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COUSINS AGAIN STARS IN DOMINANT WIN OVER BILLS

COUSINS AGAIN STARS IN DOMINANT WIN OVER BILLS

     Thank you, Kirk Cousins.

     Thank you for making it so obvious that the Redskins shouldn’t be looking elsewhere for a starting quarterback next season and beyond.  It’s obvious that you are that man.

     I had been holding to the belief that it would take an entire season of Cousins starting under center to make an honest assessment of him.  But even with two games left, it’s clear that he’s progressed so much faster than anyone expected, proving that he can be the man to lead this team in the future.

     Cousins added another excellent performance to his growing resume in Sunday’s 35-25 win over the Bills at FedExField.  He completed 22 of 28 passes for 319 yards with no interceptions and tied his career-high of four touchdown passes.  His passer rating of 153.7 was one-tenth of a point shy of his second perfect passer rating this season.  It was his sixth 300-yard passing game of the season, a Redskins team record.  He also ran 13 yards for a score, his fifth rushing touchdown this season.

     The victory put the 7-7 Redskins firmly in first place in the NFC East, a game ahead of both the Giants, who fell to Carolina, and the Eagles, losers to the Cardinals.  The Redskins face the Eagles on Saturday in Philly, where a win will clinch Washington's first division title since 2012.  Who would have this could happen so fast?

     Cousins’ teammates left no doubt afterward that they’ve witnessed an immense growth spurt in the quarterback who once looked dejected with his shoulders sagging after throwing an interception, but now exudes confidence, maturity and an ability to take command.

     “It’s been great, no matter what happens he’s never getting frazzled, he’s always level-headed, center Josh LeRibeus said.  “He was a little soft-spoken earlier in the year, but he’s got a voice now. He takes advantage of it, he gets us all going.  He knows what to do.”

     LeRibeus wants Cousins to remain a Redskin: “Oh, I’d love it. He’s amazing. I love Kirk. I do.”

     Defensive lineman Kedric Golston thinks No. 8 is going to get “constantly better.”

     “He’s gotten better each and every start he’s had,” Golston said.  “It’s his fourth year in the NFL, but as far as starts he’s still a very young player.  But you can see the process of him making big-time plays and allowing his football team to win football games.”

     Cousins was once known as an interception machine with a tendency to throw passes that were picked off at the most inopportune times.  One would expect him to make that fateful mistake.  No more.  He has 11 interceptions this season, but only three over the past nine games.

     He was asked about spending the first three years of his career mostly looking on while Robert Griffin III took almost all of the snaps.

     “Yeah, I think any experience you have is going to make you better, whether it’s a positive experience or a negative experience,” he said.  “I’ve learned from every opportunity that I’ve gotten playing – whether it went well or poorly – learning and trying to grow from it.”

     Cousins has been phenomenal as the Redskins have bolted to huge leads the past two weeks.  In a 24-21 win over the Bears on Dec. 13, he completed 10 of 11 passes on 80- and 93-yard touchdown drives on the Redskins’ first two possessions.  Against Buffalo, he went 13 of 16 on 84-, 71- and 56-yard touchdown drives on Washington’s first three possessions.  Cousins attributed the hot starts to the play calling of offensive coordinator Sean McVay, saying he does a great job of selecting the team’s best 15 to 20 plays and using them early in the game.

     The big question now is whether the Redskins will sign Cousins to a big money, long-term deal before free agency begins in March, place the franchise tag on him, or let him hit the open market, where there will certainly be a high demand for his services.  Cousins will have to decide if he even wants to become a free agent.  Although he’s so comfortable in one system, there’s no guarantee he’ll be as successful with another team.  Just look up the names Matt Flynn and Matt Cassel.

     Before the Buffalo game, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason LaCanfora reported that Cousins will be back with the Redskins next season, even if they have to sign him using the franchise tag.  LaCanfora attributed his report to “sources with knowledge of the situation.”

     I sure hope Cousins is again wearing the Burgundy & Gold next season.  Franchise quarterbacks are very hard to find.  Just ask the Redskins, where there’s been a revolving door at the position. It’s been 30 years since they had their last one.  His name: Joe Theismann.