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The 2018 Kirk Cousins Megathread

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Since 2015 Kirk Cousins' stats....

Indoors:

6 games/208 attempts/147 completions/70.7% comp./1738 yards/8.36 YPA/12 TDs/3 INTs/6 fumbles/2 lost

Outdoors:

42 games/1481 attempts/985 completions/66.5% comp./11438 yards/7.72 YPA/69 TDs/33 INTs/25 fumbles/9 lost

He's now guaranteed 9 indoor games a year (Detroit) and a minimum of 2 outdoor games (Bears and Packers).

Stats taken from here:

https://www.cbssports.com/fantasy/football/players/situational-stats/2017/1272574/kirk-cousins/ 

 

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NFL players owe Kirk Cousins a hat tip, and a few of them may be giving him just that on July 16. That’s the deadline for the four guys left on franchise tags—Steelers RB Le’Veon Bell, Lions DE Ziggy Ansah, Cowboys DE Demarcus Lawrence and Rams S Lamarcus Joyner—to do long-term deals, and, thanks largely to the roadmap that Cousins drew over the last three offseasons, it will take a lot for their teams to get them signed to anything more than their one-year tenders.

https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/06/28/franchise-tag-kirk-cousins-leveon-bell-demarcus-lawrence-ziggy-ansah-lamarcus-joyner

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It’s good news for Rudolph that Cousins is considered one of the best QBs when it comes to using tight ends. FiveThirtyEight noted that from 2015 to ’17 Cousins threw 256 passes when two tight ends were in the formation and averaged 10.24 yards per attempt, nearly a yard better than No. 2 on the list, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford.

Rudolph: “First and foremost he's a great person, he fits into our locker room. He’s a natural leader and he has incredible arm talent. He makes throws out here that everybody has talked about through OTAs. He throws a very catchable ball, and he always seems to put the ball in the right place.”

It also bodes well that the Vikings brought in offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. He comes from Super Bowl champion Philadelphia, which ran the third-most plays with two tight ends in the NFL last season.

http://www.startribune.com/kyle-rudolph-harrison-smith-friendship-began-with-a-fight-at-irish-camp/487576381/

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Cousins is set to flourish in Minnesota because he has three key things that he has not really had before, the first of which is a truly elite defense. It may not wind up being No. 1 again in 2018, but the unit the Vikings have on that side of the ball is one of the best in all of football and has Zimmer's fingerprints all over it. What the staff has built in four seasons-plus is nothing short of impressive at every level of the defense. There is no reason to believe that they still will not be good for years to come, especially as they continue to explore upgrades and lock up core pieces.

The second, and most important reason of all perhaps, is the support he will have from the coaching staff and front office. Cousins hinted as much in his opening press conference when he mentioned the commitment the Vikings are making to winning and the chip he has always had on his shoulder. The Wilfs are doing everything they can to build a winner and it shows in two state-of-the-art buildings in U.S. Bank Stadium and the newly-opened TCO Performance Center in Eagan. They were willing to do that and also pay a premium for a franchise quarterback on the open market. Zimmer may not like the idea of what the cost was, especially if it comes at the expense of losing a piece on defense, but he can rest easy knowing there will not be questions every week about who the starting quarterback will be. At the end of the day, he will get over the price tag.

Offensive coordinator John DeFilippo and quarterbacks coach Kevin Stefanski could be the two biggest factors in how the Cousins era begins and progresses. DeFilippo is one of the game's bright offensive minds and was able to develop Carson Wentz and Nick Foles in Philadelphia and has garnered head coaching interest from teams in the past. Should that be the case again and he leaves after 2018, Stefanski is the logical choice to replace him. And that is good for Cousins, too. He and Stefanski have a relationship dating back to the Senior Bowl in 2012 when he was being scouted out of Michigan State.

Cousins' biggest issue may be his decision making when things break down. He has some of the worst-looking interceptions in the league when he panics, and Keenum was the exact opposite of that in 2017. Keenum's mobility and composure kept a lot of plays alive for the Vikings despite having limited arm strength. However, piece of mind and finally being comfortable is the third and final thing that could make him a perfect fit in Minnesota. The mistakes he makes can be coached, but finally being in a spot where you know you are locked in should pay huge dividends.

https://247sports.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/Bolt/Kirk-Cousins-should-fit-in-just-fine-with-Minnesota-Vikings-116323484/

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Bad decisions look like composed plays when you have receivers who can continuously bail you out. 

