When a football team struggles, their fans tend to blame the quarterback. Such is the case for Kirk Cousins, who is taking heat for the Vikings 1-4 start.
Cousins may not be a perfect quarterback, but the team’s losing record is not his fault. Some simple film analysis can quickly vindicate Minnesota’s signal caller.
CLEAN POCKET = CALM, ACCURATE COUSINS
Regrettably, Kirk Cousins does not have the speed of a mobile quarterback, so he is best suited to throw from the pocket. When protection is good and he has average or above average time to throw (2.5-3 seconds), Cousins usually finds an open man.
Note: In these images, the pocket will be loosely drawn in yellow, with areas of pressure or concern in red. All screenshots are from last week’s game against Seattle.
Cousins has a mostly clean pocket, and he’s able to hit Chad Beebe for a first down.
Cousins has a completely clean pocket and finds Irv Smith Jr. for a nice gain.
The offensive line stiffles Seattle’s pressure, and Cousins floats a beautiful pass into the end zone. If not for a rare drop by Thielen, it would have made the highlight reel.
Backed up against his own end zone, Cousins has good protection and slings a pass to Thielen.
Cousins has plenty of time and space to scan the field and hit Thielen for a touchdown.
COLLAPSING POCKET = RUSHED, INACCURATE COUSINS
Like many quarterbacks, Cousins becomes flustered under pressure, especially with his lack of mobility. Pressure is part of the game, but Cousins faces more than most… Minnesota’s offensive line ranks 27th (out of 32) in pass protection. Much of it comes from the right, where the Vikings have the lowest-rated guard in the league (Dru Samia, ranked 75th out of 75 eligible guards).
The rest of the offensive line is only marginally better. As you’ll see below, Cousins is frequently put in compromised situations, which often lead to incompletions, interceptions, or fumbles. With so much pressure from different angles, it would be difficult for anyone to succeed.
With heavy pressure from the interior, and oncoming from the edge, Cousins attempts a quick pass to Rudolph that falls incomplete.
Cousins is pressured from both sides when right guard Dru Samia gets beaten (and is called for a holding penalty), and left tackle Riley Reiff is spun around. Cousins quickly ejects the ball for an incomplete pass. Kudos to Cousins for not taking a sack or throwing a pick here!
The last play of the game was a real mess, and here are some reasons why. Two Vikings linemen were out-leveraged, twisted off balance, and pushed into Cousins. Dru Samia (73) had a miscommunication and is blocking nobody.
This play led to a controversial game-ending fumble, but it wasn’t Cousins’ fault. With no time left on the clock, running wasn’t an option, nor was taking a sack. For the record, I disagree with the ruling of a fumble, as it should have been an incomplete pass.
It’s easy to see: Cousins is capable of playing very well when he’s not under heavy pressure. General Manager Rick Spielman is well aware of the real problem and is considering replacing Samia at right guard. So long as the offensive line is in this condition, Vikings fans should stop blaming Kirk Cousins.