This time last year there were grumblings that Washington Redskins signal-caller Kirk Cousins gave Head Coach Jay Gruden and his offense the best chance to succeed. Even with the ongoing soap opera that preceded Gruden as head man, the coach ultimately made a switch to Cousins; naming him the starter for the 2015 campaign over previous starter, Robert Griffin III. The plan was to grow with Cousins and see what he could do behind center.
Cousins would start the 2015 campaign slowly. Some of this can be attributed to a hamstring injury to wide out DeSean Jackson who, considered by many to be one of the game’s best big play threats, is so vital to Gruden’s offense. Another reason could be due to the way Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay brought Cousins along… again, slowly. They did not press him much at the time because of his propensity to throw interceptions when forcing the action.
But once enough of the pieces were around Cousins, the offense found a groove in the passing game.
The quarterback did not disappoint and went on to throw for 4,166 yards, breaking the team’s single-season passing mark previously held by Jay Schroeder who threw for 4,109 in 1986.
Cousins became just the third Redskins signal-caller in history to throw for over 4,000 yards along with Schroeder and Brad Johnson (4,005 in 1999).
In 2015 Cousins threw 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, had almost a 70 percent completion rate and a passer rating of 101.6. He led the Redskins to their first division title since 2012. Not bad for a first-year starter who also earned a team record by throwing a touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games.
Now the story line will be: can he duplicate, exceed or at least play to the level he did in 2015?
With a tougher schedule on the horizon the Redskins will need Cousins to more than likely duplicate all three expectations if they are to make it back to the playoffs for a second straight year.
Cousins is currently playing on the franchise tag although that could change by the July 15 deadline. The front office has said that they hope to get a long-term contract signed before training camp starts.
Quality play by Cousins will be vital for Gruden’s offense to keep moving the chains and scoring points, as well as to keep a very talented and deep group of offensive players happy and engaged in the offense.
The focal point for the QB and his offense however will be tight end Jordan Reed. Fresh off signing his own long term deal, Reed is now the true centerpiece of the offense and defensive coordinators around the league know it.
His ascension to the top of the tight end charts did not come without bumps and bruises however as his first couple of seasons were derailed because of nagging injuries and concussions.
Last year Reed stayed relatively healthy and, after a slow start, showed the promise that most around Redskins Park thought was there. He turned in a campaign for the ages and the record books, becoming Cousins’ favorite target and a nightmare for defenses underneath and in the middle of the field.
The 2013 third-round draft pick would go on to set franchise records for a tight end with 87 receptions and 952 receiving yards. His 11 touchdown receptions were just shy of tying Hugh Taylor (1952), Charley Taylor (1966), Jerry Smith (1967) and Ricky Sanders (1988) who each have the franchise record of 12 in a season.
Reed’s emergence as an elite tight end that is mentioned along with the likes of Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots (because of the fact that teams must account for his whereabouts at all times) has Washington thinking that they can field a potentially potent offense.
One thing is for sure… if the Redskins want to make it back to the playoffs, they will need for Cousins and Reed to pick up where they left off last season in becoming one of the NFL’s better young duos.