PHI-WAS grades: Kirk Cousins earns highest passing grade of season
Here are the top takeaways and highest-graded players from the Redskins’ 38-24 victory over the Eagles on Saturday night, which clinched the NFC East title for Washington:
–You have to wonder quite what a quarterback is supposed to do when his receivers put eight passes on the ground, and that doesn’t include the Eagles’ fumbles after the catch that came in this game as well. Further adding to Sam Bradford’s (+3.0) difficulties last night was that when his receivers weren’t dropping passes, he himself missed a couple of opportunities for big plays that could have helped turn this game. This was a solid display from Bradford, who once again was very effective with his passing down the middle of the field. But as has been the case all season long, this entire Eagles’ offense was out of sync Saturday night, and now their hopes of the NFC East title have finally been lost completely.
–The Eagles’ best player on defense once again stood out, as Fletcher Cox (+2.1) earned his 14th positive grade in his 15th start of the season. Cox added five stops to take his season total to 41, while recording at least one sack, hit and hurry for the third straight week and the fifth time this season. Cox’s form has tailed off a little from excellent to very good in recent weeks, but his consistency this season will have him firmly in the hunt for All-Pro honors.
–Entering this season the Eagles looked like they had an embarrassment of riches at inside linebacker, with Jordan Hicks and Kiko Alonso added to the experienced pairing of Mychal Kendricks and DeMeco Ryans. This was supposed to allow the team to rotate and use this quartet in scenarios to make best use of their skill sets. Saturday night, however, all three of Alonso (-4.2), Kendricks (-2.8) and Ryans (-2.8) earned negative grades, which was representative of the problems the team has had at the position all season. All three linebackers lie outside our top 50 graded linebackers, with Hicks (now on injured reserve) the only exception.
RT Lane Johnson (+3.6)
QB Sam Bradford (+3.0)
DE Fletcher Cox (+2.1)
CB Jaylen Watkins (+1.7)
S Malcolm Jenkins (+1.7)
–The Kirk Cousins (+4.3) to Jordan Reed (+4.3) connection was in full effect against the Eagles, with quarterback and tight end earning matching +4.3 overall grades after they diced up the Philadelphia defense. Reed collected his nine catches against six different defenders, primarily down the middle of the field, as the Eagles struggled to pick him up in either zone or man coverage. Cousins, meanwhile, earned his highest passing grade of the season (+5.2), and his highest since his last visit to Philadelphia (+5.5) early last season — helping to make up for his inexplicable kneel-down at the end of the first half that cost the Redskins a field-goal attempt.
–Rookie outside linebacker Preston Smith (+1.4 pass-rush grade) certainly got his fill of pass-rush attempts Saturday night, and came up with a trio of big plays against both Jason Peters (-2.0) and Dennis Kelly (-0.8). Smith rushed the passer 51 times last night, 24 more than in any other game so far this season and more than all but two other games combined. Smith’s performance, then, was not about a volume of pressure, but the magnitude of the plays that he made. He rode those big plays to his first positive pass-rushing grade since Week 12.
–Jordan Reed wasn’t the only Washington pass-catcher to gut the Eagles’ secondary, with Pierre Garcon (+2.6 receiving) ably backing him up on the outside. Garcon got past Walter Thurmond (-2.1) on a double move for his touchdown while putting up nearly 50 yards on rookie Eric Rowe (-0.5) on six targets. Garcon earned a positive grade for the second week in a row and Washington will hope he can back up this kind of form as they know start to plot for a home playoff game.
QB Kirk Cousins (+4.3)
TE Jordan Reed (+4.3)
LT Trent Williams (+3.1)
DE Jason Hatcher (+2.8)
S DeAngelo Hall (+2.4)