NFL analyst: Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman stars? Not without the system

Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman are arguably the Redskins most important and best players on their corresponding sides of the ball, but are they stars? One analysts does not think so.

It's no stretch viewing Kirk Cousins and Josh Norman as the most prominent players on the Washington Redskins. Is it a stretch viewing them "system players?"

Not according to analyst Bucky Brooks, who doesn't view the Redskins' starting quarterback and highest paid cornerback as stars. Let's have Brooks explain, starting with Cousins, who is in the process of negotiating a long-term contract with Washington after signing the nearly $20 million franchise tag earlier this year.

Yes, the Redskins are willing to apply the franchise tag to Cousins, but that obviously doesn't mean he's necessarily a franchise player. Sure, the fifth-year pro is coming off a stellar campaign that saw him complete nearly 70 percent of his passes while posting an encouraging 29:11 touchdown-to-interception ratio. But he is compiling those numbers as a pass-first point guard on a fast-break team featuring a host of playmakers on the perimeter (DeSean Jackson, Jordan Reed, Pierre Garcon and Jamison Crowder) with exceptional one-on-one skills.

Most importantly, Cousins is playing in a "dink and dunk" offense that features an extraordinary number of quick-rhythm throws that rarely travel over 10 air yards. With the Redskins using a variety of spread and empty formations, Cousins quickly deciphers the coverage and targets the favorable matchup on the perimeter.

There's something to Brooks' general point. However, even if the organization wants to see more from the former fourth round pick before agreeing on a hefty long-term deal, the QB market might leave them no choice but to pony up even if Cousins is just a system guy. 

"To his credit, Cousins has shown outstanding timing, accuracy and poise directing Jay Gruden's offense. But questions persist as to whether he could enjoy similar success in a system that features more intermediate and deep throws. This certainly doesn't matter to Redskins' faithful, but NFL executives -- including Redskins GM Scot McCloughan -- are curious if the veteran can overcome his limitations to enjoy sustained success as a starter."

Labeling Cousins a system quarterback is one thing. Sticking Norman with tag is another.

Brooks deems Norman, who the Redskins inked to a $75 million contract, a benefactor of the system he played in with the NFC champion Carolina. 

"Despite garnering serious consideration for the 2015 Defensive Player of the Year award after a stellar campaign that eventually earned him a $75 million contract from the Redskins, the Pro Bowler isn't considered a "shutdown" corner by traditional standards."

"Norman is a 'clue' corner adept at pattern-reading and keying the quarterback from distance in a zone scheme that enables defenders to play with vision from off coverage. Although Norman gained some experience playing bump-and-run coverage during his time in Carolina, there are serious concerns about whether he possesses enough speed and athleticism to thrive in a scheme that prominently features man coverage."

Brooks cites that Norman has done well in physical, close to the line of scrimmage play at times but has caught breaks that do not exemplify his lack of athleticism. One talent evaluator went so far as to say the All-Pro recipient could look foolish when going up against the best of the best; Washington faces Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, and Odell Beckham Jr. in the first three weeks of the 2016 regular season.

Others received the system label from Brooks. That won't matter to annoyed Redskins fans. As long as Cousins continues reading defenses at a high level and as long as Norman quiets the likes of Brown, Bryant and Beckham, the fan base won't care what anyone calls their team's leading men.

Follow Neil on Twitter @NeilDalal96.

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