Kirk Cousins has always been the center of a lot of public scrutiny. His numbers indicate that he’s a top 10 quarterback, but his play in crucial moments leaves a lot to be desired. It feels like Cousins has never been able to take the next step and incorporate other elements into his game. It makes sense when you look at his recent backups: Sean Mannion and Trevor Siemian lack strong arms, can’t extend plays, and play a very conservative brand of football.
While you may be wondering what backup quarterbacks have anything to do with Cousins’ play, they are generally the ones who help him prepare for the game. Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen credits his backup Matt Barkley with some of his success this year, emphasizing the contrast in their styles. Allen is a mobile big-armed quarterback, while Barkley is a much more accurate pocket passer, allowing Allen to see the game from a different perspective. Allen, who struggled with accuracy before this year, raised his completion percentage from 52.8 to 69.2 in the two seasons he was there.
Besides both Mannion and Siemian being below-average backups, they also provide no new voice or skill set that Cousins could incorporate into his game. They aren’t able to help him see the game through a different lens.
That’s why Cam Newton might be the perfect backup quarterback for Cousins.
Now let me preface this by saying that they won’t be getting him in MVP form. Injuries and age have taken a toll on him, and recently he’s had seasons where he’s struggled to be healthy enough to play.
He also isn’t as bad as he was this season. Following the greatest quarterback of all time who brought six rings to the New England Patriots was never going to be an easy task. It became exponentially more complicated when his only viable receiver, Julian Edleman, battled nagging injuries and appeared to be losing a step. To make it even worse, Newton contracted COVID-19 four weeks into the season after a stretch of solid play, which included a primetime game against the Seattle Seahawks where he passed for 397 yards and nearly won the game.
Newton didn’t blame COVID for his performance, but he was never the same when he came back.
That Cam Newton shouldn’t start, and that’s fine. Just because he likely won’t have to play any meaningful snaps doesn’t mean he doesn’t have something to offer. His signature ability to extend plays and deciding when to leave the pocket can be vital for Cousins, given the state of the offensive line.
Newton isn’t going to threaten Cousins for his job, but he can still play. While he isn’t the same quarterback he was in 2015, last season, his best wideout that was consistently healthy was Jakobi Meyers. He would have a lot of options if forced into action. Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson are one of the best receiver duos in the league, and Dalvin Cook is a premier running back.
I don’t want to see Cousins get injured. But Newton’s ability to extend plays, his gunslinger attitude, and limited arm combined with a dominant run game sound like something we may have seen before.