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Scout’s Eye: Assessing Cousins In The Redskins’ Offense

Posted Dec 18, 2013

The Redskins’ season has long been over, and the promise of what was a team coming off a division championship is now a distant memory. Mike Shanahan has pulled the plug on Robert Griffin III’s season and has now handed the ball to Kirk Cousins in an effort to keep Griffin III from further wear and tear.

I do not believe you can put the failures of this season on the knee of Griffin, but it was clear he was not healthy enough to play. The more you watched him, the more you realized you weren’t going to see those dynamic plays we saw from him his rookie season. He ran far less and struggled most when it came to protecting the ball.

He was one of the best in the league when it came to not allowing turnovers in 2012, but in 2013 he was a turnover machine. He wasn’t as accurate as he needed to be, and those pin-point passes rarely found their mark.

Now enters Cousins who is not the athlete Griffin is, and when you study his game, he plays more as a traditional quarterback in the sense that he takes more snaps from underneath center. There are still hints of the read-option looks with formations and ball handling, but you do not have to deal with the threat of the quarterback run like you did with Griffin.

Against the Falcons last week, I thought Cousins showed toughness to hang in the pocket and the willingness to take a hit or two. Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan put him on the move with boots off the play action, which appeared to fit his game well.

He is a strong-armed passer that tends to throw to the spot and his first read. He will check the ball down to backs and tight ends, but he is most likely going to throw the ball where the play is designed to go.  

The best option at receiver is still Pierre Garcon. I have a great deal of respect for how he plays because of how physical he is coming off the line. He does a really nice job of using his strength and power to bully defenders.

Brandon Carr played one of his better games against him when these two met in October. But where Garcon is so good is that he gets separation with his power, and he has the ability to catch the ball on the move and present problems in the open field. The coaches like to get him the ball on screens and let him just run through the secondary.  

Josh Morgan is the starter on the other side and at times can be very productive, but he will have his moments where he lacks concentration and will drop the ball. I have seen him make outstanding adjusting catches and follow that up by blowing a wide open shot.

Aldrick Robinson is the deep threat and has the speed to blow right through Cover 2, so these Cowboys safeties need to find him on the field when he is outside. The always-dangerous Santana Moss is also in the mix. What has been different about him in the games I was able to study -- he had some bad drops while he was on the move but you have to worry about him on third down.

The Redskins like to line him up in bunch formations and let him explode across the field in that way. He will catch the ball anywhere in the route -- no fear in his game.

The Redskins’ most productive passing formation is when they get in “11” personnel with the three wide receivers and Logan Paulsen. Rookie Jordan Reed was outstanding against the Cowboys last time out, but he has been struggling with concussion headaches and will most likely miss this game -- leaving Fred Davis to help pick up the slack.

Davis had a nice touchdown reception against the Falcons on a perfectly thrown corner route by Cousins. There is nothing that Paulsen does great, but he can also make a play or two when you are not expecting it. As much as this Cowboys defense has struggled with tight end play this season, I expect Kyle Shanahan to get Paulsen and Davis going early and often in this matchup. 

When Trent Williams was drafted with their first pick in 2010, I remember asking a Redskins scout why they made that selection. His answer was very simple: to block these elite rushers in the NFC East.

Williams has been a very steady, and, at times, a dominant left tackle. But the last two games that I studied, he looked very average. He has always been one of those tackles that has outstanding feet but is also able to play with power.

There were plays against the Falcons and Chiefs where he looked slow and sluggish. There is a nasty side to him, and when he gets his hands on you, he can finish the job. Throughout his playing career, he has given DeMarcus Ware fits, but the last time he faced this Cowboys defense, he gave up a key sack and fumble to Kyle Wilber on an edge rush. He is not the smoothest-moving player, but he just keeps coming after you. This is never an easy matchup for Ware to have to handle.


Williams is paired with who I think is their second best lineman, in Kory Lichtensteiger. When you study the tape, this combination is awfully solid for the Redskins.

Lichtensteiger is quick off the ball and in getting into his blocks. He knows how to play in order to get in position to control his man. He does a really nice job of playing on his feet, and it is rare that you see him on the ground or knocked back.

When the Redskins want to run the ball, their left side is where they like to go. The club is a much better rushing offense when they can run the ball behind Williams and Lichtensteiger. They work very well together.

The weakness with this offensive line appears to be at right guard with Chris Chester. I do not see a powerful player here, and, in the running game, there are plays where he gets no movement -- often times he is handled at the point of attack.

Tackle Tyler Polumbus also has his issues with power, and when rushers take him hard down inside, there are problems there. Where he does have some success is when he kicks wide, gets his hands extended and work his feet to the outside. He is more of a catch blocker than one that is going to sit down on the line with the rusher.

Both Chester and Polumbus tend to give a great deal of ground when they drop into their pass sets. Cousins does have mobile and can move in the pocket , but this might be a great opportunity to squeeze him from the right side.

Alfred Morris is a perfect back for this Mike Shanahan offense. There is nothing fancy about the way he carries the ball. He is an attacking downhill runner that punishes tacklers along the way.

He will line up in this “Ace” formation, and they will hand him the ball or they will toss it to him on the sweep. He is not a breakaway type of back with home run speed, but a consistent grinder of the ball.

He is a load to deal with, and if you don’t get to him early, he can wear you out. A big play for the Redskins in the running game against the Falcons was to get him in “I” formation with Darrel Young in front of him, toss him the ball and instead of going outside, take it inside the tackle box. It’s a physical play to have to deal with.

Roy Helu is the third down back, and where he is most effective is catching the ball out of the backfield. You have to be aware of him acting like he is blocking, and then releasing out of the backfield. If he does have to protect, he really struggles. That could be something these linebackers take advantage of.

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