First, some housekeeping. There was no Stat of the Week post or Three Good/Three Bad post on Tuesday, and I apologize sincerely to all loyal readers. (For you casual readers, I offer you no apologies.) The reasoning behind this is that each of those posts is retroactive to the previous game. The game previous to those posts was the fourth preseason game, which exists solely to give bubble players a final shot to make the roster. Therefore, by the time my Tuesday posts would have come out, the 53-man roster had already been finalized and thus my posts would've been obsolete.
Anyway, back to business as usual.
This week's Friday Stat of the Week is going to move past preseason and look toward the regular season, but we're going to do so by taking a glimpse at a number from last year and how it should change this year.
The Washington Redskins quarterbacks combined to throw 18 interceptions last season, which was tied for the fourth-most in the league. Conversely, they threw 547 passes, which was 18th-most in the league. That's an interception on 3.3 percent of the team's throws, which was fifth-worst in the NFL.
Now for the bad news.
The original starting quarterback for the Redskins, Robert Griffin III, was actually only slightly worse than the league average interception percentage. Griffin was picked off on 2.8 percent of his throws, which isn't awful compared to the league average of 2.5 percent. Griffin had plenty of other faults — see: fumbles — but he's been pretty good about not forcing passes he can't make.
Kirk Cousins, the man who replaced Griffin, struggled mightily in this department. He was picked off on a ridiculous 4.4 percent of his passes, the worst percentage of any quarterback who attempted at least 150 passes.
Looking at it a different way, Cousins threw an interception every 22.7 attempts. He played in six games and started five, but the one game he didn't start, against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Griffin attempted just three passes before going down with an injury. So Cousins basically started all six games. In that time, he threw 204 passes, or 34 per game. If you prorate those numbers over 16 games, that's about 24 interceptions in a full season for the former Michigan State signal caller.
Jay Cutler and Philip Rivers each threw 18 interceptions last season, which was tops among NFL quarterbacks. The Philadelphia Eagles threw the most picks as a team, with 21.
But part of one season isn't enough to go by, right? Well, it doesn't really get better if you go further into the past. Cousins threw seven picks on 155 attempts in 2013, good for a 4.5 interception percentage, and he threw three in just 48 attempts as a rookie in 2012, a 6.3 interception percentage.
For the glass-half-full folks in the audience, the two main takeaways are that Cousins has decreased his interception rate each year, and he's done so while increasing his attempts. So, technically speaking, Cousins has gotten better at keeping the ball secure. By this reasoning, Cousins should improve to something like a 4.0-4.2 interception percentage this year, if he plays all 16 games.
For the glass-half-empty folks, and, unfortunately, the more realistic of the bunch, Cousins is simply increasing his sample size and not really making a dent in that hideous percentage. He's gotten slightly better, percentage-wise, but really he's just continued putting up well-below average interception rates despite increased opportunities. This makes it more likely that he's simply an interception-prone quarterback as opposed to a generally accurate quarterback that had a few poor outings in his early years.
Oh, and for what it's worth, Cousins threw 20 picks in 493 passes throughout his final two years in college, which is an interception on about 4.1 percent of his attempts.
Skins fans, prepare for a long season of interceptions.