Kirk Cousins ​​forgot how to counter the Blitz

I don’t have to tell you that Kirk Cousins ​​had a bad night in Philly. You can look at the statistical profile of his performance from almost any angle and come to the correct conclusion that he played poorly. However, that’s probably not all you want to know. The real question on anyone’s mind is whether Cousins ​​will continue to play poorly.

What happened here? How did Cousins ​​go from a fringe MVP candidate to a national laughingstock? His answer might be that it’s natural for Kirk Cousins. He is a patchy and inconsistent quarterback, and this game is far from anomalous. However, I want to be more specific. He may have heard the word “nervous” used to describe Cousins ​​on Monday night. That’s almost certainly due to a handful of low lights, almost all of which occurred against the barrage.

To say that a QB is “bad against the blitz” is too broad to be useful. Responding to bombing requires a wide range of skills and strategies. Between setting up protections, changing plays, and even mid-game adjustments, you need to execute quickly and correctly to counter a blitz. The main problem on Monday night is the “hot” readings.

In short, a hot read is a planned response to a blitz that sends out more pass-rushers than pass protectors have on offense. If there is an additional running back unlocked, that player becomes the quarterback’s responsibility. The quarterback’s job is to abandon the traditional passing progression and throw to a predetermined hot route. That hot route is usually a checkdown, shallow center, or other rapidly developing outlet that will often attack the space vacated by a blitzer.

First, let’s look at a textbook example from another part of the league. Kudos to JT O’Sullivan on his YouTube channel, The QB School, for discussing this Trevor Lawrence example. O’Sullivan is a former NFL quarterback and current high school coach, which gives him a much better knowledge base than I do:

Let’s break down each of Cousins’ featured works. Those four were the most visible examples of him refusing to give up progression. The clearest example is the second, a concept called “Branch Follow”. The “Rama” describes the passing pattern on the right side, with a deep player and a decoy player, often a fullback or tight end, executing a clear route. The “Follow” describes the “basic” route (AKA Dig) that runs at the same depth, creating a deep horizontal stretch downfield.

But we don’t get to any of that because the Eagles send an all-out barrage. Seven men pressure the passer, and the Vikings only have their five offensive linemen in coverage, plus Dalvin Cook if needed. It is, so he makes six, but someone is still free. That means Cousins’ job is to identify the situation and find KJ Osborn, who should be ready to get the ball.

The key downside is that Cousins ​​didn’t drop out of progression. The point of a hot read is to avoid this exact situation: Kirk Cousins, throwing his back foot in a moment that requires much more precision than is possible with an unlocked Eagle coming at you. The longer he stays in the progression, the more he will commit to one side of the field. At a certain point, it’s too late, and Cousins’ only move is to take a sack or throw a dangerously wild pass.

The worst example came near the end of the game, with the Vikings in the middle of the red zone. The Vikings had used many empty formations, leaving no extra blockers. Philadelphia, building on their lead late in the game, began sending more aggressive charges. When there is blood in the water, the sharks will circle.

On the next play, the Eagles pressed the same button on third-and-9. Cousins, and the team in general, experienced the same failure. Perhaps most frustratingly, Cousins ​​couldn’t handle this particular issue, so much so that the Eagles were able to rely on him.

This was far from the only weakness that sank Cousins’ night. His mechanics fell apart, as did his ability to navigate and manage risk. The clips above are just a few examples of a much deeper analysis of Cousins’ disastrous night. If you’re looking for answers, or just a glutton for punishment, consider joining me on Patreon for the whole thing.

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