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From what I've watched of Cousins (full games available on YouTube) and from what I've heard, I think he's very much a rhythm passer. He needs to build himself a bit before he gets you.

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Cousins:  “The contract, as my agent, Mike McCartney, said, allows me to go out to the field every day and never think about money. The money is done. I can just go play football, and that’s what I love. The last thing I want to think of is, If I throw for 200 more yards, I can get a million-dollar bonus. I didn’t want to do that. I can just think about how I can help this team win.”

https://247sports.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/Article/Kirk-Cousins-embracing-new-challenges-with-Minnesota-Vikings-119751540/

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Cousins' coaches in Minnesota have been working with him on 152 different movements to escape pressure and extend plays. The biggest benefit, coaches believe, is having an offense that fits his skill set, knowing he will be under center for at least the next three years.

DeFilippo: “At the end of the day, we are going to do what he does best. What is that? He throws really well on the move. We can change launch points with him, whether in the pocket or outside the pocket. He’s really comfortable with that. He’s really comfortable resetting his feet, going from left to right or right to left across the field. He stays in perfect position to throw the football. And he can throw accurately and on time.”

https://247sports.com/nfl/minnesota-vikings/Article/Kirk-Cousins-embracing-new-challenges-with-Minnesota-Vikings-119751540/

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Now that Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins has compiled more money than he could ever spend in his lifetime, he can commence the process of counting down the remaining time in his life.

Via Deadspin.com, Cousins took to Instagram to explain that he has a tower filled with 720 stones, and that he’ll remove one per month.

 

https://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2018/07/18/kirk-cousins-will-regularly-remind-himself-of-his-own-mortality/

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Condensed version of MIN-WAS, Keenum vs Cousins. Worth watching, the video is really well put together to show the entire game, no wasted time.

Rewatching the game in terms of QB play, I thought Cousins was noticeably better than Keenum.

Along with the 2 terrible INTs in the second half (the first especially just an inexcusably bad decision), Keenum had another throw (over the middle early in the 2nd quarter) that could’ve been picked. The DB dove for it but couldn’t bring it in, failing to make roughly the same kind of catch Alexander made later in picking off Cousins.

Three of Keenum’s TDs were easy throws created by scheme (Morgan wide open, Wright screen) and/or his WRs (Diggs roasted the CB on the quick out). Thielen made 2 amazing catches, one for a TD and one with the DB draped all over him at the 5 yard line, plus the deep catch he made over his head showed great ball tracking. One of Thielen’s big plays came down to a mismatch on a LB, ran away from him on the slant. Another, Thielen beat the CB when he seemed trapped behind the LOS on a hitch route and converted a 3rd down.

Cousins meanwhile only had one terrible throw, the INT. He had a few others where he should’ve done better, particularly overthowing Doctson on a deep pass that could’ve been a TD, and he had a number of shorter throws affected by pressure, throwing early and/or off his back foot.

On the plus side, Cousins’ deep TD was excellent ball placement, though the WR made an amazing one handed catch to bring it in beyond Waynes. He could’ve had several more TDs, but twice a ball hit his receiver in the hands in the end zone and got knocked away (Sendejo on Davis, later Sendejo on Crowder), a third time Alexander tipped away a well placed throw to Doctson. His receivers failed to make 2 makeable plays that would’ve been TDs (Crowder couldn’t haul in a speed out at the sideline on the goalline, and most egregiously, Doctson beat Rhodes on the double move outside but then tripped over his toes before making what would have been a wide open TD catch). In that sequence, Cousins arguably three 3 TD worthy passes in a row and had them all fall incomplete (Doctson tripped, Crowder couldn’t made the sideline catch, Crowder couldn’t secure the ball before Sendejo knocked it away), before they settled for a short FG. Cousins also had some very good deeper throws in high pressure situations: the wheel route to Thompson beyond Kendricks and the play where Crowder beat Alexander.

Both Cousins and Keenum showed guts and mobility in dealing with pressure, making plays on the run and improvising. I thought Keenum was a little better at stepping up while Cousins fell away too often, but then Cousins was getting more interior pressure and had fewer wide open targets.

The game turned not only on QB plays but on the 2 run stops the Vikings made on 3rd and 4th down, protecting the lead in the 4th quarter. Washington by contrast couldn’t stop the Vikings run game when they needed to.

