The last impressions of a victory can mold how a team should play moving forward in fans’ eyes. Sometimes fans can be onto something, like deploying a specific player more aggressively. Other times the fans are wrong, like thinking a particular facet can work every single week when instead the game plan might only work against a particular opponent. Ok, I will get to the point now: the performance this past week for Washington has shown that Kirk Cousins needs to capitalize on defenses who do not respect the Redskins’ deep passing attack.
According to Next Gen Stats, last year Cousins was ranked 14th in Average Intended Air Yards (IAY) with 9.6 yards per attempt. This year, Cousins is ranked 28th in that same statistic with 7.8 yards per attempt. Intended air yards is defined as the total yards a passer throws on all attempts, not just completions.
On completed passes, measured in completed air yards (CAY), Cousins ranked tenth at 7.6 yards per completion in 2016; this year Cousins ranks 28th of all quarterbacks with a minimum of 75 pass attempts. For those who may be offended by these statistics, Cousins is surrounded by other respectable quarterbacks, but the fact remains that the Redskins need to push the ball down the field, and Cousins is a big part of that.
Josh Doctson is starting to emerge as a legitimate weapon who Cousins can count on in big moments, as he was only a ground-forced incompletion away from hauling in two spectacular and clutch passes from for go-ahead touchdowns late in games this year. With Vernon Davis living across the middle as Washington’s best deep threat this year, Doctson has given both the coaches and his quarterback a reason to take more shots down the field.
The match-up against the Minnesota Vikings this week is one where an aggressive offense can allow the Redskins to dictate how the game will be played. This year will be different from last year when facing the Vikings however, as the Minnesota will come into Sunday healthy on the defensive side of the ball, whereas the Redskins will not. In last year’s matchup the Redskins faced a depleted defense and took advantage of that. Washington will have their hands full with this defense for a multitude of reasons, but an aggressive attack can have the Vikings on their heels from start to finish.