Are Kirk Cousins and the Redskins in Trouble Already?

kirk-cousins-steelersKirk Cousins had a breakout year in 2015, tallying career-high stats and leading the Redskins to the playoffs. His reward was a large one-year deal worth $19.95 million.

The reason for the one-year deal is that Washington wants to make sure that Cousins is set for long-term success, rather than a one-hit wonder. The sample size in 2016 is small, but so far, it hasn’t been good.

Washington was crushed 38-16 in their season opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. And now the question is if Cousins and the Washington Redskins are already in trouble.

Cousins has been in the league for five years now, and he’s 28 years old. He’s no longer a “work in progress” as he’d been described in previous years while sitting on Washington’s bench.

Last year, it seemed as if Cousins had finally arrived. His first four years spent in Washington seemed to have prepared him for last season’s success.

But against Pittsburgh, Cousins reverted back to the backup/part-time starter that he’d been in his first few NFL seasons. Sure he threw for 329 yards, but much of this was in garbage time. What’s worse is that he tossed two interceptions and often made poor decisions by throwing into coverage.

The Washington Post covered multiple plays where Cousins missed reads and failed to move the offense. Some plays he just flat-out failed to see what the defense was doing and made the wrong decision with short passes that went for little-to-no yardage.

kirk-cousins-2016To be fair, Pittsburgh has a strong all-around defense that did a good job against Cousins. But if the 5-year veteran had played like he did down the stretch of last season, he could’ve still found holes in the Pittsburgh secondary.

2015 saw Cousins complete 69.8% of his passes while racking up 4,166 yards, 29 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a 101.6 QBR.

This shows that he’s capable of being a very strong quarterback who can lead Washington to victory. But he can’t play like he did against Pittsburgh for that to happen.

The good news is that this was just one game on the opening weekend – against a Super Bowl contender no doubt.

More good news is that Washington has the Dallas Cowboys coming up this Sunday. Dallas was burned for 3 touchdown passes by Eli Manning last week. Cousins is capable of playing as well as Manning, and he has solid weapons around him, most notably tight end Jordan Reed.

Our GTBets line for this week has Washington as a -2.5 favorite. The Cowboys not only have rookie Dak Prescott starting at quarterback, but they also feature a below-average defense.

With a slightly stronger team and capable QB, Washington has a solid chance to win this game. But if they can’t beat the Cowboys, then they’ll have a very tough time repeating last season’s success.

After all, the back-end of their schedule features some difficult out-of-division games, including @Cincinnati (Week 8), Minnesota (Week 10), Green Bay (Week 11), @Arizona (Week 13), and Carolina (Week 14). This doesn’t even include the division rivalry games that Washington will have to win to defend their NFC East crown.

Again, the season is only one game old, so Washington has enough time to show that their Week 1 dismantling was a fluke. But it needs to start this Sunday with a victory over the Cowboys.

2016 NFC East Betting Preview

tony-romoLast year, the NFC East was easily the conference’s worst division with a combined 26-38 record. Interestingly enough, this was supposed to be a strong division with a 2 or 3-way battle for the East crown.

The only team that rose to the challenge was the Washington Redskins, who won their last four games to finish 9-7.

The Philadelphia Eagles, meanwhile, faltered down the stretch, losing 5 of their last 7 contests and finishing 7-9. Head coach Chip Kelly was ultimately fired after a controversy filled season, and former Kansas City offensive coordinator Doug Pederson takes over this year.

The New York Giants will also feature a new coach since they convinced Tom Coughlin to retire following a 6-10 season. Giants offensive coordinator Beb McAdoo will step up to the head coaching position.

Finally, we have the Dallas Cowboys, who vastly underachieved due to injuries, most notably to Dez Bryant and Tony Romo.

With the Cowboys healthy again, they’re our division favorites. See who can challenge them as we preview the NFC East.

NFC East Betting Odds to Win Division (from GTBets)

Dallas +280
New York Giants +200
Philadelphia +375
Washington +220

1. Dallas Cowboys: Projected Record 10-6

Dallas entered last season with Super Bowl aspirations following a 12-4 campaign in 2014. This failed to transpire, though, as QB Tony Romo missed 13 games with a broken clavicle in 2015.

ezekiel-elliott-cowboysEven now the Cowboys have to wonder what could’ve been with Romo since he was a perfect 3-0 in his starts. Dallas failed to find a signal caller who could win besides Romo, as the trio of Brandon Weeden, Kellen Moore, and Matt Cassel were a woeful 1-12. The good news is that Romo will have one of the best offensive lines in football protecting him.

