Kirk Cousins is one of the NFL's best quarterbacks. That was the case before the season and remains so now, even as the Redskins have struggled with consistency and currently find themselves at 5-6 and 11th in a six-team playoff race.
The Redskins, at least on a year-to-year basis, agree; they've twice used the franchise tag on Cousins who is long overdue for a highest-paid-player-in-the-game contract extension (we've written previously about why Cousins is deserving).
On a per-play basis, Cousins has slipped since last season -- he's currently 13th in value per play this season, according to Football Outsiders' metrics; he finished fifth a year ago though much of that can be traced to the inordinate number of injuries the Redskins have suffered this season. Eight offensive players are currently on injured reserve, including wide receiver Terrelle Pryor and running backs Chris Thompson and Robert Kelley. And while tight end Jordan Reed has avoided IR, he has appeared in just six games this season and isn't expect to play against the Cowboys on Thursday because of a balky hamstring.
But in terms of conventional stats, Cousins appears to be as good as ever:
2016: 16 starts, 67.0 completion percentage, 4,917 yards, 8.1 YPA ,25 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 97.2 passer rating;
2017: 11 starts, 66.2 completion percentage, 3,038 yards, 8.1 YPA, 19 touchdowns, 6 interceptions, 101.2 passer rating;
Cousins has also become something of a running threat this season. He already has 36 rushing attempts for 145 yards (4.0 YPC) and three touchdowns. For all of 2016, he had 34 rushes for 96 yards (2.8 YPC) and four scores. In addition to all the scrambling, Cousins has also become more mobile in the pocket. The irony is that he's getting the ball out as quickly as ever -- 2.42 seconds, according to ESPN.com's John Keim -- but he'll occasionally try to extend things in hope of a big play only to get sacked.
That's the tradeoff and sometimes it's OK.
"The longer I play, I'll get a feel for how to move and escape," Cousins said last week. "Part of the reason you make that play is that you take six sacks. I didn't take six sacks last year. I didn't take six sacks a game in 2015. If you're going to make those kinds of plays, you've got to be willing to take a sack here and there. That's been a big difference this year. I'm taking more sacks and probably not forcing the ball into coverage or throwing those scary throws as often as I have in the past."
Cousins took six sacks against the Seahawks in Week 9 but as we've argued before, that was one of his best games of the season because he was able to buy time in the pocket and convert throws very few NFL quarterbacks would even attempt.
Cousins' continued growth, coupled with a fading Cowboys team that has lost its identity is why we like Washington to go into Dallas, get the win and keep their slim playoff hopes alive for another week.
Our prediction: Redskins 28, Cowboys 21
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Winning still fixes everything
A year ago, when the Cowboys were 10-1 and cruising to the division title and homefield advantage in the playoffs, no one was talking about coach Jason Garrett's inability to make adjustments. Garrett is ostensibly the same coach he was 12 months ago, and the only thing that has changed in that time is the Cowboys' fortunes. That's NFL parity for you, helped along by Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension, less productive efforts from the offensive line and the star quarterback, and the wheels falling off a defense that was no better than a replacement-level unit a season ago.
Last Sunday, in the wake of the team's blowout loss to the Chargers on Thanksgiving, NFL.com's Ian Rapoport reported that some players were frustrated with Garrett.
"Owner Jerry Jones has been outspoken in his support of Jason Garrett and his coaching staff," Rapoport said. "However, inside the locker room, a little bit of a different story. I'm told there's growing frustration from the Cowboys players about their coaching staff. And it really stems from two things.
"One, just the lack of adjustments that has gone on over the last couple of weeks. The Chaz Green disaster at tackle when Tyron Smith was out was just one example (where) the team did not help him and really didn't alter their game plan when it was clear that he needed some help. That was one issue that certainly has left the players grumbling. Another one is just how simple they are. I had one person tell me that Philip Rivers, out on the field on Thursday night, was actually calling out the Cowboys blitzes before they happened on the field. Not a good sign for the Cowboys. And obviously a huge game this Thursday (vs. Washington) where they really need to bounce back for."
This is what losing three straight games begets.
"You just got to keep grinding, focusing on getting better daily, not focusing on what isn't working," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said this week. "You got to find the solution. You got to be part of the solution, not focused on the problem."
We don't know if those cliches are going to magically fix this mess in Dallas but this cliche -- the one we cited above -- always holds: Winning fixes everything.
It's Color Rush Thursday (again), y'all!
Every Thursday is Color Rush Thursday in the NFL. You're welcome.
The Cowboys will sport their Color Rush uniforms for the first time this season, though if you were hoping for those all-mustard numbers from the Redskins we have some bad news.
Team president Bruce Allen has long been against them and reportedly thinks they're "that the team will wear all-burgundy instead.." Radio host and former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley said Wednesday morning
"No mustard yellow," Cooley said, via the Washington Post. "Huge news. Burgundy on burgundy. They can change. I think they can still change. But as of now, it is certainly burgundy on burgundy."
Thursday night schedule
- Week 13: Redskins at Cowboys, Nov. 30 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC and NFLN
- Week 14: Saints at Falcons, Dec. 7 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC and NFLN
- Week 15: Broncos at Colts, Dec. 14 at 8:25 p.m. ET on NBC and NFLN
'TNF' comes to Amazon
After Twitter hosted several "Thursday Night Football" games during the 2016 for live streaming, it lost a bid for the NFL's 2017 streaming package to Amazon, which will stream 10 Thursday night games during the season for Amazon Prime members. You can read more about Amazon's deal here.
Here are the games available for streaming from Amazon: