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Cousins vs. Rodgers: Do the Redskins have the advantage at quarterback on Sunday?

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Cousins vs. Rodgers: Do the Redskins have the advantage at quarterback on Sunday?

Will the Redskins have an advantage at quarterback going into their wild card playoff game against the Packers on Sunday?

Two months ago, even a few weeks ago, it would have preposterous to suggest that Kirk Cousins could be considered the better player at quarterback in a postseason game than Aaron Rodgers. The Packers quarterback has a Super Bowl ring and is a two-time MVP. Kirk Cousins was expected to spend this season on the bench and after six games he had six touchdown passes and eight interceptions and it looked like he was running out of rope.

But as we sit here today, neither quarterback has followed expectations. Rodgers is having one of his worst statistical years. He is down from his career averages in nearly every major statistical category including completion percentage (60.7 in 2015, 65.1 career), net yards per pass attempt (5.7 in 2015, 7.0 career) and passer rating (92.7 in 2015, 104.1 career).

Cousins, meanwhile, posted some solid numbers, including the best completion percentage in the NFL (69.8) and top 10 performances in passer rating (101.6, fifth) and net yards per attempt (7.0, sixth).

Here are their numbers for the season:

Clearly, Cousins had a better season. But the difference between the two becomes even more pronounced in the “what have to done lately” department. After six games the Redskins were 2-4 and Cousins was struggling as noted above. The Packers were rolling at 6-0. Rodgers was completing 68.1 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions with a rating of 115.9.

But since then, Cousins has been better, much better. Here are the stats for the two QB’s from games seven through 16:

It’s clearly and advantage to Cousins when we’re talking about the body of work in 2015 and the more recent games this year. But Rodgers does have an edge when it comes to postseason experience. He has started 11 playoff games and the Packers have won six of them. Cousins’ only postseason experience came in mop up duty after Robert Griffin III was injured against the Seahawks in 2012.

How much of an advantage is it for your quarterback to have more playoff experience than your opponent’s? Last year the team with the more playoff-experienced quarterback went 7-3 in the playoffs (in one game the two QB’s had played an equal number of playoff games going in). But in 2013 the more experienced quarterback was on the losing side in six of the 11 games.

What all of this boils down to is that it’s one game. If you did 50,000 computer simulations of the game, Cousins would probably come out having a better day than Rodgers most of the time. But they will play it once and you certainly can't rule out Rodgers catching fire for a game and pushing the Packers past the Redskins.

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!