Robert Griffin III naturally garnered much of the media/fan attention during the Redskins’ offseason practices, and because of the health and performance struggles he endured last season along with his contract situation (the fifth-year option due to him in 2016 calls for him to earn upwards of $16.5 million), this season could represent a make-or-break year for him.
Much lies at stake for the two other quarterbacks on Washington’s roster, as well, but Coach Jay Gruden said he expects that determining the initial depth chart at the position will take some time. The competition between Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins for the No. 2 job could go all the way up until the final week of the preseason.
Both McCoy, a sixth-year veteran, and Cousins (entering his fourth season) saw time with the starting unit last season. McCoy started four games and helped Washington to two of its four victories. Cousins, meanwhile, started five games and helped his team to one victory.
Gruden and General Manager Scot McCloughan this winter settled on Griffin as the starting quarterback entering the offseason program and training camp. However, both have maintained that the former No. 2 overall pick must perform well to hold onto his job.
So while Griffin has worked to improve his skills and understanding of the offense, McCoy and Cousins have battled for the No. 2 position, knowing full well that the winner of that job has the best opportunity to take over as starter should Griffin falter.
“Both of them, like I said before, have had a taste of the starting quarterback job in the NFL and they both want it back real bad,” Gruden said last week. “They’re doing an excellent job at competing every day. It’s killing them on the inside, I know it. They’re competing for the backup job right now, but, they are doing an excellent job and you can see them all progressing at a good rate.”
However, neither McCoy nor Cousins have managed to distinguish themselves thus far.
The two have alternated on the depth chart daily. On one day, McCoy worked with the second unit while Cousins directed the third team. The next day, Cousins took the reins of the second team while McCoy led the third unit.
McCoy would make some impressive plays on one day while Cousins struggled, and then on another day, Cousins would look like the better quarterback while McCoy’s effectiveness waned. Accuracy and ball security ranked among the problem areas for each as both backups have thrown their share of interceptions.
However, Gruden has observed progress in both quarterbacks’ play, just as he has with Griffin.
“I think all three of them really have done some good things as far as just general knowledge of where to put your eyes and your fundamentals, as far as your drops and all that, and your progressions go, man,” the coach said. “I think they’re all just getting a better understanding of the scheme. When we call a play, what to expect on that play versus this coverage, versus blitz, versus Cover 1, versus Cover 3, what have you. I think all three of them are starting to just gain momentum in that regard.”
Once training camp begins on July 30, Cousins and McCoy are expected to continue to operate under a similar rotational setup while their competition continues. Gruden expressed confidence in both quarterbacks, and as a result feels no pressure to rush to a decision.
“Those are two great guys to have on your football team and I would feel I have no problems letting either one of them be two or three,” he said. “We’ve just got to let it play out though.”