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Opinion: How the Robert Griffin III/Kirk Cousins Controversy Could Impact the Atlanta Falcons 2014 Draft

December 13th, 2013 at 12:45 PM
By Graham Waldrop

A couple of days ago, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said that franchise QB Robert Griffin III would be held out the rest of the season to ensure that he can rest and become healthy for the 2014 season.  This means that backup QB Kirk Cousins will start for the rest of the year for the Redskins, and will get his first start of the season against the Falcons.

'Kirk Cousins' photo (c) 2012, Keith Allison - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The Falcons are already familiar with Cousins.  These two teams met last year in Washington, where the Falcons beat the Redskins 24-17, and it also marked Cousins' first NFL action.  

Cousins replaced Griffin III after Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon absolutely leveled him, giving Griffin a concussion from which he would not return from during this game.  Cousins came in and went 5-9 for 111 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.  Despite the two interceptions, it was clear that Cousins had a strong and a precise arm, as he almost led the Redskins to a comeback victory.

This particular scenario in which Griffin was knocked out of a game occurred again in Washington's matchup against Baltimore, only this time, Cousins led the Redskins to victory.

Through three games last year, Cousins threw for 466 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.  He had a passer rating of 101.6 and a completion percentage of 68.8.

Cousins hasn't been nearly effective as he was last season in his limited action this year in which he played late in two blowout losses, and recorded very pedestrian stats.  But the Falcons know what he's capable of from last season.  To linebacker Sean Weatherspoon, Cousins doesn't appear to be just another backup quarterback.  

"Kirk can throw the ball well, he did a great job last year when he came in," Weatherspoon said.  "We expect him to be prepared and he knows he's the starter this week; he'll be coming in with some confidence.  We look forward to going out there and doing our job against him."

This move to Cousins may in fact work against the Falcons favor.  The Falcons have made plenty of quarterbacks look great this season that they shouldn't have in Mike Glennon, Geno Smith, Carson Palmer and Ryan Tannehill.  Robert Griffin III has really struggled this season despite a 3,000 yard passing season.  He only had a 60% completion percentage and had 15 interceptions and 14 fumbles.  He has also not been fully healthy, and because of this, he hasn't really been able to truly capitalize on being the dangerous dual threat quarterback he was last season.  He's been a shell of his former self for most of the year, and while the Redskins' struggles aren't completely on Griffin, he wasn't helping matters either.  

By putting Cousins in to face the Falcons, Shannahan may have given the Redskins a better chance to win.  Cousins is healthy and knows he's had success against this team before.  He should be motivated to make his case for the rest of the year so that he could maybe get a shot at a starting QB job on another team. 

Cousins could hold the Falcons' draft fate in his hands.  If the Redskins win on Sunday, the Falcons would slip to 3-11 and would move into position to claim the number two pick in next year's draft.  If Cousins doesn't play well, and the Falcons win, the Falcons could fall anywhere from third to potentially 10th depending on how other teams fare.  That could be a huge difference in getting a Jadeveon Clowney or a Jake Matthews in the draft before someone else can snatch up that premium talent.

The Falcons have been getting torn up through the air all season against mobile quarterbacks and pocket passers, giving up 245 yards passing per game.  While at first blush you may think that not having to face Griffin means the Falcons should definitely win, don't be so sure.

To play devil's advocate, one may also think that Cousins could just be a flash in the pan last year.  He only has a 48% completion percentage and two interceptions through two games this season.  Which Kirk Cousins will show up on Sunday?  The late game hero from last season, or the ineffective quarterback from this season? 

The battle for NFL draft superiority is on this Sunday, and expect Kirk Cousins to play a big role in one way or another.

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Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Falcons, Football, Kirk Cousins, Mike Shanahan, NFL, Robert Griffin III, Sean Weatherspoon

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