In Cousins, Redskins have QB continuity Broncos envy
LANDOVER, Md. — For all the injury problems and inconsistency the Washington Redskins have endured this season, they’re glad they’ve avoided quarterback roulette.
Kirk Cousins has started every game for the Redskins for the past three years, the polar opposite of their Week 16 opponent, the Denver Broncos, since Peyton Manning retired.
Trevor Siemian has started 10 games, Brock Osweiler three and Paxton Lynch one for Denver this season.
“I’ll tell you, it hasn’t been easy,” said Broncos coach Vance Joseph, who hasn’t announced his Sunday starter between Osweiler and Lynch.
“When you have had three different starting quarterbacks, obviously you want one guy in there so you can have continuity and you can have rhythm and a play selection that everyone’s comfortable with. But when you’re playing three, it’s tough.”
Washington is one of just four teams in the NFL to start the same quarterback in each game from 2015-17. In that time, Cousins has taken 98.4 percent of snaps, all but 49 reserved for Colt McCoy in games that were out of hand or carried no meaning.
“That’s one position that you really don’t want a lot of change during the season,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We’ve been very fortunate to keep him healthy and for him to stay healthy and for him to be able to be in the lineup this entire season despite all the people that have changed around him.”
Cousins could be the first Redskins quarterback to start each game in three consecutive seasons since Joe Theismann in the early 1980s. Of course he’s also the first NFL QB to play back-to-back seasons on the franchise tag, and his future is yet again uncertain with the possibility of another one-year deal in 2018.
“I’d like to think that the continuity at the quarterback position is always preferred, but it’s not a luxury that you have at all times,” said Cousins, who’s on his way to a third 4,000-yard passing season in a row. “I would like to hope and believe that we can continue to have continuity, but time will tell.”
Cousins doesn’t expect to let his mind wander much Sunday afternoon during what could be his final home game with the Redskins (6-8) because he has been on open-ended one-year deals before.
It’s easier said than done as front offices and fan bases around the league consider what it would be like to have someone as durable and dependable as Cousins. Gruden would rather not think about it as he remembers Cousins, McCoy and Robert Griffin III splitting games in 2014 and what it did for preparation and game-planning.
“It was pretty disruptive,” Gruden said. “We try to keep a core group of plays that guys are comfortable with and try to stick to those. When you have a lot of change, you don’t add a lot of new things for each individual quarterback, but you try to keep the core concepts in there and let them all try to work with those.”
Mired in change all season, quarterbacks for the Broncos (5-9) said they’re not bothered by the uncertainty and have been supportive of whoever gets the nod.
“It’s been a rollercoaster,” Osweiler said. “There are a lot of things that take place in this business that you can’t control. I think the sooner you learn that, the better mindset you’ll have toward situations like this.”
Some things to watch when the Broncos visit the Redskins:
Bibbs’ chance: Kapri Bibbs is the Redskins’ seventh running back this season and will get a chance to face the Broncos, where he played from 2014-16 before a trade to the San Francisco 49ers. The 24-year-old former Colorado State star scored on a 36-yard screen pass last week and gives Washington an interesting 1-2 punch with rookie Samaje Perine.
“Perine and our guy we had here, Bibbs, is doing a good job,” Joseph said. “Perine is a tough downhill runner that we have to gang-tackle him to get him on the ground.”
We’re No. 1: When the Broncos fell out of playoff contention, Joseph told players that while their record doesn’t matter, they’d like to finish as the league’s top defense. That’s where they’re at, allowing 276.8 yards a game.
“That’s something that we take pride in around here,” nose tackle Domata Peko said. “We’re definitely going to finish strong and try to be No. 1 in all the categories.”
No Trent: The Redskins are finally shutting down Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who has been dealing with a right knee injury that will require surgery. Despite the injury, Williams earned praise from Broncos linebacker Von Miller for being a “beast” and a “silverback.”
Ty Nsekhe is expected to start in place of Williams again.
“It’s time to looking forward to getting healthy,” Williams said.
Run, run C.J.: Washington’s 28th-ranked run defense is a nice opportunity for Broncos running back C.J. Anderson to build off his 158-yard performance last week against the Indianapolis Colts. Anderson needs 142 in Denver’s final two games to reach 1,000 in a season for the first time in his pro career.
“I’m on track,” Anderson said. “I just think it’s a good milestone for myself, but also for up front and our team as a whole.”