LANDOVER, MD - When the Washington Redskins smacked fifth-year QB Kirk Cousins with the franchise tag this offseason, they did so with the mutual understanding that more needed to be seen from him. Cousins was coming off his first full season as a starter and although he led Washington to a division title, the team wasn't quite ready to hand him that lucrative long-term contract. There was more evaluation that needed to be done.
Even Cousins knew he had something to prove, and he bet on himself to do just that. Yet Cousins has struggled to impress so far. He has thrown just one touchdown and three interceptions. His poor play has contributed chiefly to Washington's two losses to open the 2016 season, both coming at home.
"It wasn't good enough," Cousins said of his performance following Sunday's loss to the Dallas Cowboys. "I need to play better. I can play better and I believe going forward I will play better."
Well, the clock is ticking, Kirk. Another bad outing in Week 3 against the undefeated New York Giants could make the Redskins' goal of repeating as NFC East champs extremely difficult.
Cousins had a tough task in Week 1, gun-slinging against future Hall of Fame QB Ben Roethlisberger. However, the Pittsburgh Steelers were missing some starters due to suspension. Those are the type of games where you need your quarterback to shoulder the burden and carry you through. Cousins was unable to do so.
Against Dallas, Cousins had a prime opportunity to make up for that season-opening dud. Instead, he was consistently inconsistent and left a lot of big plays on the field. His accuracy has been an issue, and a red zone interception kept Washington from taking a 27-20 lead over Dallas in the fourth quarter.
"I felt like I needed to work not off schedule but just needed to let the play develop a little longer," Cousins said of the interception.
This seems to be one of the storylines of the season for Cousins: He is struggling to extend plays. That's one of the key areas where many, including myself, wanted to evaluate him this season. He doesn't have a passing grade at this point.
Head coach Jay Gruden had an interesting quote in his halftime interview with Fox 5. He essentially challenged Cousins by saying that he needed to "step up." Cousins was asked about those words in his postgame press conference and agreed.
"I think this is a quarterback-driven league," he said. "I think on our team, I need to play at a high level, week in and week out, and I don't think that is any mystery."
Visibly agitated, Cousins continued: "You mention that quote as if it's surprising or determines something, and I would say that's common sense."
He's right, it is common sense. Everyone, Cousins included, knows that he needs to step up. The issue is, however, he has not done so yet. This "evaluation season" is not off to a good start, and the clock is indeed ticking.
You can find Emmanual on Twitter @manny_benton.
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