Some context: Last year, Kirk Cousins fell 83 yards short of putting up the tenth 5,000-yard passing season in NFL history. He has another year of experience under his belt, but he also lost two of his favorite receiving targets in Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson.
True or false: Kirk Cousins will pass for over 5,000 yards in 2017.
Rich Tandler: False
My gut instinct was to go with “true” here. I think that Cousins is highly capable of passing for 312.5 yards per game, the number needed over 16 games to get to 5,000 for the year.
The missing receivers will be an obstacle, but not one that is insurmountable. Terrelle Pryor can compile something near Garçon’s 1,041 yards. Josh Doctson isn’t the deep threat that Jackson is, of course, but he can get 700 yards and Jamison Crowder can make up the difference. Good quarterbacks make receivers productive and Cousins can do that.
But while I think Cousins can be efficient when he does pass, I don’t think he will pass as often. He threw 606 times last year, breaking his own team record by almost four passes per game. Meanwhile, the Redskins had the fourth-most efficient rushing game in the league last year but they ran the ball only 379 times, 27th in the NFL.
Armed with Rob Kelley with a season under his belt, fourth-round pick Samaje Perine, and versatile third-down back Chris Thompson, I think that Jay Gruden will look at the big picture and believe that he can get better results with more running and less passing.
I don’t think that there will be a drastic switch in the offensive philosophy, just enough to bring Cousins’ pass attempts down closer to where they were in 2015. If he throws 550 times he would have to average nine yards per pass to get to 5K in the air. He’s good, but that’s Aaron Rodgers and Dan Marino territory and I don’t see him getting there.
JP Finlay: False.
Agreeing with Tandler here. Jay Gruden has repeatedly talked about how much he likes Rob Kelley and how the Redskins need to have more balance in their offensive attack.
In three years with Gruden as head coach in Washington, Redskins quarterbacks have thrown the ball 547, 555 and 607 times. That progression occured as former offensive coordinator Sean McVay took over play calling and Kirk Cousins' ascended to the top QB spot. Last season's 607 passes is likely too much, and Gruden will probably work to get that total back around the 550 mark.
Cousins will have another productive year, but I think 4,500 yards will be the path to wins. Last season, Cousins padded some stats in hollow losses. No game stands out more than a Monday night loss to the Panthers. In that game, Cousins threw the ball nearly 50 times and piled up 315 yards. He also threw one interception and no touchdowns. The Redskins lost 26-15, and while the run game was wholly ineffective, the entire offense was shut down by the Carolina defense.
Gruden wants balance. The Redskins will never be a true 50/50 run/pass split, but expect to see less games with Cousins throwing around 50 times.