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Inside the numbers: How pressure is impacting Kirk Cousins

By Matthew Coller

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is off to a strong statistical start to his career in purple with 1,387 yards, 10 touchdowns and a 103.6 quarterback rating, which ranks ninth in the pass-happy NFL. However good the numbers, Cousins’ start to the year has been hampered by sacks, hits, hurries and fumbles.

There are certainly quarterbacks to bring pressure upon themselves — and Cousins’ fumbling issues are not new considering he has the second most fumbles since 2015 — but the first quarter of the 2018 NFL season has seen the Vikings’ quarterback get pressured at a higher rate than ever before in his career.

All statistics per Pro Football Focus

Especially over the last two weeks, opposing defensive linemen have found themselves in Cousins’ face. Buffalo Bills pass rusher Jerry Hughes registered 12 pressures and Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald put up 13 on Thursday night. Consider that putting up five or six pressures would make for a very good game.

Overall Cousins’ numbers and performance grades from Pro Football Focus are significantly worse when pressured. His rating over the first four games drops from 112.2 when clean to 89.8 when pressured and his PFF grade nearly cuts in half from 92.3 (out of 100) to 56.6.

This is not unique to Cousins. Even Drew Brees’ rating dropped from 113.2 to 63.6 when pressured in 2017.

Some quarterbacks see wide variations in their play under pressure from year to year, but the impact of pressure on Cousins has been consistent throughout his career.

Interestingly, teams have done the majority of their damage by rushing four. Cousins has shredded blitzes to the tune of a 105.9 quarterback rating and 9.0 yards per attempt.

The number of pressures may be out of Cousins’ control, but some of the sack totals may be attributed to the quarterback. The Vikings have lost 78 yards and three key fumbles to successful pass rushes. They are on pace to lose 312 yards to sacks, which is 189 yards more than Case Keenum last year. Keenum was pressured on 39.5 percent of throws.

While the Vikings’ quarterback play has largely been very good, it would appear that better protection is required to get the most out of Cousins. The 2016 season in which he was only pressured 32.0 percent of the time was also his highest graded by PFF.

Another important part of the pressure allowed is the quality of competition. The Vikings have matched up with elite players, including the best defensive player in the NFL in Aaron Donald. They will not get any relief this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, but there will be opportunities against weaker defensive lines later this season against teams like Detroit, Seattle, Arizona and Miami (all ranked in the bottom 10 in pass rush by PFF) to set Cousins up for more success.

The post Inside the numbers: How pressure is impacting Kirk Cousins appeared first on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.

Source:: 1500 ESPN Sportswire

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