Did Cousins take a step back vs. Cowboys?

Did Cousins take a step back vs. Cowboys?
December 23, 2013, 8:00 am
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Self assessment: Cousins breaks down Cousins

Did Kirk Cousins take a step back on Sunday against the Cowboys?

His numbers across the board, with the exception of the turnover category, indicate he wasn’t quite as good as he was when the Redskins played the Falcons in Cousins’ first start of the season. His completion percentage (58.3 vs. DAL, 64.4 vs. ATL), yards per attempt (5.5 this week, 8.5 last week), and passer rating (71.2 vs. 94.8) all declined significantly from last week to this week. Cousins did throw just one interception after throwing two and losing a fumble in Atlanta.  

But when you’re trying to gauge a young quarterback’s progress it’s a mistake to try to use a microscope. In his two starts this year, Cousins has completed 50 of 81 passes (61.7 percent) for 578 yards (7.1 yards/attempt) with four touchdowns and three interceptions. That comes to a respectable passer rating of 84.2. If Cousins had enough attempts to qualify for ranking, that rating would be in the middle of the pack, slightly above the 82.2 rating that Robert Griffin III posted this year and a tick lower than Ryan Tannehill and Matthew Stafford.

Sixteen games of Cousins with an 84 passer rating would represent an improvement for some NFL teams. But most would not want to settle for it. Seven qualifying quarterbacks have pass ratings of over 100 for the season. Some of those QB’s like Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers were first-round picks. But both Nick Foles and Russell Wilson were third-round picks and the Bears got Josh McCown off the street.

Certainly, Cousins could improve. On the other hand, he could take a step or two backwards. A team looking for a quarterback might look at Cousins and think of him as a QB they could start until they can get their franchise guy. But it seems likely that such a team would not give up a first-round pick for such a player. A team might give a late second or a third with a conditional late-round pick thrown in depending on games started.

On the other hand, it just takes one team to think that it can get the Cousins we saw in Atlanta and in Cleveland last year (70 percent completions, 104.4 passer rating) every game. That team might be willing to bid a bit higher.

All of this is premature, of course. We have to see how Cousins does against the Giants, what quarterbacks officially declare for the draft (and which ones don’t), what happens with quarterbacks in free agency, including seeing if the Redskins land a veteran backup alternative to Cousins. After that, we will have a better idea of Cousins’ value.