Mike Freeman's 10-Point Stance: Kirk Cousins Finally Ready to 'Tear Apart' NFL

Mike Freeman@@mikefreemanNFLNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 19, 2018

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 16: Kirk Cousins #8 of the Minnesota Vikings throws a pass during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on September 16, 2018 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The game ended in a 29-29 tie. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Kirk Cousins is who many coaches in the NFL thought he was, Washington's fans get wise, and Eric Dickerson's noble cause. All that and more in this week's 10-Point Stance.


1. Captain Kirk

To many who watched him over the years, Kirk Cousins was what he was—an OK player who had his moments, an average quarterback. Not terrible but nothing special.

Coaches who have watched Cousins from afar, however, have long felt differently. To them, Cousins was a physically gifted player in a poor organization that didn't know how to surround him with talent on either side of the ball.

In the right system, on the right team, many of those coaches thought Cousins could be a star.

Yes, an Aaron Rodgers-Tom Brady-Al Pacino-type star.

Kirk Cousins.

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They may not have been wrong. Through the season's first two weeks, Cousins has a 108.7 passer rating, ranks fifth in passing yards, third in touchdown passes, has nine plays of at least 20 yards and has the Vikings 1-0-1 with the league's 10th-best scoring output. As one AFC East assistant coach told me this week: "You see what happens when you put him in a real organization with all-around good players. He could tear our league apart."

He could tear the league apart?

Are we talking about the same Kirk? Not this Kirk? Or this one?

We saw a glimpse of that star potential in the Vikings' 29-29 tie with the Packers on Sunday. Cousins stood toe-to-toe with Rodgers (an injured Rodgers, but still...) at Lambeau Field. He threw for 425 yards, four touchdowns, a two-point conversion and just one pick.

He also made one of the best touch passes you will ever see, throwing it between two Packers defenders, while he got blasted. It was the kind of throw that if Brady made it, we'd be crafting another version of Beowulf as an ode to him.

The Washington Redacteds never trusted Cousins. They essentially swapped him for Alex Smith, who's good but whose ceiling is limited.

It's early, sure, and maybe Cousins falls apart. But he has two things going for him he didn't have before: trust and talent.

On Sunday, the Vikings coaching staff allowed him to make plays he was never given the freedom to in six years with Washington.

And the plays he was making were with top receivers like Stefon Diggs and in front of perhaps the most talented defense in football. Dan Snyder could only dream of constructing a roster that potent.

With Cousins making smart throws, aggressive throws and impossible throws, the Vikings have a true star at QB.

Yes, Kirk Cousins.

That guy.


2. Fans catching on in Washington

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 16: Fans in the upper deck watch the first half of the Washington Redskins and Indianapolis Colts game at FedExField on September 16, 2018 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

You can only fool people for so long. Just ask the fans in Washington.

The team announced an attendance of 57,013, and according to Liz Clarke and Tyler Blint-Welsh of the Washington Post, that's down 21,000 people from the home opener last year.

Finally, it appears fans are rebelling against the horrible management of owner Dan Snyder.

The team has made the playoffs just twice in 10 years, and if you look up "taking fans for granted" in the NFL dictionary, a picture of the Redacteds pops up with Snyder. But through all the bad signings, price hikes and parking shenanigans, Washington fans have stuck by the team.

As a former lifelong fan whose family still follows the team, I can attest there isn't a more dedicated fan group in the world. Except for maybe the Browns.

That seems to be changing.


3. It's not personal, it's business

David Richard/Associated Press

One Patriots official put it this way when describing the risks and rewards of trading for oft-troubled receiver Josh Gordon:

If he turns out to be productive, we got him for only a fifth-round pick.

If it doesn't work, we only gave up a fifth-round pick.

This is how the Patriots think. They are androids. They are football-specific. If Gordon can produce, great. If he can't, he gone. To them, it's that simple.

Their cold-bloodedness, in some ways, is refreshing. Teams often talk about how they want troubled players to recover. Many (not all) don't really care. Either you can perform or you can't.

The Patriots want Gordon to play, and if he gets his life together, that's a bonus. If not, it's—as they often say—next man up. It may not be nice, but at least it's honest.


4. A noble fight

Kelvin Kuo/Associated Press

Two years ago, Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson was on a golf course with three other Hall of Famers: Bruce Smith, Rickey Jackson and Lawrence Taylor.

That's some serious talent in one spot. Those four alone might be able to beat the Browns.

The conversation soon turned to how Hall of Famers like them deserve to be paid by a league that makes billions but for years hasn't always treated its Hall of Famers—or its older players in general—well.

That conversation was the spark of what would become years of discussions between Hall of Famers that ultimately resulted in a letter being sent to Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, and DeMaurice Smith, the head of the union, demanding more support.

The letter, as first reported by ESPN's Arash Markazi, was signed by some of the most prestigious names in the history of the sport: Dickerson, who is spearheading the effort, as well as Marcus Allen, Mel Blount, Derrick Brooks, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, Richard Dent, Carl Eller, Marshall Faulk, Mike Haynes, Rickey Jackson, Ronnie Lott, Curtis Martin, Joe Namath, John Randle, Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jackie Smith and Lawrence Taylor. (Though Jerry Rice and Kurt Warner were listed as co-signees, they both said their names should not have been included. Dickerson issued a statement taking responsibility for the miscommunication but added that both players voiced their support for his cause.) Also signing the letter was Sarah White, Reggie White's widow.

