The Redskins offense failed to get out of first gear in the team’s loss to the Eagles on Sunday. The running game never got going, the offensive line had problems in pass protection and the receivers dropped a few passes. But the biggest concern coming out of the game has to be quarterback Kirk Cousins and his issues with accuracy and ball placement.
Cousins’s passes were inaccurate, often sailing over the head of his intended targets, or falling behind them and forcing the receiver to break stride and make an adjustment to complete the catch. This was a problem throughout the game and was evident as early as the opening drive.
On the opening drive of the game, the Redskins motion Ryan Grant in tight to the formation to run a simple all-outs route concept. It’s a basic three-step drop and throw to Grant on the outside, but Cousins throws the ball well over the head of Grant, who can’t make the adjustment.
The issue crept up on the next drive, too.
This time, Cousins works from under center, taking a five-step drop and a hitch before delivering a throw to Jamison Crowder up the seam. Like we saw with Grant, Cousins’s throw is too high for Crowder, who has to jump and tip the pass to prevent it from landing in the arms of the safety behind him.
In the second quarter, Cousins appeared to have corrected those issues, but after halftime, they reappeared.
Here, Cousins looks to his left off the snap, perhaps trying to hold the free safety in the middle of the field before coming back to Jordan Reed on his right side. Cousins takes a three-step drop, but doesn’t really transfer his weight over his front foot as he releases the pass. That causes the ball to die on him as it reaches Reed. Perhaps it was somewhat fortunate that Cousins’s pass was inaccurate and in the dirt, because the safety was in position to land a big hit on Reed had he made a play on the ball.
In the fourth quarter, Cousins’s footwork quickly deteriorated as he felt pressure that wasn’t always there.
This is the first play of the drive that ended with the interception. Cousins initially works to his left, but hesitates to throw to his receiver in the flat. Instead, he feels pressure that isn’t there and unnecessarily delivers a panicked throw off his back foot across the middle of the field. The pass is again inaccurate and misses its intended target.
On the very next play, Cousins struggles again with ball placement.
The Redskins run a simple corner-flat route combination, a staple combination in their offense. Grant runs the corner route, designed to find a gap in zone coverage down the sideline. Cousins spots Grant open and makes the correct decision, but like we’ve already seen on multiple occasions, the throw is high and Grant has to make a difficult adjustment to go up and secure the pass before making sure he gets his feet down in bounds while taking a hit.
Later in the drive, with the Redskins in the red zone, Cousins missed Reed on a crossing route with another high throw.
Reed starts lined up in-line to the right of the formation. He works across the middle of the field against safety Malcolm Jenkins. He creates separation and turns back to locate the ball, only to find the throw is high and behind him. Reed can’t make the adjustment and the ball falls incomplete again.
On the next play, Cousins threw a backbreaking interception that killed all the momentum the Redskins had managed to build despite Cousins’s accuracy problems.
The Eagles send a cover-zero blitz, meaning that every defender who isn’t covering a receiver is sent on a blitz, guaranteeing that the defense has one more blitzer than the offense has blockers. Cousins anticipates the free rusher coming too early and makes a terrible throw off his back foot that sailed over Crowder and into the arms of the defender in the end zone.
After the game, Cousins explained his eyes were in the wrong place, looking at Terrelle Pryor, but admitted his frustration in missing a clear play to be made to Crowder. If he manages to find Crowder, the Redskins would have had a first down, if not a touchdown. Instead, Cousins turned the ball over in the red zone and denied his team a chance to take the lead.
While it’s important not to overreact to a loss in the opening game of the season, clearly there is an issue with accuracy and ball placement that Cousins must correct. He had some similar problems in preseason, though they didn’t occur as often as they did in the loss to the Eagles. He will need to address and fix these problems quickly, before they become an issue that holds back the offense.
On Sunday, the Redskins face the Rams’ defense, which returned two interceptions for touchdowns in a blowout win against the overmatched Colts. If Cousins can’t find his rhythm, the Rams will be ready to take advantage.