereafter, however, Cousins continued to improve and the Washington Redskins ultimately pulled out another victory. Winners of five consecutive games, the Redskins sit atop the NFC East at 8-6 and control their own destiny.
The former Michigan State Spartan has become a great steal of the 2012 NFL draft, so expect the Redskins to keep rolling this season.
Ahead, we break down Cousins' performance on the road against the Cleveland Browns.
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Kirk Cousins has a 70.2 completion percentage.
That's insanely impressive given that his first NFL start came on the road against a confident defense.
Factor in that he began 1-of-6 and Cousins went 25-of-31 for the remainder of the contest. In utilizing all levels of the field, Cousins lasered Cleveland for 329 yards and two touchdowns.
We were also reminded of Cousins' arm strength from the pocket, setting up when rolling out and while on the run. The guy possesses all the intangibles to make NFL throws—it's no surprise Washington selected him last spring.
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This was arguably the most impressive aspect of Kirk Cousins on Sunday.
After the tough beginning the Browns could not stop the Redskins offense.
Now, Washington's defense was definitely of assistance with two interceptions of Brandon Weeden. Nonetheless, Cousins managed to turn those into touchdowns for the Redskins.
In getting 14 points off of turnovers, Cousins went 4-of-6 for 52 yards on those possessions and allowed Washington to pull away. Not to mention, the Redskins finished Week 15 by going 7-of-15 on third down and 17 of 25 first downs coming from the passing attack.
Seven of Cousins' eight receiving targets caught at least two passes, and four hauled in at least four receptions. That's field utilization if there ever was.
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This area is where Kirk Cousins was challenged from the get go.
From opening kickoff it appeared that Week 15 was going to be a long day for the rookie quarterback.
Well, Cousins immediately fended off any cynics with a 54-yard launch to Leonard Hankerson toward the end of the first quarter. It was the first play of Washington's fifth drive and Cousins made it look easy after a naked bootleg to spot one passed three Browns defenders.
The man was virtually flawless from that touchdown pass onward and the Redskins scored four red zone touchdowns in the second half.
Another example was his second touchdown pass to Hankerson when in the face of a blitzer from rolling out. Cousins just flipped the rock over and connected for an easy score.
Cousins epitomized poise in coming back from a tough start—a very impressive trait in from a rookie.
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The Washington Redskins don't win this game unless Kirk Cousins possesses leadership.
For one, that trait is what a quarterback must embody above anything else.
Robert Griffin III may be the team leader, but a player can only influence so much when sidelined. As a result, Cousins had no choice but to impact Washington's offense in a positive manner to win.
After all, Cleveland fields a better defense than advertised because of their ability to pressure the quarterback and to generate turnovers. So, Cousins displayed leadership by overcoming a bad start and in the process, was composed in the pocket even when getting hit.
As we see next, his overall performance was simply impressive.
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Mike Shanahan, Robert Griffin III and the Redskins could not have asked more of Kirk Cousins on Sunday.
His numbers were near perfect and his final passer rating was 104.4.
Also, in an article by Tom Withers of the Associated Press via Yahoo! Sports:
Cousins may not have RG3's talent, but the fourth-round pick from Michigan State was efficient, accurate and only made one major mistake - an early interception to set up Cleveland's first TD.
If the Browns thought they were getting a break, Cousins proved to be as challenging to stop as his more elusive and hyped teammate.
Factor in Cousins spreading the field to all available receiving targets, hitting each dimension and taking what Cleveland gave, the rookie picked the Browns apart. And because of that impact through the air, Cousins' presence set up Alfred Morris on the ground.
There, Morris totaled 87 rushing yards and two scores on 27 attempts.
Although, that production does not happen unless Cousins thwarts Cleveland, courtesy of smooth marksmanship and a quick delivery. Washington fans have every reason to feel confident whenever this guy is under center, period.
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