There's no arguing Kirk Cousins is coming off a breakout season. After rewriting the franchise's record book and directing the Redskins to their first NFC East title since 2012, there is no longer a debate over whether he's got the goods. Yet as Cousins enters his first season as the clear starter, an argument over how good he can become remains. Perhaps more specifically are concerns over with the flaws are fixable.
That discussion is one that intrigues SI.com NFL writer Andy Benoit, who recently spoke with Breaking Burgundy about all things Redskins including where he ranked Cousins among starting quarterbacks and specific pros and cons from last season.
"I was impressed with how well he understood route combinations as they relate to the coverage he was seeing," Benoit said of Cousins. "In other words, he was a pretty good decision maker."
[* One of the primary reasons I pushed for Cousins to start around this time last year was the belief that his style, his understanding of the passing game would allow coach Jay Gruden to at least run his offensive scheme as desired.]
It's several other parts of Cousins' skill set, the areas Benoit feels need improving, that intrigued the Monday Morning Quarterback contributor.
"I think it's a pretty interesting discussion with a guy like that on what he needs to work on because how much can you work on," Benoit said. "He doesn't make a lot of tight window throws. He doesn't attack the intermediate levels on complex routes quite as much as you'd want. He does OK with that, but he's not a multi-progression, I'm going to hit the third option on a tight window working my way across the field. He's not that type of quarterback.
"So I'd guess you'd say that's what I want him to work on. In order to be that type of quarterback, you have to have two things they say you can't teach. One is the anticipation, the ability to see things before they happen, which Cousins is okay at, but only okay. The other is arm strength, which people think doesn't matter as much as it does. It does matter as much as it does. Cousins does not have that kind of arm strength.
"Then you get into a discussion what do you have to do with Cousins, what does he do well, what can we ask him to do. Really, to answer the question of what do we want him to work on, the answer is probably just become more than what he already is. Maybe the next realistic stage for him is just become better in the pre-snap phrase. If he can gain power to change plays at the line of scrimmage, which they haven't given him that power yet, that would play to his strengths, play to his comfort level. Allow him to manipulate the game that way.
"I'd like to see him be a stronger thrower, but you can't ask a guy to do something he's not capable of doing. I would like then to see him become a more cerebral QB and that comes with experience."
Cousins received 16 games worth of starting experience last season after three years of primarily serving as Washington's backup quarterback. Combined with the growing confidence evident during offseason practices, it appears Benoit's wish may becoming true.
“He’s obviously playing with a lot of confidence, having a lot of fun," Gruden said of Cousins last week. "He’s got great command of the offense, that’s the one thing that you notice. He’s got great command over the formations. He’s got great command on the snap count, and that’s something he didn’t so much have the first year I was here and even last year in this time of year. But when you get command of the little things, it makes the big things a lot easier and he’s seeing things a lot better – concepts versus different coverage – he’s doing a good job."
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