Bottom line for me is that Minnesota wins this game even more easily if the QBs had swapped teams.

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Also did some research on Cousins’ much discussed W-L record.

The problem was that Washington could only win games when Cousins was average or better. There was no support from the defense. 

2015-17 Washington when Cousins' passer rating was <85.0:

  •  W-L record: 0-16
  • PPG for: 16.9
  • PPG against: 28.9

2015-17 Minnesota when QB1's (15+ attempts) passer rating was <85.0:

  • W-L record: 9-8
  • PPG for: 16.6
  • PPG against: 19.2

...

Cousins didn’t have an unusually high number of games with a below average (<85) passer rating. He’s done that 16 times in his last 48 regular season games.

QBs with more include Newton (27), Eli and Bortles (25), Flacco and a bunch of other QBs with question marks around the quality of their performance in recent year.

More comparable to Cousins at 16 is Stafford at 17, Rivers at 16 and Wilson at 15.

Most QBs with fewer have played proportionately fewer games. Roethlisberger at 14 (in 40 starts), Palmer 14 (in 38), and Wentz at 10 (in 29). 

A few are ahead of Cousins’ pace: Rodgers has 11 in 39, Smith 13 in 47, Ryan 13 in 48, Brees 11 in 47 and Brady 9 in 44. Those are about the only ones.

All of the QBs listed above have won some of those games when they put up a passer rating under 85. W-L records:

1 Cam Newton 2015 2017 CAR 15 12 0 0.556 27
2 Eli Manning 2015 2017 NYG 8 17 0 0.320 25
3 Blake Bortles 2015 2017 JAX 5 20 0 0.200 25
4 Joe Flacco 2015 2017 BAL 9 15 0 0.375 24
5 Derek Carr 2015 2017 OAK 5 16 0 0.238 21
6 Brock Osweiler 2015 2017 DEN/HOU 7 13 0 0.350 20
7 Marcus Mariota 2015 2017 TEN 6 14 0 0.300 20
8 Andy Dalton 2015 2017 CIN 3 14 1 0.222 18
9 Jameis Winston 2015 2017 TAM 5 12 0 0.294 17
10 Matthew Stafford 2015 2017 DET 3 14 0 0.176 17
11 Philip Rivers 2015 2017 SDG/LAC 1 15 0 0.063 16
12 Kirk Cousins 2015 2017 WAS 0 16 0 0.000 16
13 Russell Wilson 2015 2017 SEA 5 9 1 0.400 15
14 Tyrod Taylor 2015 2017 BUF 4 11 0 0.267 15
15 Jay Cutler 2015 2017 CHI/MIA 3 12 0 0.200 15
16 Ben Roethlisberger 2015 2017 PIT 6 8 0 0.429 14
17 Carson Palmer 2015 2017 ARI 4 9 1 0.357 14
18 Ryan Fitzpatrick 2015 2017 NYJ/TAM 3 11 0 0.214 14
19 Matt Ryan 2015 2017 ATL 5 8 0 0.385 13
20 Alex Smith 2015 2017 KAN 5 8 0 0.385 13
21 Case Keenum 2015 2017 MIN/STL/LAR 4 9 0 0.308 13
22 Trevor Siemian 2016 2017 DEN 4 9 0 0.308 13
23 Jacoby Brissett 2016 2017 NWE/IND 3 9 0 0.250 12
24 Ryan Tannehill 2015 2016 MIA 1 11 0 0.083 12
25 Drew Brees 2015 2017 NOR 4 7 0 0.364 11
26 Aaron Rodgers 2015 2017 GNB 3 8 0 0.273 11
27 DeShone Kizer 2017 2017 CLE 0 11 0 0.000 11
28 Blaine Gabbert 2015 2017 ARI/SFO 4 6 0 0.400 10
29 Dak Prescott 2016 2017 DAL 3 7 0 0.300 10
30 Carson Wentz 2016 2017 PHI 3 7 0 0.300 10
31 Andrew Luck 2015 2016 IND 2 8 0 0.200 10
32 Josh McCown 2015 2017 CLE/NYJ 1 9 0 0.100 10
33 Tom Brady 2015 2017 NWE 5 4 0 0.556 9
34 Sam Bradford 2015 2016 PHI/MIN 3 6 0 0.333 9
35 Brian Hoyer 2015 2017 CHI/SFO/HOU 2 7 0 0.222 9
36 Jared Goff 2016 2017 LAR 1 8 0 0.111 9

The only comparable W-L records to Cousins 0-16 on that list are Kizer playing with the winless Browns and the famously hard luck Rivers. Stafford has gone 3-14 and some QBs playing for Jeff Fisher, or on the Jets have been similarly unlucky. Everyone else is at least at .200 and most of the list is at .250 or better. 

