- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2014

PHILADELPHIA — Thrust into a role last week as the Washington Redskins‘ starting quarterback, Kirk Cousins‘ initial task was to tamp down the uproar surrounding his ascension. This was, as he said, nothing new.

But Cousins showed, again, that he can be a competent replacement for the injured Robert Griffin III on Sunday in a 37-34 loss at Philadelphia, completing 30 of 48 passes for 427 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.

Not since Donovan McNabb in 2010 had a quarterback thrown for more than 400 yards; in fact, Cousins‘ passing output was the fourth-highest in a regular-season game in team history, behind Brad Johnson’s 471 yards in 1999, Mark Rypien’s 442 yards in 1991 and Doug Williams’ 430 yards in 1988.

For much of the game, he demonstrated a degree of comfort within coach Jay Gruden’s offense that, at times, Griffin hasn’t been able to do. A strike deep over the middle to tight end Niles Paul on the second drive demonstrated Cousins was willing to stand in the pocket and take a hit. A throw to wide receiver DeSean Jackson on a 10-yard out route four plays later was placed just out of reach of Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

And Cousins‘ greatest work may have been the deep heave to Jackson in the third quarter, an 81-yard reception that hit his receiver mid-stride at Philadelphia’s 28-yard line, a play-action throw with a seven-step drop past lunging cornerback Cary Williams and safety Nate Allen.

“He does a great job of staying tuned in,” Jackson said. “Last week, he did a great job of replacing [Griffin], and he had a great game today.”


SEE ALSO: DeSean Jackson plays his role in anticipated return to Philly


The opportunity in front of Cousins is significantly different from the one he had last year, when Griffin was benched by then-coach Mike Shanahan as the Redskins strung out an inevitable losing season.

Then, the Redskins had won just three of their 13 games, and Cousins, through up-and-down performances, couldn’t add another win in his three starts. He threw for 381 yards in a narrow road loss to Atlanta, but a mediocre home game against Dallas was followed by a stinker of a game in a driving rain in New York, when the Redskins fell to the Giants — two teams eager to get off the field and end their seasons.

“Last year when he came in, the season was almost wrote off,” said left tackle Trent Williams. “We feel really confident with Kirk at the helm. He plays a great game. He’s always prepared. Kirk is gonna do well. I have no concerns there.”

Replacing Griffin, who dislocated his left ankle in the home victory over Jacksonville on Sept. 14, Cousins showed no signs of any discomfort or discordance. That continued early on Sunday, when, a week after completing his first 12 passes, Cousins completed his first eight throws, breaking the streak when he overthrew Jackson deep on the Redskins‘ second series.

Cousins helped the offense convert its first six third-down attempts — five through the air, one when he scrambled for a 3-yard gain — and was 12-for-13 for 124 yards and two touchdowns after connecting with wide receiver Pierre Garçon for a 4-yard touchdown grab with 2:09 left in the first quarter.

He started to unravel late in the second quarter, occasionally throwing behind or too far in front of his targets.

And Cousins‘ biggest gaffe came in the third quarter, when he threw an interception to safety Malcolm Jenkins on a ball meant for tight end Niles Paul. Recognizing Paul was being covered on a fly down the right sideline by outside linebacker DeMeco Ryans, Cousins threw the ball in Paul’s direction — though Paul was outside of Ryans, and Jenkins was waiting to snag his floater.

“Every rep you get, every play you take, you learn something, and what’s important now is that I learned from that and it doesn’t happen again,” Cousins said. “I need to get better so that two years from now, those mistakes aren’t still happening.”

Coach Jay Gruden said the things Cousins needs to fix at this point are fairly simple — adjustments on his timing, his skittish footwork in the pocket, adjusting to the pass rush.

That was evident on the Redskins‘ final possession, when, trailing by the final three-point margin, Washington turned the ball over in four downs. He overthrew Jackson on an out route that was not close, had a pass intended for Andre Roberts broken up and then was way behind Garçon on fourth down.

Cousins was, by the accounts of his teammates, calm and reserved on the flight Saturday, in meetings that night and in his approach to the game Sunday morning. Making his fifth career start in his third season — and his 10th appearance overall — it’s not as if Cousins is in uncharted waters.

“But overall, man, to throw for over 400 yards on the road, I think he did an excellent job with limited reps the whole camp,” Gruden said. “I’m very proud of Kirk — the way he played and the way he battled.”


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