EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ—It looked like Kirk Cousins and the Redskins had turned the corner. It turns out that they actually went all the way around the block and were right back where they started from.
The Redskins quarterback had a rocky go of it in MetLife Stadium as the Giants took an early lead, thanks in part to a Cousins interception, and refused to get caught, beating the Redskins 32-21 in a game that wasn’t quite as close as the final score would indicate.
Cousins numbers didn’t look bad at first glance. He completed 30 of 49 passes for 316 yards and a touchdown and was sacked just once. But he had two interceptions and that’s only the start of the bad news.
The first interception was the most damaging. In the first quarter Cousins threw a play action pass over the middle intended for Pierre Garçon. Cornerback Prince Amukamara picked it off. Both Cousins and Jay Gruden called it a nice play by the defender but it looks like the pass never should have been thrown.
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The other one also shouldn’t have been thrown either. The Redskins were on the move in Giants territory when Cousins scrambled out of the pocket and fired for tight end Derek Carrier, who was closely defended. The pass bounced off of his hands and linebacker Uani ‘Unga made a diving interception. It was a first and 10 play and Cousins said after the game that there was no reason for him to throw that pass.
As noted, there were other issues. In the second quarter he twice fired off-target passes when Jordan Reed was open in the end zone. They settled for field goals on those two drives so instead of trailing just 15-14 at halftime it was 15-6. Other passes were off target and either fell incomplete or forced the receiver to reach for the ball.
You certainly can’t blame Cousins for everything that went wrong. The Giants blocked a punt that went out of the end zone for the first score of the game. A rushing game that has allowed Cousins to play it safe offensively in the first two games couldn’t get untracked, gaining just 88 yards with 26 of them coming on a Chris Thompson carry as time ran out. Matt Jones, hailed as a rookie sensation just a few days ago rushed for just 38 yards on 11 carries. Alfred Morris rushed for just 19 yards on six carries.
But the play of the quarterback is on the list of reasons for the rather ugly loss if not at the top. As if we need any reminder that a quarterback who didn’t play well is perpetually on the hot seat in Washington, a reporter asked Jay Gruden if he contemplated make a switch to Colt McCoy when things weren’t going well. Gruden said no but it is clear that Cousins doesn’t have an unlimited amount of rope.
The Giants shipped out Jason Pierre-Paul for life as a Buccaneer, and in turn, Tampa will send a third and fourth round draft pick to New York.
Moving Pierre-Paul comes at a curious time for the Giants. The team will eat $15 million of dead money in the move, and New York also sent a fourth-round pick to Tampa as part of the transaction.
What it definitely signals is that Big Blue looks to be moving from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 look. Additionally, with the second overall pick in the NFL Draft in April, maybe the Giants will seriously look at NC State defensive lineman Bradley Chubb.
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For the Redskins, seeing Pierre-Paul leave the NFC East is welcome news. He has 12.5 career sacks against Washington QBs, the same amount he has against the Eagles and Cowboys combined.
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The Redskins and linebacker Zach Brown agreed to a three-year contract that will require Brown to continue to play at a high level if he is going to collect all of the $21 million the deal contains.
Brown’s camp reportedly was shopping for a contract that had some $20 million in guaranteed money. The actual deal fell well short of that.
Brown, who was leading the league in tackles before an assortment of injuries forced him to sit out the last three games, got a total of $5.5 million in fully guaranteed money. He got a $4.5 million signing bonus and his $1 million salary for 2018 is fully guaranteed.
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After that, the remaining two seasons essentially are team options. In 2019 he has a $6.75 million salary and $4.5 million of that is guaranteed for injury. His 2020 salary is $7.5 million with no guarantees of any kind.
The contract also has per-game roster bonuses available at a rate of $15,625 for each game he is on the 46-man game day roster in 2018 (total of $250,000 for the year) and $31,250 per game in 2019 and 2020 ($500,000 total).
The salary cap hits per year are as follows:
2018: $2.75 million
2019: $8.75 million
2020: $9.5 million
The average annual value of $7 million ranks ninth among inside linebackers.
Brown will need to continue to play well to collect on the contract. The team will be able to save $5.75 million on the 2019 cap if they terminate the deal after one season and $8 million if they do it in 2020.
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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.