Passer Appraisals Week 4: Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson
Each week at TwoQBs.com I will post an article on two notable quarterback performances over the prior week. This week I will be looking at Washington signal-caller Kirk Cousins and Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks.
Kirk Cousins lost in a close game on the road in Arrowhead Stadium on Monday evening. He threw 24 passes, completing 14 of them for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns. He also rushed for 38 yards on 7 carries. For the year, he’s up to 7 total touchdowns to 1 interception with 77 rushing yards on 15 tries. In the prior two years it was notable he recorded nine total rushing touchdowns – five in 2015 and four in 2016. This ties Tevin Coleman of the Falcons for touchdowns over two years, for comparison.
His first passing touchdown in this game was on a 1st-and-10 play from the Chiefs’ 44-yard line. From under center, Cousins took a seven step drop-back, faking a handoff to Rob Kelley, and then immediately stepping up to avoid being grabbed by Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston, who had worked his way around Washington tackle Morgan Moses. Stepping up, Cousins’ first and only look was to Terelle Pryor, who had gained a step on Marcus Peters (possibly even pushing off on Peters’ shoulder at the last moment). The pass traveled 50 yards and just barely cleared the DB for a catch in the stomach of Pryor. Arrowhead is known for being a loud and unfriendly stadium and this sensational play quieted the crowd greatly early in the game. Had the play taken place in DC it would have had the opposite effect, of course.
Later in the first quarter, Washington was in a 4th-and-1 position on Kansas City’s 29-yard line and didn’t call in the kicker. Rather, they lined up in a running formation with no wide receivers and Cousins took the ball, faking a handoff to Kelley again, rolled around to the left and took the ball across the line himself gaining an additional three yards after the first-down marker. He didn’t slide down, rather he fell forward. The confidence his coach showed in him to make a “non-lunging” fourth-down play within field goal range is notable, and shows a good chemistry between Cousins, his coach, and offensive line. New tight end Jeremy Sprinkle and tackle Trent Williams both recognized pressure on their QB and did a good job of clearing a path, but a lot of the heart of the play was all Cousins.
Early in the third quarter, Cousins completed a 25-yard pass to Vernon Davis, who had gained a step on a much slower Justin Houston. From the shotgun, Cousins looked left to Josh Doctson, which had the effect of drawing the safeties to the left side of the field. He then looked back to see Davis taking off on the right and placed the ball perfectly over Davis’ left shoulder. From there, Davis scrambled another 44 yards to get tackled on the Chiefs’ 6-yard line. Two plays later, Cousins finished off the drive with a 7-yard pass to Ryan Grant in the back of the Chiefs end zone.
Cousins had a shot later in the game to get a touchdown and put the team up by four with two minutes left in the fourth quarter, but it didn’t happen. From the Washington 43-yard line on a 3rd-and-8, he rushed around to the right and dove across the first-down marker, taking a shot from DL Allen Bailey as he fell. A couple of plays later from the Chiefs’ 45-yard line he again took the ball himself, gaining 15 yards running straight up the middle of the field and extending the ball as he fell forward. The very next play he ran 8 yards up the field to the Chiefs’ 22-yard line. Essentially, the whole two-minute drill was Cousins rushing as the Chiefs took away downfield options. With 57 seconds left in the game on a 3rd-and-2 from the Chiefs’ 22-yard line, Cousins placed the ball into the middle of the end zone for Josh Doctson to go up and get. Everything was in place for this to win the game, but Doctson couldn’t hold on to the ball and it bounced away from him as he landed in the end zone. Whether this killed the momentum gained by Cousins or not, Washington settled for a field goal to tie the game and the Chiefs came back with 47 seconds left to win the game.
It is hard to use the correct adjective to describe Cousins, as a good quarterback but not a great one. He’s not a general on the field like Peyton Manning, but he leads well enough to get the job done. And his play is erratic and sometimes seems like it’s made up on the fly. But he’s going to be a very valuable asset over time and comes into the organization with the right attitude. He manages to get his coach and his team behind him, and took Washington to the playoffs in 2015, barely missing the playoffs in 2016. In redraft, Cousins is a solid starter and I wouldn’t hesitate to start him against pass-friendly defenses. However, he has the fourth worst-strength of schedule for the rest of the year, so I can’t see him finishing the year as a QB1. In 2QB dynasty, I would certainly be investing in the 29-year-old quarterback, and would easily put down an expected mid-to-late first round pick for him.
In Seattle’s game against the Colts on Sunday, the Seahawks dominated the game from the start and won 46-18 at home. Wilson threw for 295 yards and scored 2 passing touchdowns late in the game, while adding 38 rushing yards on 4 rushes and another touchdown on the ground. For the year, Wilson has 1,024 yards passing on 141 attempts and 87 completions (a 61.7% completion percentage, the lowest of his career). He has a total of seven passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown with two interceptions. At the time of writing this, the Colts sit fourth on the total “QB Points Against” chart, having given up at least 240 yards and a touchdown to every team this season. The Seahawks and Wilson have been to the playoffs every year since he was drafted in the third round in 2012, with Wilson starting all sixteen games every season of his career.
Things seemed to be pretty close late in the second quarter. With three and a half minutes on the clock and the score Colts 8 – Seahawks 10, Wilson threw an interception. From under center, he dropped back five steps and almost immediately felt pressure from Jabaal Sheard coming around from Wilson’s right side. He passed the ball quickly to Jimmy Graham and that pressure caused him to throw about a yard too low, just within the reach of Colts safety Matthias Farley. The ball was tipped up and Farley came down with the pass. A few plays later the score was 15-10 Colts as the teams went into halftime.
Whatever was said in the Seahawks locker room at halftime apparently worked as the Seahawks proceeded to own the second half of the game. From the Colts’ 23-yard line, Wilson took a snap from shotgun, and with no passing options, he scrambled up the field and was tackled at the one-yard line, not sliding down and extending the ball over the plane of the end zone as he went down for a touchdown after review showed his extension preceded his knee going down.
With the first play in the fourth quarter, Russell Wilson threw a 45-yard pass on 3rd-and-9 to Tyler Lockett for a Seahawks first down on the Colts’ 32-yard line. A few plays later, he passed to backup tight end Luke Willson for a six-yard touchdown. The game was getting out of hand with the Seahawks up 39 to 18 with 11 minutes left in the game. His second passing touchdown was with less than three minutes left in the game to J.D. McKissic—You’re forgiven if you’re not familiar with McKissic. He’s behind the (now injured) Chris Carson, Thomas Rawls, Eddie Lacy, and C.J. Prosise on the depth chart.
Here’s the thing to note: Eight players, including McKissic, caught passes, and five players including Russell Wilson rushed for 20 or more yards. Doug Baldwin, the presumptive lead wide receiver caught only 3 passes for 35 yards. The Seahawks team is sort of like a Swiss Army knife for coach Pete Carroll, with no player standing out as a must-start for fantasy purposes… except Wilson.
Russell Wilson shouldn’t be available in any 2QB league you’re in, but if he is or if you can pry him from the owner, do so. In redraft, he’s a fringe QB1 start every week. If you can acquire him in dynasty, he’s worth an early first and possibly more, easily. He’s beaten any suggestion of being injury prone (due to his RGIII-like running ability), having started every game since drafted five years ago, and he is under contract until 2020. Other than the lack of a true number one wide receiver on the team (there’s an argument for Doug Baldwin being the one), there’s no reason he would be outside the top-four or top-five quarterbacks in your 2QB dynasty league for the next decade. Invest, and invest now.
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