Kirk Cousins thriving even when Redskins are not

Kirk Cousins has performed at a consistent level the last three seasons. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not the best of times for the Washington Redskins, but it’s a great time to be Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is in line to either be franchise-tagged for a $34 million contract or to receive a massive free-agent contract this offseason.

Cousins ranks sixth in the NFL in Total QBR and third in passing yards this season. Of the top 17 in QBR this year, he’s the only one who has a losing record as a starter (4-6). Among those he rates ahead of are Matt Ryan (seventh), Drew Brees (ninth) and Ben Roethlisberger (10th).

Ranking No. 6 in Total QBR is nothing new for Cousins, who ranked in that spot in both 2015 and 2016. In fact, over the past three seasons combined, Cousins ranks fourth in Total QBR behind only Dak Prescott, Tom Brady and Ryan. He’s ahead of Aaron Rodgers, Brees and Roethlisberger.

Cousins has fared well even when the Redskins have not, including an 82.7 Total QBR in last week's loss to the Saints, who had allowed a 27.8 Total QBR in their previous seven games. His Total QBR in losses this season is 69.3, second only to Houston’s Deshaun Watson (74.3). Cousins is 2-4 when he has a Total QBR of 77 or higher. The rest of the NFL is 54-11 (.831 win percentage).

What's working

How has Cousins evolved as a passer?

Cousins may be slightly less accurate, with his completion percentage dropping from 70 percent in 2015 to 67 percent this season, but he’s paid the price less often. He has a 1.4 interception percentage this season, down from 2 percent each of the previous two seasons.

Cousins has been better against the blitz. His QBR against five or more rushers has climbed from 65.5 to 72.1 to 76.4 the past three seasons. In 2015, he had nine touchdowns and seven interceptions against blitzes. This season, he has seven touchdowns and one interception. He was 10-of-15 for 191 yards with all three of his touchdowns against blitzes in Sunday’s loss to the Saints.

Cousins also excels in play-action. His 74 percent completion rate on play-action passes this season is the highest in the NFL. His six play-action touchdown passes are tied with Rams quarterback Jared Goff for the most among quarterbacks who haven't thrown a play-action interception this season. Cousins completed 74 percent of his play-action passes last season, but had only two touchdowns against three interceptions.

Cousins' growth will be tested in one manner on Thursday night. He owns a Total QBR of 31.5 in his career against the Giants (six starts), his lowest against any opponent that he’s faced more than once.