ASHBURN –– Kirk Cousins has a theory.
A team’s offense, on average, takes longer to get going during the first few weeks of the season than it’s defense. Perhaps because defense is more physical and instinctual, while offense has more to do with crisp timing and coordination.
“I would be interested to do a study to see,” Cousins said. “Do offenses tend to take more time to get going than defenses in this league, I wonder?”
First of all, of course Cousins has considered what scientific studies he’d like to do to better understand NFL trends. This guy. Second of all, Cousins could find a good test case in his own deep passing game. Last year, with different receivers, it was one of the NFL’s most effective. Through two games this year, it has been slow to get going.
Cousins is averaging 5.3 yards per passing attempt, which ranks No. 28 in the NFL. He has completed five passes of 20-or-more yards; none of 40-plus.
“There was some pressure and missing throws,” coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday. “Chris Thompson had the unfortunate drop [against the Rams] where things could’ve looked a lot different, had he caught that one. That could have been another 60-yarder for us.”
There have been some other notable misses. The Redskins first play from scrimmage of 2017 was a deep ball to Terrelle Pryor that Pryor dropped. Pryor had another drop of a deep pass that would have been a touchdown, though the play was called back by a holding call on Jordan Reed, anyway.
“Every play is different, but you always have your reads and where your eyes are and you focus downfield and you try to feel the pass rush,” Cousins said Wednesday. “There are times where you stand in there and make the throw, which I have done many times. There’s times where you have enough time to throw the ball the way to avoid the sack, but you also knew that the read downfield wasn’t declaring and so rather than throwing it into a gray window, you just throw the ball away.”
On Sunday against the Rams, the issue seemed to be Cousins’ reluctance to make certain throws. At least twice he had Josh Doctson available deep, but seemed to feel pressure and either stuck with his initial read or checked down.
Some of that is protection, but it’s hard to criticize the performance of the Redskins offensive line against the Rams. NFL quarterbacks have to be able to feel pressure and still make big plays. Deep routes take longer to develop, and quarterbacks have to stay calm and collected in the pocket which will inevitably shrink to some degree over the course of a few seconds.
Cousins hasn’t had much time to develop chemistry with free agency acquisition Pryor or with Doctson, who has yet to make a catch this season. Those two are the Redskins two best deep options as wide receivers.
Gruden has said multiple times over the past two weeks that Doctson needs to earn trust in practice. At times, those statements have seemed like expressions of frustration with the second-year receiver who displayed what looked like a fabulous connection with Cousins during OTAs and some of training camp. Perhaps there really is a disconnect.
“I think each rep I could say ‘Oh, this one is more of a building timing or this one has nothing to do with that.’ I think it all depends,” Cousins said. “But there is no doubt that with our receivers we are still young and new with this a little bit with a few of the guys, and so we can continue to improve each week as we spend more game reps and practice reps together learning on the fly.”