When the surprising reversal on the health status of Robert Griffin III came down Friday night, the move to Kirk Cousins as quarterback of the Redskins became apparent.
Some have argued that Washington should go to Cousins for weeks - while others have made that argument for years. Regardless, Cousins found himself with an opportunity to impress head coach Jay Gruden Saturday night in Baltimore. Cousins took advantage of the opportunity, though the performance was hardly a tour de force that some Cousins' zealots expected.
The quarterback was shaky early, and that included an interception by Terrell Suggs. The pick came on a smart play by Suggs, a great player and probably future Hall of Famer, but the throw never should have happened. Cousins needs to recognize the call - a bubble screen to WR Pierre Garçon - was a busted play from the start and the best move for the offense was to throw the ball away and play another down.
"I wish I would have thrown it into the ground, but I didn't see him right away," Cousins said.
The good news for Cousins came after the interception, when the QB stayed composed and led the offense down the field. The stats are impressive - 20/27 for 190 yards with a TD to go with the INT - but it's worth noting Cousins looked his best in a two minute drill when Baltimore had pulled some starters, including Suggs and fellow pass rusher Elvis Dumervil.
"It makes a huge difference being a fourth-year player than being a third-year player. I understand the game much better," Cousins said. "I feel much better about my performances."
Considering the depths of the unknown that surrounds RG3, it's possible if not probable that Cousins could start Week 1 against Miami. But it's also worth noting that Colt McCoy looked strong in the second half against the Ravens, and Gruden wouldn't even agree that Griffin might not find his way back to the starters role. Gruden said after the game he was "happy with our offense" but that the "beginning wasn't too good."
The cynic would point out the ineffectiveness of the Washington offense early before Cousins found his footing. The optimist would point to the impressive second quarter stats that produced the first preseason TD for the starting offense in more than a year. The cynic would say the TD only came on a lucky bounce to rookie WR Jamison Crowder, but the optimist would point out that Andre Roberts should have caught the ball in the first place.
Cynic or optimist, the role of QB1 remains uncertain for Washington. Given a chance to claim that spot definitively, Cousins came close. The starting offense looked it's best in Baltimore than it has all preseason, and that came with Cousins at the helm. Will that be enough?