In a conversation with B/R, Dickerson said the goal of the players is twofold: Get an annual salary and health care for Hall of Famers and eventually, he said, better health care and better pensions for older players.

"I remember one time having a conversation with Deacon Jones," said Dickerson of the Hall of Fame lineman, "and he said, 'Do you know what my pension is? It's two hundred f--king dollars a month. What the f--k am I going to do with that?"

"I want to be perfectly clear," Dickerson said. "This started with the Hall of Fame players, but we want all older players to have health care. We want all older players to have a good pension. Our pension is a joke."

"What DeMaurice Smith did was sell out all the older players," Dickerson said. "We want to change that. When the next CBA comes around we want a seat at the table. We want someone representing the older players."

This is a noble fight by Dickerson and a needed one. The league is awash in cash—Goodell made $31.7 million in 2015 alone—and has long been neglectful in taking care of its older players.

Dickerson is right. It's time to take care of the men who helped build this league.


5. Gore spears record book

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 09: Frank Gore #21 of the Miami Dolphins runs with the ball during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Hard Rock Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
Mark Brown/Getty Images

There was a bit of history made last week that you may have missed.

With 25 yards rushing Sunday, Dolphins running back Frank Gore pushed his career total to 14,112, passing Curtis Martin (14,101) for fourth place in league history.

Martin is in the Hall of Fame, and one day Gore will be, too. What's remarkable is how he reached this point. Gore has never been flashy. His career isn't full of 70-yard blasts or highlight plays. His style has always been methodical, unstoppable and persistent.

There's a nobility to being a reliable presence.

Those should be the first words used to describe Gore when he reaches Canton.


6. Room for improvement

Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Ultimately, the Bears will go only as far as Mitchell Trubisky is good. He doesn't have to be great. But he has to be accurate. And after two games, it's clear he is still struggling with some accuracy issues.

Like last season, Trubisky has sailed some passes high, missed wide-open receivers and struggled in play-action.

Trubisky has improved, especially with his footwork, but he'll need to take another step in his development if the Bears are to take advantage of Khalil Mack's impact on their rejuvenated defense.


7. Missing you

If you want to understand how badly the Raiders miss pass-rusher Khalil Mack, look no further than how they defended the Broncos' final three drives Sunday in Denver.

The Raiders led 19-7 late in the third quarter. They had the game firmly in control.

Then came a 10-play, 54-yard drive that led to a Denver field goal. It was 19-10. Just as important, anyone watching could see the Raiders defense getting gassed.

Next, the Broncos put together a 14-play, 67-yard drive that lasted a staggering seven minutes, eight seconds. The Raiders defense generated little pressure on Broncos quarterback Case Keenum and was toast by the time Keenum ran it in from the 1-yard line for a touchdown. The score was 19-17.

Denver then finished the game with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that led to the game-winning 36-yard field goal.

That was three scoring drives for a total of 34 plays and barely any resistance from the Raiders defense. Oakland's best remaining pass-rusher, Bruce Irvin, looked so tired he could barely stand by game's end.

Mack's presence wouldn't have guaranteed Oakland a defensive stand, but it's not unreasonable to think he would have made a play to at least slow Denver's late-game momentum.

This isn't the last time the Raiders will be bemoaning the lack of a defensive leader.


8. Too much of a good thing?

Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

When the Buccaneers signed Ryan Fitzpatrick over Colin Kaepernick, a certain big-mouthed, foul-mouthed football columnist tweeted it was a stupid move. Now, Bucs fans are throwing that comment back in my face.

My point about Fitzpatrick then and now is that Kaepernick deserved a chance (then and now) and wasn't getting it because (in my opinion) the NFL was colluding to keep Kaepernick out of football because of his protests.

Further, let us recall the circumstances at the time...

Fitzpatrick was signed by Tampa Bay in May 2017. At the time, he was 34; Kaepernick was 29 and had played in a Super Bowl. The last meaningful season Fitzpatrick played was 2016 with the Jets, when, in 14 games (11 starts), he threw for 12 touchdowns and 17 interceptions and compiled a 69.6 passer rating.

Kaepernick was the more logical choice at the time. It wasn't close.

Fitzpatrick is playing great now, obviously, but the key is always how long it will last. Fitzpatrick has had good seasons and good games, followed by total disasters.

Are we sure another isn't headed his way?


9. Strength in numbers

TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 16:  Nelson Agholor #13 of the Philadelphia Eagles in action against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on September 16, 2018 in Tampa, Florida.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Michael Reaves/Getty Images

One of the more underrated players this season, as he was last year, is Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor.

In two games this season, Agholor has 22 total targets, 16 catches for 121 yards and one touchdown. After catching 62 passes for 768 yards and eight scores last season, he's become one of the Eagles' more reliable players.

He is also an example of what the Eagles have become. They're dangerous not because they have a team full of stars but because they have a lot of good players across the board. They can overwhelm you with goodness. While 1-1 after a loss to the Buccaneers (thanks to a mythical performance from Ryan Fitzpatrick), the defending Super Bowl champions could easily return because of players like Agholor.


10. Pass-blocking 101

I wanted to end this week's 10-Point with the fundamentals. Proper blocking technique by running backs is, shall we say, sometimes lacking across the league.

That's why this piece of gorgeous blocking by Packers running back Jamaal Williams in pass protection is so fun to watch. It's not just the perfect technique—low center of gravity and quick feet—but it's the relentlessness of the blocking. Williams constantly attacks.

Teams should show this tape in every running backs meeting this week.


Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.