Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden has announced his decision to name his team’s starting quarterback for the 2015 season – his name: Kirk Cousins.
That may come as quite the surprise to some, but let’s be honest – Robert Griffin III, in his three years playing as an NFL starting quarterback, has yet to start 16 games of any of the three seasons; he’s been plagued with injuries since his rookie season, and while his debut was spectacular, there’s been marked decline in his performance since: in his 2012 season, through 15 games, he threw 20 TDs, rushed for 7 TDs, and only had 5 passes intercepted; in 2013, in 13 games, he threw 16 TDs, rushed for zilch, and had 12 pass attempts picked off; 2014, in only 9 games, threw 4 TDs, rushed for a lonely 1 TD, and threw 6 INTs – mind you, numbers don’t equate much to anything if not analyzed in truly-unbiased context, but they don’t paint a pretty picture for his progress trend, now, does it?
But, there’s always a chance for redemption, right?
Well, then, let’s move on to RGIII’s 2015 preseason stats to consider whether or not he’s earned his perdition from his recent past: 6 completions on 13 attempts (46.2%) for 44 total passing yards; no TDs (either by air or ground), but also, no INTs. Considering he’s going against the first-team defenses, surely we can forgive his lackluster performance, but let’s take a look at his understudies:
QB Colt McCoy, who’s had to fill RGIII’s shoes for a large chunk of 2014, completed 19 of 24 passes (79.2%) for 208 yards, threw 3 TDs in the air, and had no pass attempt intercepted.
Then what about Washington’s illustrious newly-named starter-QB Kirk Cousins? 40 completions on 53 attempts (75.5%), 435 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 (though negligible) rushing TD, 1 INT.
It seems the backups are performing on a level consistent with that of a starting QB; to many RGIII fans’ dismay, it may seem that accepting this credo would potentially mean accepting the denouement of the Redskins’ melodrama concluding in the demise of Robert Griffin III’s starting career – it very well may be.
On the upside for Griffin, his latest injuries were merely a shoulder strain and a concussion, or at least concussion-related – his exclusion from participation was forced due to the protocol of dealing with such injuries. We’ll just have to watch and see how healthy he remains, but don’t get your hopes up about Griffin starting more than 4-5 games this season – it’ll be more miraculous to see him play like his 2012 version than to see him last an entire season – his recent injuries almost definitely can be said to have been a factor in Gruden’s announcement, but in all honesty, they very well may not have been a deciding factor to begin with.
The decision to make Cousins the starter isn’t the only news-worthy development coming out of Washington, however: two preseason injuries further predetermine the depth-chart in TE Niles Paul’s broken ankle and sophomore RB Silas Redd’s ACL and MCL tears. With Paul having seen the field last year, and having been an impactful presence during his brief stint as starter, expect his fellow TEs Jordan Reed and second-year hopeful Derek Carrier to see an increased workload in the upcoming weeks. In the case of Redd’s injury, it translates to even more touches for Alfred Morris, but more so, rookie Matt Jones may be delegated a substantial amount of time to showcase his credentials during the aftermath.
As for the fantasy fallout from these latest developments:
Now that Kirk Cousins is the slated starter for the Redskins, keep in mind that his three-year career stats read like this: in 14 NFL games (9 of which he’s entered as starter) 240 passes out of 407 attempts (59%) for 3,030 passing yards, 18 passing TDs, 19 INTs – Cousins’ career fantasy stats read like a low QB3’s. Assuming the Redskins will be able to re-establish WR Pierre Garcon as a deep-threat, he and fellow receiver DeSean Jackson should make a promising duo. TE Jordan Reed got nicked up for a four-game stretch, and replacement Niles Paul maintained favorably for Washington – in a starting capacity Reed should prove worthwhile. More so, with RB Alfred Morris rounding out the backfield, the Redskins’ passer should only worry to make the right reads – he should start at least 10 games before coach Gruden decides to give one of the other QBs a shot – unless Cousins comes out in top form, don’t expect anything more than 2,000 passing yards, 13-17 passing TDs, and 7-9 INTs – still around a high QB3’s productivity. At best case, assuming he keeps the starting job for all 16 regular-season games, with no major injuries and throwing around the pigskin like has been in the past three preseason games, Cousins should be capable of 3,400-3,700 passing yards, 22-26 passing TDs and 8-15 INTs, just enough to make it to low QB1/high QB2 status.
If, somehow, RGIII returns mid-season or late-season in a starting-role propensity – although it’s very likely QB Colt McCoy gets time before Griffin – don’t look for much production from Griffin: if completely healthy, 4-5 games of RGIII as a starter should net a little over 750 passing yards, 100 rushing yards, 5-8 passing TDs, 1-3 rushing TDs, and 4-5 INTs. Due to Griffin’s constant injury threat, and his seemingly-stunted progression as a quarterback, assume RGIII to be a very-low QB3 for fantasy purposes.
Being as how Colt McCoy has had five games as Washington’s starting QB, and has performed quite adequately in the position – 91 completions of 128 attempts (71.1%) for 1,057 passing yards, 4 passing TDs, 66 rushing yards, 1 rushing TD, 3 INTs – one would assume McCoy is just as equally-as-viable a candidate to play backup to new starter Cousins as he is to overtake Cousins for the first slot on depth-chart for QB. To that end, if McCoy becomes starter, for a 5-game stretch, expect very similar results: 1,000+ passing yards, 50+ rushing yards, 4-6 passing TDs, 1-2 rushing TDs, and 2-3 INTs – of course, in a true-starter role, these predicted stats would scale up, but for the time being, with things as they are in Washington, QB Colt McCoy is a high QB3.