Again, the Vikings record in games where their starting QB has a passer rating under 85 is 9-8. That’s the best in the league over that span (Pats and Panthers are the only others over .500). 

Bottom line here is that if Cousins plays about as well as he did in Washington, his W-L record is going to be much better, because the Vikings done need average-or-better QB play to win. 

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I was wearing my Vikings button down shirt on Saturday.  Strangers and friends who noticed all started a conversation with pretty much the same thought..."good luck with that new quarterback!"  These were Redskins fans (I live 60 miles outside of DC)...and the statements were more a warning than really wishing the Vikings well.  I have yet to meet a Redskins fan who isn't glad that Cousins is gone and Smith is taking his place!  There seems to be a lot of optimism in these parts about the Redskins season....BECAUSE of the quarterback change.  I sure hope they are just bitter about Cousins leaving!!

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34 minutes ago, Virginia Viking said:

I was wearing my Vikings button down shirt on Saturday.  Strangers and friends who noticed all started a conversation with pretty much the same thought..."good luck with that new quarterback!"  These were Redskins fans (I live 60 miles outside of DC)...and the statements were more a warning than really wishing the Vikings well.  I have yet to meet a Redskins fan who isn't glad that Cousins is gone and Smith is taking his place!  There seems to be a lot of optimism in these parts about the Redskins season....BECAUSE of the quarterback change.  I sure hope they are just bitter about Cousins leaving!!

1

Obviously they haven't watched Alex Smith.  Last year was the best year he's ever had, but even that's not saying much, considering I believe he's just what Christian Ponder would have been had he actually cared about football.  Checkdown Charlie.  You can count on them yearning for the days of Kirk Cousins after about 8-10 games of watching Smith.  He's a nice player, he's just not an exciting player.  People can make the argument that they aren't all that different, because statistically they are fairly similar, especially over the last several years...but I'll make the argument that Smith had far more offensive talent around him than Cousins has had.  The Washington fans are going to quickly realize how good they had it with Cousins after they see Smith's deficiencies.  

 

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Football Outsiders' take on Cousins vs Smith: 

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On the surface, the Cousins-to-Smith transition looks like a lateral move. Comparing Cousins’ numbers in his three years as a starter to what Smith did in the same time in Kansas City yields fascinating results. Overall the two are pretty similar. Cousins was the more efficient passer in general, but Smith had better ball security and was the more effective runner. By QBR, this quarterback competition is a dead heat (Table 1).

The puzzling part of the Smith acquisition is his age: the first overall draft pick way back in 2005, Smith turned 34 in May. He’s four years older than Cousins, a huge difference at this point in their respective careers. Despite what Tom Brady and Drew Brees and even Josh McCown did in 2017, the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks have declined sharply in their mid- to late thirties. As Cousins enters the peak of his career in Minneapolis, we can reasonably expect Smith’s performance to slip in D.C. Allen and Snyder apparently disagree, becausethey doubled down by signing Smith to a four-year extension that lasts through 2022. Realistically, Washington can get out of the deal after 2020, but it’s puzzling that they opted to guarantee $71 million to Smith, barely any less than the $80 million Cousins got from the Vikings.

Washington clearly expects Smith to be around for the long haul. “That’s somebody you can build your team around and know he’s going to be here, year in and year out,” coach Jay Gruden said when Smith was introduced to D.C. media. “You’re not always looking down the road: ‘Oh, who’s going to be our quarterback next year?’” Gruden also said he was excited to have a quarterback “for the next four, five, six years.” Gruden was not around the last time Washington ac-quired a 34-year-old veteran quarterback—Donovan McNabb in 2010—but you’d think somebody in the team’s brain trust would realize that old quarterbacks get worse, not better. 

Here's the table comparing Cousins to Smith, 2015-17: 

Screen_Shot_2018_07_23_at_12_36_04_PM.pn

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