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Inside the Numbers: Comparing Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins is not as simple as it seems

Inside the Numbers: Comparing Alex Smith and Kirk Cousins is not as simple as it seems

The Redskins traded a third round pick and promising young cornerback Kendall Fuller to Kansas City to acquire quarterback Alex Smith. In the process, the Washington front office decided to move on from Kirk Cousins, the starting QB of the last three seasons, to Smith. 

It's not quite that simple, as major questions remained about Washington's ability to sign Cousins for the 2018 season and beyond, but regardless, it now appears Smith is the future for the Redskins at QB.

The biggest question, however, is if Smith is better than Cousins? 

Direct comparisons are hard to pull off in professional football, as teams run different systems and the game is truly reliant on all 11 players on the field. Still, the numbers can explain a lot. With that in mind, NBC Sports Washington compiled the most important numbers from Smith and Cousins from the last three seasons. 


Why the last three seasons? Alex Smith was the No. 1 overall pick in 2005, and Kirk Cousins was a fourth-round pick in 2012.

Smith struggled early in his career on some bad 49ers teams, and Cousins did not become the Redskins full-time starter until 2015. Prior to that, Cousins had some ugly numbers too, particularly in the touchdown to interception ratio. 

The best comparison for the two players comes over the last three years as both men had full command of their offense and their position.

One final, but important, note before the statistics: Cousins will be 30 years old when the season begins. Smith will be 34.

Let's try to determine some takeaways from the data:

  • Cousins has posted significantly higher yardage totals, but also throws the ball on average 75 more times per season than Smith.
  • With more throws, Cousins threw more TDs, but also more INTs. 
  • The completion percentages are nearly identical, which shows both QBs are accurate passers.
  • At 7.6 YPA for Cousins and 7.5 YPA for Smith, the "dink-and-dunk" label doesn't really apply for either player. In 2017, Drew Brees led the NFL with an 8.1 YPA. Smith tied for second at 8.8 and Cousins tied for ninth at 7.6
  • Smith is definitely the better runner, but Cousins' ability to get in the end zone on the ground can't be denied.
  • Cousins has been remarkably durable the last three years with zero missed games. Smith missed one game for injury, and missed another in Week 17 of 2017 as the Chiefs had already clinched their playoff spot. 
  • Smith won more games, but played on a better team.

Got another takeaway from the data? Let us know in the comments.

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Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Is Adrian Peterson a good fit with the Redskins?

Adrian Peterson is one of the best running backs in NFL history.

But is he the best running back for the Redskins right now?

The Redskins signed Peterson, 33 years old and a 12-year NFL veteran, to a one-year contract. They have been hit with injuries at the running back position, most notably the loss of second-round pick Derrius Guice for the season with a torn ACL. They didn’t make any moves when that diagnosis was announced a week and a half ago. But they lost two more backs to short-term injuries last Thursday and they decided that now is the time to go out and get somebody.

Is the need for a running back really there? Rob Kelley was the starter for the last half of the 2016 season and for seven games last year before a variety of ailments sent him to injured reserve. Samaje Perine became the starter after that and while he struggled at time he also showed growth potential.

Kelley is 25 and Perine is 22. In the absence of Guice, they could develop and when Guice returns next year the team would have a good stable of young running backs.

But now, Peterson is in the picture. We don’t yet know what his role will be, but they did not sign him to be the back who is inactive on game days. He will get some carries and that will take work away from Perine and Kelley.

Now, if Peterson is more productive than either of the two younger backs then that is a worthwhile swap. But what does he have left in the tank at age 33?

Last year, playing for the Saints and Cardinals he gained 529 yards on 156 carries, a very pedestrian average of 3.4 years per carry. That is very similar to the production of Perine, who had 175 carries for 603 yards, a 3.4 average. In his two years in the NFL, Kelley has averaged 3.9 yards per carry.

By signing Peterson, however, the Redskins are hoping that Peterson has one more big year, or at least a medium year by his standards, left in him. After all, it was just in 2015 that he led the NFL in rushing for the third time in his career as he ran for 1,485 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry. The Redskins would be delighted if he could get half of that total.

Any free agent signing can only be evaluated when the contract details are available. We only know that it’s a one-year deal and according to some reports he did not get any money guaranteed at signing. That seems to be a team friendly deal, but we will have to see what might kick in if he is on the Week 1 roster.

As with everything else, time will tell if this move works out. If the money is right, it’s a low risk transaction with some possible upside for Washington.

Back during minicamp while talking about how quickly Alex Smith would have to get up to speed with the offense, Jay Gruden said that the Redskins are not in a rebuilding mode and that they need to win now. After the trade for Smith, the Peterson signing is another indication that patience may be wearing thin.

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Former MVP Adrian Peterson signing with Redskins amid mounting RB injuries

Former MVP Adrian Peterson signing with Redskins amid mounting RB injuries

The Redskins agreed to terms with free agent running back Adrian Peterson, per multiple reports and confirmed by NBC Sports Washington.

Washington added Peterson as their running back group took a number of hits this preseason. Rookie Derrius Guice was lost for the year in the preseason opener, while Byron Marshall, Martez Carter and Samaje Perine got hurt in the second preseason game against the Jets.

Peterson is a huge name. He’s likely headed for the Hall of Fame when his career ends, and he’s one of only a handful of rushers to gain more than 2,000 yards in a season.

His best seasons came with the Vikings, but Peterson hasn’t delivered top flight results since 2015.

If he’s healthy and ready to go, Peterson could be a tremendous steal for the Redskins. There is no way to know until he suits up in the preseason, which could happen as soon as this Friday night against Denver.

On the roster, Washington has Rob Kelley, Kapri Bibbs and Chris Thompson available at running back. At his best, Peterson is significantly better than that group.

Will the Redskins get Peterson at his best?

That’s the big question. And with two preseason games remaining, he will get the chance to prove it.