The running game should also improve since Dallas drafted Ezekiel Elliott with the fourth-overall pick of the draft. The Cowboys also signed Alfred Morris to help shore up the position. The offense is rounded out by star receiver Dez Bryant, who missed several games last year, and tight end Jason Witten.

While the offense looks set, Dallas’ defense will be the big question mark. The secondary should be strong, with Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick manning the corners, and Barry Church and Byron Jones playing safety. The problem will be the front seven, though, which, beyond LB Sean Lee, doesn’t have a significant amount of talent.

Expect a renewed offensive effort from the Cowboys this year. But how far they go will depend upon how well the defense plays.

*Editor’s Note: Tony Romo will be out 6-10 weeks with a broken back bone, which will certainly affect the Cowboys’ offense early on.

2. New York Giants: Projected Record 8-8

It’s easy predicting Dallas to regain their form and win the division, but who comes next is a toss-up. We like the Giants next, who’ll transition to a new era with Ben McAdoo.

odell-beckham-jrThis transition will be made easier with Eli Manning at quarterback, who enters his 13th season with the Giants. Manning passed for a career-high 4,432 yards last season, along with 35 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

His favorite target will once again be the human highlight reel Odell Beckham Jr., who caught 96 passes for 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns. Running back will be manned by Rashad Jennings and Andre Williams again, with free-agent addition Shane Vereen slated for passing downs.

The defense is where New York really has to improve, and they took steps towards this by signing DE Oliver Vernon, DT Damon Harrison, and CB Janoris Jenkins. If these new players gel, then the Giants could content for the division title.

3. Washington Redskins: Projected Record 7-9

Many predicted Washington to be the NFC East doormat last season, but they vastly exceeded expectations. Can they win the East again?

kirk-cousins-nflIf so, their chances hinge on QB Kirk Cousins, who earned himself a large contract after throwing for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns. His favorite targets, DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, will be back again at wide receiver. Throw in tight end Jordan Reed, who has All-Pro seasons head of him, and this is a dangerous passing attack.

Unfortunately, the run game doesn’t look so dangerous after losing Alfred Morris. Backup Matt Jones was supposed to take over the position, but he has a shoulder injury right now. There’s little left to back Jones up and balance the offense out.

The defense should be a solid unit, with LB Ryan Kerrigan, and cornerbacks Josh Norma and DeAngelo Hall leading the way. It’ll be interesting to see if Washington’s $75 million investment in Norman pays off.

Washington overachieved last season, and the jury is out on if they can do so again in 2016. But they do have a friendly schedule this season and play in one of the NFL’s weaker divisions.

4. Philadelphia Eagles: Projected Record 6-10

Philadelphia is ready for a fresh start under Doug Pederson. They also drafted their quarterback of the future in Carson Wentz (2nd overall), although it’ll be Sam Bradford taking snaps to start the season.

sam-bradford-eaglesBradford will have some familiar targets in Jordan Matthews and Nelson Agholor, both of whom could step up this year. The Eagles also traded for Dorial Green-Beckham, who tallied 549 receiving yards in his rookie season with Tennessee.

No claims will be made about how dominating the Eagles rushing attack will be, with both Chip Kelly and former RB DeMarco Murray gone. But Ryan Matthews and Darren Sproles will form a nice two-headed attack. Tight ends Brent Celek and Zach Ertz will also help the offense quite a bit.

The Eagles brought in Jim Scwartz to coach the defense, which is a great move since he coached Buffalo to the league’s fourth-best defense in 2014. He’ll have some good players to work with, including DE Connor Barwin, DT Bennie Logan, LB Fletcher Cox, and S Malcolm Jenkins.

Anybody can win the NFC East this season, but we see Philadelphia as having the most-difficult time doing so. They’re playing under a new coach, have no star wideouts or running backs, and may feature the rookie Wentz at QB before the season is over.