Training Camp Battles: Kirk Cousins vs Colt McCoy

With the Redskins 2015 Training Camp less than two weeks away, Redskins Capital Connection is taking an in-depth look at some of the pivotal positional battles that will be playing out in front of thousands of fans eyes at the Bon Secours Training facility in Richmond, VA.  Redskins Capital Connection will be at Training Camp daily bringing you the latest news, analysis, photos, video and podcasts, so make sure you check us out!

Unlike the previous Training Camp Battle previews that we have looked at so far, this one is not looking at a battle for a spot as a starter. Instead, with Head Coach Jay Gruden naming Robert Griffin III the 2015 starting Quarterback all the way back in February, and with it unlikely that the Redskins will carry 3 quarterbacks amongst the 46 players allowed to suit up on gameday, the competition for the #2 Quarterback spot is going to be one of the most interesting battles in Richmond.

Colt McCoy

  • Age: 28
  • Height: 6 ft 1
  • Weight: 215 lbs
  • 2015 Cap Hit: $1,375,000
  • 2015 Games Started: 4

With journeyman Quarterback and perpetual meme-fodder Rex Grossman leaving the Redskins, the team needed a decent 3rd signal caller on the roster given Griffin’s injury history. Having enjoyed so much success with another third string Quarterback named Colt in previous years, the team snapped up Colt McCoy in Free Agency from San Francisco to back up Griffin and Cousins. Surely at the time, most people would have considered the thought of McCoy starting any games in 2014 to be a sign that things had gone horribly wrong.

Of course, McCoy did go on to start 4 games in place of the injured Griffin and the shaky Cousins, and he won at least a modicum of support from Gruden in doing so. Like Griffin, however, McCoy would also get hurt and he ended the season on the Injured Reserve list after suffering a pinched nerve in his neck against St Louis.


  • Great competitiveness, strong desire to win
  • Can extend plays with his legs
  • Appeared to pickup the Gruden playbook better than either Cousins or Griffin
  • Doesn’t make egregious mental errors
  • Goes through his progressions, has good field vision


  • Lacks a strong arm
  • Inaccurate over distance
  • Precision accuracy is lacking; balls often thrown behind receivers
  • Can hold on to the ball too long

Colt McCoy won himself some fans in Washington last season when he led the Redskins to an unlikely overtime win over the Cowboys in Dallas. In that game, McCoy made some excellent and team-lifting plays which kept the momentum with the Redskins throughout a majority of the game.

His 7 yard rushing touchdown from an empty backfield on a Quarterback draw was eerily reminiscent of the type of plays former Offensive Coordinator ran with great success in 2012, and it caught the Dallas defense completely by surprise. It was the kind of play that makes even the most jaded and skeptical Redskins fan sit up and take notice and think “Hey, maybe this kid isn’t terrible after all”. 

McCoy wasn’t done making plays on the big stage of Monday Night Football either, and in overtime linked up with Jordan Reed to move the chains into field goal territory, setting up the Redskins for a 20-17 victory.

This is the kind of football McCoy is capable of when he plays to the best of his abilities. He isn’t blessed with a cannon of an arm, and a lot of his longer passes tend to lack the velocity required to throw his receivers open. What McCoy is good at is using his intelligence to try and pick apart a defense with a mix of safe throws combined with creative off-script plays.

Kirk Cousins

  • Age: 26
  • Height: 6 ft 3
  • Weight: 202 lbs
  • 2015 Cap Hit: $778,172
  • 2015 Games Started: 5

Kirk Cousins has had a tumultuous ride since being drafted by the Redskins in the same year as Robert Griffin III. After starting his career perpetually in the enormous shadow that Griffin casted in 2012, Cousins began to win his own legion of fans in 2013 after Griffin struggled in his return from knee surgery. To this day, if you listen to talk-back radio there is still a sizeable contingent of fans who believe that Cousins and not Griffin should be the starting Quarterback going into Training Camp.

With what both Gruden and General Manager Scot McCloughan have said though, we know that won’t happen. Furthermore, Cousins had a prime opportunity to cement his position as an heir-apparent in 2014 when Griffin injured his ankle, but was unable to capitalize.


  • Textbook pocket Quarterback skill set
  • Under-rated arm strength, capable of throwing deep strikes
  • Ability to throw balls in to tight windows
  • Veteran presence on the team
  • Resilient, and has not suffered an injury in his career as yet


  • Prone to mental errors resulting in turnovers or incompletions
  • Inconsistent accuracy
  • Drops his head after mistakes
  • Isn’t a big playmaker type of Quarterback, more of a game manager

Cousins has seen game time as a started in each of his three seasons with the Redskins now, and has enjoyed some success when doing so. He clearly has a rapport with his Offensive Linesmen and Receivers, and doesn’t struggle to establish himself as a leader when asked to step in under center.

As noted above, Cousins is essentially a textbook pocket Quarterback in the same mold as Carson Palmer, Andy Dalton or Phillip Rivers. Obviously Cousins doesn’t have the same skill set as those three players, but there are some similarities in their play.

Given that DeSean Jackson is arguably the best weapon the Redskins have on offense, Cousins was able to make use of him far better than Colt McCoy was, linking up with Jackson multiple times in 2014 to good effect.

What works against Cousins though is his his all too common and, unfortunately, too predictable errors. These errors often result in turnovers, and frustratingly for all concerned seem to be significantly more frequent in the 4th quarter. In just 5 starts last year Cousins threw 9 interceptions, including 4 in one game (Week 4 vs the Giants). This lead to him being eventually benched at half time vs the Titans in Week 7 in favor of McCoy.


Irritatingly for Redskins fans, both Cousins and McCoy are capable of playing high quality football, but both are equally flawed and limited in their own respective ways.

McCoy doesn’t make the most of the deep threat weapons that the Redskins have on offense, and he can struggle to move the chains at times, falling into a rhythm of safe check-down passes that opposing defenses don’t seem to have too much difficulty containing. What McCoy does do well though is protect the ball and not make silly mistakes. Indeed, when McCoy throws an interception it tends to be because he has tried to throw a pass that is beyond his limitations, not because he has mis-read a defense.

Cousins is almost the complete opposite of McCoy in this regard; he can and has utilized the weapons he has at his disposal, and has no qualms about throwing deep balls. Cousins has stepped in as the Quarterback in some extraordinary difficult circumstances and done so reasonably well. In fact, you could go so far as to argue that although Cousins isn’t an elite Quarterback, if he could remove the mistakes that lead to interceptions from his game, he could be a top 20 Quarterback in the NFL. Unfortunately, after repeated opportunities Cousins has not demonstrated an ability to remove this aspect from his repertoire.

When comparing their career stats, it is interesting to see how strikingly similar they are:

Colt McCoy Career stats: 5,458 yds, 60.3%, 25 TD/23 Int/18 fumbles, 78.2 QBR
Kirk Cousins Career stats: 3,030 yds, 59.0%, 18TD/19Int/6 fumbles, 77.5 QBR

When it is all said and done, both Quarterbacks will be seeking to start the season at #2 on the depth chart, and it’s all going to come down to what Gruden is looking for out of his Quarterbacks. Based on comments that Gruden made numerous times in 2014, we know that he puts a premium on ball security:

Given that ball security is one of the biggest weaknesses in Kirk Cousins game, we believe that this will give Colt McCoy the slightest of edges in their Training Camp competition. And the margin between the two is so narrow that a slight edge should be enough.

Projected #2 Quarterback: Colt McCoy



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