Mike Shanahan said this afternoon that he “definitely” will not rule out the possibility that Robert Griffin III will start at quarterback when the Redskins take on the Browns on Sunday. He suffered a sprained LCL in his right knee during the Redskins’ 31-28 overtime win over the Ravens on Sunday.
But Shanahan also said that they would have to see how Griffin looks in practice this week before deciding whether or not he will play. That means that Griffin might not play in a game that is critical to the Redskins’ playoff hopes.
That would leave the quarterbacking in the hands of Kirk Cousins. The rookie finished off the game in grand style yesterday, finishing off a drive that Griffin had started with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Pierre Garçon and then scoring the game-tying two-point conversion on a quarterback draw.
He also flashed some ability in the game against the Falcons earlier this year, throwing a 77-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss in his NFL debut.
But it’s one thing coming in during the third quarter or after the two-minute warning and quite another to be the starter and play 60 minutes. The initial advantage you may have because the team doesn’t have much film on the new quarterback fades away quickly as coaches in the boot quickly dissect every play and formulate countermeasures.
It seems that Cousins is well equipped to deal with that aspect of the game. Before last year’s draft, scouting reports spoke glowingly of his intelligence, both in terms of “book smarts” and in terms of “football smarts”.
Cousins “possesses a solid knowledge of his offense and seems to know where defenses are vulnerable,” said one report from CBSsports.com.
The report continued, “By the time Cousins took his first snap [as a freshman at Michigan State], he knew the playbook front to back.”
And while Robert Griffin III is the unquestioned leader of the offense, there is little question that Cousins will be able to take the reins. He was elected team captain at Michigan State three times and according to the CBS scouting report, “Cousins’ natural leadership ability helps him control any room.”
So Cousins is unlikely to be intimidated by the big stage that starting an NFL game with the playoff on the line would be. But does he have the quarterback skills to go with it his intelligence and leadership?
His NFL stat line, of course, is based on a small sample size. He is 7 of 11 for 137 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. That comes to a quarterback rating of 107.0. That’s not bad but, again, not much data to work with.
Cousins had a considerably more substantial body of work at Michigan State. He started for three seasons and completed 64 percent of his passes for over 9,000 yards (8.1 yards/attempt) with an impressive TD to INT ratio of 66 to 30.
From the CBS scouting report:
Generally accurate on intermediate and short throws; flashes anticipation and placement on intermediate outs and the ability to lead receivers on deeper throws . . . Good height and growing build to stand in the pocket.
The term “game manager” is used a lot in Cousins’ scouting reports. That means that he won’t necessarily win you a game but he won’t lose it for you either. That could get the job done in a game against the Browns, who are 24th in scoring in the NFL at 19.9 points per game. Three touchdowns should get the job done.
Can Cousins produce them? We may—or may not—find out this Sunday.