Washington has a promising future at the quarterback position. Rookie Robert Griffin III wasn't the only reason the team made the playoffs last season, but he was definitely the biggest reason. Griffin threw for 3,200 yards and 20 touchdowns, and had another 815 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
He helped Washington go from bottom of the barrel to top of the food chain in the NFC East. Unfortunately, the Redskins weren't able to advance in the playoffs, and RGIII's injured his knee again in a Divisional round loss to the Seahawks.
Fast-forward to the present day, and Griffin is still rehabbing from his injury. He's on track to be ready for the start of the regular season, and was recently allowed to do change-of-direction drills. He still got a way to go. That's not to mention that all it takes is one setback to put him back on the shelf.
If that happens, where will Washington be? Probably with Cousins as the full-time starter. Rex Grossman and Pat White are likely competing for the No. 3 job. That's if the team even elects to go with three quarterbacks this season.
Even if they go with three, Grossman isn't exactly at a point in his career where he'll inspire much confidence. So Cousins is the guy if Griffin goes down, but how would the team look for an extended period of time without Griffin?
It's hard to say. Cousins didn't see the field all that much, and his 48 pass attempts last season make it hard to draw conclusions.
Cousins threw for 466 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in his rookie season. He took 13 snaps in a Week 5 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons and seven snaps against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14. The only time he played significant time was against the Cleveland Browns in Week 15, so we'll take a closer look at that.
Cousins made the start in that game and ultimately led the Redskins to a 38-21 victory. While the Browns are not one of the top teams in the NFL by any means, they have a tough defense that will likely soon be among the NFL's elite. A tough defensive line and a strong secondary both spelled a deceptively tough game for Cousins.
But he kept his cool, hitting Leonard Hankerson for a 54-yard touchdown in the first quarter in response to a Browns touchdown to tie the game at 7-7. Cousins would go on to throw another touchdown in the third quarter, also to Leonard Hankerson. He did have one interception, where he was picked off by T.J. Ward early in the first quarter, which set up Cleveland's first score.
Cousins settled in after that pick though, and finished the game having completed 26 of 37 pass attempts, good for 329 yards and an average of 8.9 yards per pass. He had two touchdowns and one interception, with a quarterback rating of 104.4.
A fourth-round pick, Cousins probably performed better than expected. Given that he rallied the Redskins to an overtime win in the previous game when Griffin went out with an injury, the team wouldn't have made it to the playoffs without Cousins' strong play in relief..The pressure will be on if Cousins has to take over at the start of next season though, as Redskins fans now expect another playoff performance.
Fortunately, he's taken the lion's share of the first-team reps this offseason, and will likely take plenty more when training camp roles around. The Redskins have been prepping Cousins as though he would be the starter through the entirety of next season, even if it's not all that likely. That's one thing going for him.
The other thing going for him? Second-year running back Alfred Morris. A few argued that Morris should have earned offensive rookie of the year last season, and looking at his stat line, you can see his case.
Morris put up 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, with a per-carry average of 4.8 yards. He's the No. 1 option to lead the team if Griffin is out — and given Shanahan's strong rushing attacks in the past, the Redskins would be in good hands.
Then there's receivers Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and Leonard Hankerson. Devery Henderson was also an offseason addition. These players will all need to step up to make things easier for Cousins if he takes over.
Cousins has shown he can run the offense and make the plays he needs to make. He stepped up in the clutch, but overall, the tape is limited on him and it will take smart coaching and strong play from his supporting cast if he's to win on a consistent basis and help Washington make it back to the playoffs.