Despite being one of the few RBs that breached the 1,000-rushing-yard mark last season, Alfred Morris experienced a rather quiet year, mainly because of the 2014 Redskins’ atrocious 4-12 record. Alfred Morris has all the makings of an RB1 on stand-by to consistently repeat such a feat as amassing 1,000+ rushing yards in any given season, so long as he remains healthy. Unless the Redskins face a total meltdown in concern with incompetence amid the starting-QB spot, Morris should continue to reassure, and should be counted upon to rush for 1,100+ yards and around 10 rushing TDs – don’t look for more than 15-20 receptions, 150 receiving yards and 1-2 receiving TDs, as Morris isn’t the receiving-type of back – Morris should, though, experience a higher goal-line presence now that RB Roy Helu is gone and RGIII isn’t largely around to sneak in the football himself. Also, keeping in mind RB Silas Redd’s recent injury and possible exclusion from 2015 participation; definitely expect Morris to benefit from more touches therefrom. However, if preseason reports are what they make themselves out to be, rookie tailback Matt Jones may threaten to convert the Redskins’ running game into a two-back system – if so, maybe Morris only comes out of the regular season with 700-800 rushing yards and 6-7 rushing TDs. Even if Matt Jones manages to be spectacular enough a performer to make Washington a two-back rushing attack, Alfred Morris should be in no immediate danger of losing his starting job.
The Redskins should be glad to have on their roster one of the more elite WRs of the NFL in DeSean Jackson – he’s made himself into a consistent deep-threat throughout his career. However, having strove to establish himself as a big-play threat has undoubtedly hurt his reliability as an every-down receiver. His career reception-to-target ratio speaks as much to this theory – 412 receptions from 744 targets – only 55.4% of the time, Jackson is able to make a play when he’s the target. On the other hand, his yards-per-catch (YPC) throughout his career also ranks amongst the all-time highest at 17.7 YPC: throughout the NFL’s collective history, he ranks 37th; amongst active players, he ranks 1st. His high-risk, high-reward dynamic is definitely something to think about when considering drafting DeSean Jackson – last year, he netted 1,169 receiving yards off of only 56 receptions from 94 targets (59.6%) – that’s a 20.9 YPC-average. Additionally, Jackson pulled down 6 receiving TDs in 2014, and while he no longer handles return duties, he should be able to compensate by being included in more plays for more overall time on the field. All things being considered, while his low reception numbers will hurt his worth in a points-per-reception (PPR) league, Jackson, for all intents and purposes, should still be treated like a low-end WR1; Kirk Cousins at starting-QB capacity should be able to hook up with him just as or more consistently. DeSean Jackson should be able to reliably produce 1,100-1,200 receiving yards, 60-70 receptions, and 6-10 receiving TDs in 2015.
In 2013, WR Pierre Garçon had a breakout year, accumulating 1,346 receiving yards on 113 receptions from 184 targets (61.4%) and 5 receiving TDs; his overall output has since dwindled – his 2014 stats read: 68 receptions from 105 targets (64.8%) for 752 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs. Granted, Garçon was forced into the WR1 position (the other Redskins’ candidates in 2013 for WR1 included Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, and Josh Morgan), and skill-wise, doesn’t necessarily suit the mental focus of a WR1, but even so, his natural speed and catching abilities have otherwise compensated quite fittingly for the high-volume output expected of him that year. Last year, with the acquisition of true-WR1 DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon has settled quite snugly into a WR2 role; while not as big a deep-threat as Jackson, Garçon should enjoy his fair-share of big plays in 2015. From Garçon, look for 70-75 receptions, 750-850 receiving yards, and anywhere from 4-6 receiving TDs – this type of production is consistent with the higher mid-range of a WR2.
Jordan Reed at TE for the Redskins has been pretty consistent thus far: just under 500 receiving yards and just under 50 receptions for two years straight. The thing his, Reed missed five games in 2014 due to injuries, so it’s very well that his last year’s numbers (50 receptions, 465 receiving yards, 0 receiving TDs) were predicted to have been higher than they turned out to be. The Redskins do, in fact, make use of their TEs as receivers; during the five-game absence of Jordan Reed, backup Niles Paul was able to pull in 39 receptions for 507 receiving yards – imagine if those same opportunities were afforded Reed – Reed’s stats would’ve been very close to 90 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards. It turns out, a situation markedly similar has arisen in Washington; Niles Paul did, in fact, break his ankle, unfortunately for himself. While, of course, Reed doesn’t automatically acquire all of Paul’s potential stats, it can be assumed Reed will undertake more of a premiere-TE role; sophomore Derek Carrier will have to prove himself worthy in Reed’s downtime. Though, if Reed can remain healthy – nowadays, a very real problem for most of the Redskins offense – we can expect Reed to produce 65-80 receptions, 850+ receiving yards, and 5-6 receiving TDs, making him a mid-range TE1 for fantasy football considerations – his numbers, though, are highly dependent on the play-style of QB Kirk Cousins.”