Why Kirk Cousins is entering the most important season of his career

(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /
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(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins
(Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images) Kirk Cousins /

To prove he’s more than just fluffy stats:

Judging by his numbers last year, one would likely assume that Kirk Cousins had himself an impressive season. Cousins ended up completing 70.1 percent of his passes for 4,298 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in 2018 with the Vikings.

It was the fourth time in a row in which the quarterback finished a season with at least 4,000 passing yards and 25 touchdowns.

So Cousins did what he was paid to come in and do for Minnesota last year then, right? When diving in a little deeper into his numbers, this wasn’t exactly the case.

Of the nine quarterbacks who threw at least 30 scores last season, Cousins had the lowest touchdown percentage of all of them. Meaning the reason he threw for such a high number of touchdowns last year was mostly due to him also having a high amount of passing attempts.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson threw the ball 179 times less than Cousins in 2018 and Wilson finished with five more touchdowns than the Vikings signal-caller.

Cousins has actually been benefiting from having a high amount of passing attempts ever since he became a starter for the Washington Redskins in 2015. Since that season, the current Minnesota quarterback is one of only three passers to finish each of the last four years with at least 540 pass attempts.

This method clearly hasn’t resulted in a ton of success for the teams with Cousins starting under center. So the Vikings need to take a different approach in 2019.

They need to find a way to put less of the offense’s shoulders on the veteran quarterback and hope that he can improve his efficiency with the passes he actually does get to throw.

Around 30 attempts per game seems like a reasonable number for Cousins and Minnesota to shoot for next season. The Vikings quarterback is actually 15-3 in matchups since 2015 that see him finish with 30 pass attempts or less, so figuring out ways to make this happen more often seems like something Minnesota should probably try and do during the upcoming season.

Perhaps Cousins improving his efficiency will also allow him to have more success when the lights are shining the brightest.

The Vikings have five primetime games in 2019 and their quarterback has never been that great during the matchups that take place after the sun goes down (5-13 to be exact). If Cousins is able to lead Minnesota to wins in the majority of these specific games, then it could be the beginning of his reputation taking a turn in the right direction.