- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

I’m going to talk about Kirk Cousins and not get carried away.

Hours after the third-year quarterback’s successful appearance in relief of an injured Robert Griffin III on Sunday, I already was reading comparisons to Tom Brady. The Patriots quarterback got his start by filling in for the injured Drew Bledsoe during a Week 2 game 13 years ago. The rest is ongoing history.

Brady only needed one chance. Cousins, however, is about to embark on his second audition as the Redskins’ No. 1 quarterback. He started the final three games of last season after former coach Mike Shanahan benched RG3.

Cousins played OK in the first game — a 27-26 loss to the Falcons in which his two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete in the final seconds of the Redskins’ sixth straight loss. He failed to build on that performance, however, in losses to the Cowboys and Giants. He finished with 747 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions against three of the league’s worst defenses.

Cousins’ second chance will last longer — perhaps much longer. Though RG3 didn’t fracture his ankle when he dislocated it, it’s possible he might not return this season. Regardless, Cousins will have plenty of time to show he’s more than just the NFL’s most talked-about backup.

He will be more prepared than ever, but so will opposing defenses. Those defenses include the Eagles, Seahawks and Cardinals in the next month. But he’ll also have the luxury of facing the Giants, Cowboys and Vikings before Thanksgiving.

As a fantasy owner potentially in need of help at quarterback (the aformentioned Mr. Brady is underachieving on my winless team), I’m betting on Cousins. I picked up Jake Locker last week, but I’d rather have the Redskins starter — now that it’s not RG3.

In Jay Gruden’s offense, the difference between Cousins and RG3 was evident on Cousins‘ first pass Sunday — a 20-yard touchdown to Darrel Young. Cousins is not afraid to throw the ball down the field. That mentality may hurt him against good defenses, but it also gives the Redskins something they haven’t had with RG3 since 2012 — the opportunity to make big plays.

The overall fantasy value of the offense should increase with Cousins under center. Alfred Morris will continue to be the focal point, and his numbers may even increase to allow Cousins to ease into his new role. Pierre Garcon — despite just one reception Sunday — should remain one of the NFL’s most productive pass-catchers. He had 24 receptions for 329 yards in Cousins‘ three starts last year.

DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts should benefit from Cousins‘ willingness to go deep. The wild card is Niles Paul. The backup tight end was the other offensive star of Sunday’s game, setting career highs with eight catches for 99 yards. He scored a touchdown and came a couple of feet from adding another. If Jordan Reed is healthy, Paul’s impact will be limited, but Reed hasn’t proven he can stay on the field, so if Paul builds a rapport with Cousins, he could become a viable option for those seeking help at tight end.

Cousins is not going to win three Super Bowls, throw 50 touchdowns in a season or someday marry a supermodel. However, I believe he will run Gruden’s offense more effectively than RG3 would have and become a valuable addition as a fantasy backup and spot starter.

Week 2 Lineup Crime: I put Brandon Marshall in two lineups early last week and defiantly left him there amid daily reports that he was unlikely to play. I finally caved on Saturday night and benched him. He ended up with three touchdowns; I ended up with two losses.

Week 3 Lineup Time: If he plays, don’t expect too much from DeSean Jackson against his former team. Since giving up two quick touchdowns to Allen Hurns in the opener, the Eagles’ defense has played well against the pass. … I remain wary of Ryan Fitzpatrick, but the Giants are so bad that the Texans’ receivers should have big games. … Pierre Thomas will benefit from Mark Ingram’s absence in a game the Saints have to win against a reeling Vikings team. … Bernard Pierce and the Ravens’ running game should return to Earth against a solid Browns defense. … The Colts’ Ahmad Bradshaw is a great flex play against the Jaguars. … Cam Newton should have his way with the Steelers defense.

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