Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, July 13, 15 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond.
—The Redskins last played a game 185 days ago. It will be 61 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.
—Days until: Franchise tag contract deadline 2; Preseason opener @ Falcons 29; Final roster cut 52
Cousins needs to improve his passing under pressure
They say that pass defense starts with pass rush. The flip side of that coin also is true; a passing offense starts with pass protection. This was especially true for the 2015 Redskins and is likely to remain vital this coming season.
All quarterbacks are less effective when they have pressure in their faces. In 2015 putting pressure on Kirk Cousins made a huge difference in his effectiveness compared to when he had no pressure.
According to Football Outsiders, the Redskins’ passing offense was the fourth most effective in the NFL when Cousins was able to stand in the pocket unmolested (as calculated by FO’s DVOA metric; see the post for details). But the offensive DVOA dropped from 69.0 percent all the way down to minus-110 percent when he was under pressure. That drop of 179 percentage points was the second biggest among all quarterbacks who dropped back to pass at least 200 times last year. Brian Hoyer of the Texans had the biggest drop, 190 percentage points.
Fortunately for Cousins and the Redskins the quarterback wasn’t under pressure very often compared to the rest of the league. The pressure rate was 20.5 percent; only four quarterbacks faced pressure less often. As a result of the protection and his ability to get the ball out quickly Cousins was able to enjoy a very productive first season as a starter.
But there were still 119 pass plays out of 569 total (21 percent) where Cousins was under pressure and performing at a severe disadvantage. One of the knocks on Cousins has been his inability to make plays off schedule, when things break down. This stat reflects that to an extent, although it should be noted that both Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson, two of the games most noted improvisers, also ranked in the bottom half of passing under pressure compared to not being under pressure. Still, it’s something that Cousins to work on.
The FO article accompanying the stats doesn’t go into every QB in detail but they do a paragraph on Cousins:
Opposing teams only managed to get pressure on Cousins 20.5 percent of the time, the fifth-lowest rate in football, which certainly helped him put up a career year. Washington's weak schedule (25th-ranked by DVOA) also played a part in his drastic improvement, so it will be interesting to see whether Cousins can keep up his level of play against tougher competition.
That last sentence is particularly interesting and perhaps why the Redskins seem to be willing to gather another year’s worth of evidence before they decide how much they are willing to pay him on a long-term contract.
The more Cousins can close the gap between how he performs with and without pressure the better off he and the Redskins will be.
In case you missed it