It is well known that Kirk Cousins had two different 2015 seasons. In the first six games he was unsure and prone to turnovers. He finished strong in the last 10 games, turning around his personal performance and helping the team rally from a 2-4 start to the NFC East title.
At this point in 2016 the Redskins don’t need a rally to get into playoff contention; they are 4-2. But despite the record Cousins is not performing as well as expected. The Redskins have improved defensively and in the running game. There is a feeling that the Redskins could take a spot among the elite teams in the NFL if Cousins was playing as well as he did to finish last year.
A look at the numbers reveals that so far the Cousins of 2016 is somewhere in between the quarterback who was touch and go early last year and the one who came on strong at the end. Here are his per-game numbers for the last two seasons divided into three splits—the first six of 2015, his last 10 from last seasons, and the six games played so far this year (via Pro Football Reference).
(Note: percentages may look off due to rounding for clarity purposes)
You don’t need to have an advanced degree in football stats analysis to see that Cousins has not regressed all the way back to his shaky 2015 start but he did not continue to roll as well as he did to finish off last season.
The most glaring regression is in his completion percentage. The decline in that stat lowers both his yards per attempt and his passer rating. If he was completing in the upper 60’s or 70 percent of his passes like he did last year everything else would fall into place.
His completion percentage doesn’t seem to be suffering because he is throwing more deep passes. In fact, he has been remarkably consistent with 11.1 percent of his passes traveling 20 yards or more in the air this season compared to 11.2 percent of his throws this year (per Pro Football Focus).
It’s not like Cousins has to undergo another transformation in order to regain his late 2015 form. A few incompletions turned into completions per game would do the trick. The good thing for the Redskins is that they are performing well enough in other areas of the game to win despite the quarterback performing at less than his peak. The question is, will he be able to carry the team is they need him to?