Mike Shanahan selected 21 players in the 2011 and 2012 drafts, and the 17 who remain on the roster are set to enter a critical stage in their development. In the coming weeks, Redskins Insiders Tarik El-Bashir and Rich Tandler will take a look at what those players have accomplished thus far and what they still must do in order to solidify their status in the NFL.
Who: Kirk Cousins
Draft year/round/pick: 2012/4th/102nd
Career to date:
Mike Shanahan had to withstand a firestorm of criticism for taking Cousins in the fourth round after he traded up to get Robert Griffin III in the first. In the aftermath, some of the pressure ended up on Cousins. It was up to him to play well enough if called upon to justify the pick and to set himself up for a starting job with another NFL team down the road.
The thinking on the Cousins pick was quickly revised when the came into a critical Week 14 game against the Ravens. Trailing by eight, Cousins replaced an injured Griffin in the late going and completed the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon. Cousins then took a page out of the mobile Griffin’s playbook by running a quarterback draw for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
That feeling that Cousins just may have been worth that fourth rounder grew the next week when Griffin was sidelined with that knee injury and he got the start. After a shaky start he ended up completing 26 of 37 passes for 329 yards and two touchdowns. The Redskins got a critical win on their way to the NFC East title.
In 2013, Cousins worked with the first team all spring and summer as Griffin rehabbed his injured knee. He lost a chance to get some quality snaps on film when he suffered a foot injury in the second preseason game. The third preseason game, when starters play a full half or more, could have been his showcase game but he had to sit it out.
Cousins made a couple of mop up appearances before Shanahan decided to bench Griffin for the last three games and let Cousins play. He played well at times but he also threw five interceptions to four touchdowns and he lost a fumble. The Redskins went 0-3 in his starts although two of the losses were by a single point each. The general consensus was that the three-game test run didn’t hurt Cousins’ chances of someone taking a chance on him as their starter (and giving the Redskins good value in a trade) but it didn’t help his prospects a whole lot either.
Outlook for 2014:
We don’t know where Cousins will be when training camp starts in late July. Jay Gruden has said that Griffin is the starter and that here will be no competition. Do the Redskins keep him as insurance against another Griffin injury? Or do they attempt to deal him?
There are a lot of factors that go into such a decision but it probably boils down to this—if a team offers a second-round pick for him the Redskins will probably take it. Anything less and they are likely to keep him.
It is unlikely that Gruden will bench a healthy Griffin at any point during the season even if the team is out of playoff contention. That would leave Cousins as a spectator unless something happens. That probably has us right back here a year from now, wondering what Cousins’ trade value is.