Casserly: Cousins is a solid backup plan

Casserly: Cousins is a solid backup plan
January 10, 2013, 9:30 am
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Charley Casserly on decision to keep RG3 in the game

Although there is much uncertainty surrounding the injury to Robert Griffin III and the timetable for his return, former NFL executive Charley Casserly said the Redskins are fortunate in one regard.

“You’ve already got your contingency plan: Kirk Cousins,” said Casserly, who served as general manager in Washington and Houston and currently works as an analyst for NFL Network. “They are covered. I think they feel that if they went with Cousins, and Rex [Grossman] as a backup, that’s a good situation.”

Indeed, Cousins helped the Redskins rally to beat the Ravens and was victorious in his only start, a 38-21 win in Cleveland. In his three appearances, the 24-year-old completed 68.8 percent of his passes and threw four touchdowns and three interceptions.

“I’ve watched every throw he’s made as a Redskin,” Casserly continued. “And I don’t see any reason not to be confident that he can go in there, and you can win with him.”

With Griffin sidelined for the foreseeable future after undergoing knee surgery Wednesday – estimates range from 8 months to a year – Cousins would seem to be the logical choice to lead the Redskins until RG3 returns.

Cousins and RG3, though, have vastly different skill sets. Griffin is as much a threat to run as he is to pass, while Cousins is more of a traditional pocket passer. But, according to Casserly, that probably won’t have a major impact on the Redskins’ approach to free agency or force Mike and Kyle Shanahan to overhaul the playbook.

“They brought RG3 here with the idea that you run the ball a lot,” Casserly said. “In other words, you run the zone scheme, bootleg and play-action. None of that changes when Cousins is in the game. The option is 10 plays a game. It’s a very valuable part of the offense, but I don’t think you have to change personnel, or change who you go after, that’s a one player adjustment.”

Casserly added: “You could keep [the option] in there, because it still causes problems for the defense, and it opens up play-action. But when [Cousins] runs the ball, he won’t be as effective. You can keep it in there because the concept doesn’t change: somebody has to cover the dive, the pitch and the option. People won’t worry about him running, but if you don’t cover him, he’ll get 10 yards.”

Casserly said the biggest offseason concern for the Redskins will, of course, revolve around Griffin, who is expected to spend the next several weeks on crutches and likely won’t hit the field until late May or June, according to one expert, and might not be cleared for contact until training camp – at the earliest.

As the Shanahans evaluate the 2012 season, one decision they'll have to make, Casserly added, will be whether to keep the designed runs for RG3 in the playbook.

“Whether they decide to keep the option will certainly be a debatable point,” he said. “But remember he did not get hurt running the option [against Baltimore]; he got hurt running.”

Either way, Casserly said RG3 must remain committed to getting to the sideline and out of harm’s way.

“RG3 has to make a conscious effort to get down or get out of bounds like he did for a part of the season, but then he kind of reverted back to being aggressive," he said. "He’s got to change his style of play. There are a lot of quarterbacks – John Elway, Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers – that run around and stay upright. So it can be done.”

Casserly also believes the physical effect of Griffin’s injury won’t be his only setback. Losing an entire offseason, particularly for a second-year player, might stifle his progress some, too.

“If he misses all of the training camp, I don’t think he improves,” Casserly said. “Where can he improve? He can improve in the drop back game, on down-the-field passing and reading [defenses]. There’s no question that’s the next area for him to improve.”

He added: “Where that will show up is him running less. There are times he doesn’t pull the trigger on throws, and he pulls the ball down and runs. He doesn’t throw interceptions, but there are throws that I think he can make – and will make – in the future. If he misses the whole offseason, I’m not sure he’ll have the confidence to do that.”

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