Not really all THAT surprising
As we’ve said a couple of times already, we’re well into list-a-mania season when it comes to topics of conversation, and one that Minnesota Vikings fans might particularly like has appeared over at The Touchdown Wire today.
The article talks about the best quarterback in the NFL at specific types of throws. It breaks things down by various dropbacks and other situations, and some folks might be surprised to see the name of Vikings’ quarterback Kirk Cousins appear twice on the list. Honestly, some Vikings fans are probably surprised to see Cousins’ name on a list of best anything that isn’t directly connected to contract negotiations, but that’s another discussion for another time.
The first time Cousins’ name appears is in the category of “five-step drops,” where there is apparently nobody in the NFL better than #8.
Say what you want about Cousins (and we certainly have), but he is an above-average quarterback in terms of production. We can’t ignore a guy who finished seventh in DVOA and eighth in DYAR last season. And there was no better quarterback in the league last season when it came to throwing from five-stop drops — that’s where Cousins was at his best, completing 88 of 135 passes for 1,005 yards, 692 air yards, 10 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 105.9. As was the case with Stafford and the three-step drops, there were other quarterbacks with higher five-step passer ratings (Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers, to be specific), but nobody had Cousins’ touchdown-to-interception ratio.
This 21-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn against the Bears shows how Cousins uses those intermediate drops — frequently with hitches at the end, and scanning the field, waiting for openings, until they happen.
Again, you’ll have to go to the article itself for the video since I can’t seem to embed them here.
While that might come as a surprise, the other one certainly should not, as the article names Cousins as the NFL’s best play-action quarterback.
Wait. Kirk Cousins makes this list twice? Yup. Cousins has always been an above-average play-action and boot-action quarterback, and in 2021, he completed 104 of 149 passes with play-action for 1,368 yards, 677 air yards, 12 touchdowns, two interceptions, and a league-high passer rating of 119.8. As is the case with Russell Wilson and pre-snap motion, you can certainly wonder why the Vikings didn’t use more play-action last season as a result; Josh Allen led the NFL with 240 play-action attempts. Perhaps new head coach Kevin O’Connell, most recently the Rams’ offensive coordinator, will have something to say about that.
On plays like this 45-yard touchdown pass to Justin Jefferson against the Bears in Week 18, Cousins shows his knack for using boot-action to give himself additional time for plays to develop. From there, it’s just a nice downfield throw, and Jefferson torching his unfortunate defender.
We’ve known that Cousins thrives in the play-action game for a long time, which makes the Vikings’ hesitancy to do it last year that much more perplexing.
tidbit from the Vikings chapter I’m working on:
Kirk Cousins registered 93 pass plays from under center w/o play-action last year. Mac Jones was next at 55, and no other player had more than 36.
— Derrik Klassen (@QBKlass) May 19, 2022
Hopefully the new Kevin O’Connell-designed offense will take more advantage of the things that Cousins does well, like throws off of play-action. Designing an offense around the strengths of your core players. . .that sounds so damn crazy that it might even work.