Second and Third Year Player Development: Final Regular Season Edition


In this weekly column, I dissect a few young players who haven’t made a consistent impact to date. Some of these players may be available on your waiver wire, while others may be available via a cheap or moderate trade. Acquiring or not acquiring one of these players could decide how well your dynasty or keeper team does for the next few years. This week I will be taking a longer look at Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins and New York Giants wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan.  It is ironic how neither one of those players would have even crossed my mind or anyone else’s to be featured in this article Week One.  I will focus on their most recent matchups to draw the majority of my insight.

cousinsKirk Cousins, QB WAS
Last year’s fourth round pick certainly offers a different skill set than ultra athletic Robert Griffin III. When he got drafted, most thought he would be holding a clip board for quite a while, but injuries to the position have given him the chance to perhaps find a starting NFL job. Maybe this was Shanahan’s plan all along, but the coach will not get the chance to see it come to fruition.
Coming out of Michigan State, the quarterback was known for his quick release and good accuracy when not under pressure.  Cousins found his receivers in stride and made bucket throws down the sidelines despite his lack of deep arm-strength.  He is the typical pocket quarterback with limited mobility who is best throwing short to intermediate routes.  There are concerns with him locking onto receivers and forcing the ball.  The young quarterback tends to toss the pigskin off-balance with bad footwork.  Which kind of player will he become: a Matt Hasselbeck or a Matt Flynn?

Cousins had a rough rainy day against the Giants.  He threw for just under a 39% completion rate for less than 170 yards with two interceptions on 49 attempts.  The young quarterback’s quick release did not help him with the weather as his ball fluttered a bit especially when he threw to his left.  He kept most of his passes within ten to fifteen yards of the line of scrimmage, which made it easier for New York to defend him.

On both interceptions, Cousins pushed the ball off-balance in the middle of the field.  Sometimes the pigskin appeared to get hung up in the wind as the signal caller could have thrown five or six picks.  He seemed to aim the ball where he thought the receiver should be and did not take into account the individual defenders.  Most of the time his pass catchers had to come back to the ball, so their momentum became halted.  Cousins grew more reckless as the game went along and got rattled by the Giants front four that sacked him three times. I would hold him if I was a Griffin owner or if I had the roster room in a deeper roster, but he hurt his trade stock tremendously.  Cousins looks unlikely to be traded unless the new Redskins head coach can get a good deal for him.

Jerrel JerniganWR NYG
I remember watching him out of Troy three years ago and thinking, “Wow, I wish he was bigger!”  Fast forward to December 2013, due to injuries to Victor Cruz, the talented speedster became a factor for the Giants for this season and perhaps beyond.  Sure, Cruz should come back strong next season, but will Hakeem Nicks be back?  In his first two games starting against the Seahawks and Lions, Jernigan has 13 receptions for 147 yards and a touchdown – that was enough for me to pick him up in the staff DLF IDP Dynasty League this past week.

I took a look back on his college tape and there were many reason to be excited about him.  First and foremost, he has elite acceleration, sinks his hips and makes people miss. Jernigan creates separation with his speed, good balance, and outstanding body control.  While he isn’t much of a blocker due to his 5′ 8″ 189 lbs. size, the wide out can get off the line with his quickness to avoid the jam.  He has solid hands that he uses to climb the ladder to reach the ball at its peak height.  He also tends to run a little faster with the ball in his hands and has good downfield vision that assists him in the return game too.

Jernigan played his best professional game by far against the Redskins.  He accounted for over half of the Giants entire offensive production (six receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown on seven targets with another 57 yards on two carries).  I always decide on who I am going to write about before the game and this third year player jumped off my screen making me look smarter than I am!

He runs tight pass patterns with his quick feet and gets good separation on his routes especially on touch and go patterns.  His speed scared the Redskins secondary that they began to put the free safety over to keep a lid on his explosive plays, but that did not contain him either.  Jernigan got sent in motion to dictate the coverage and put him in the best situation to exploit the defense.  Watch out when the wide out gets in second gear as he explodes once he secures the ball.

Jernigan got airborne to make up for his height disadvantage and used the sidelines as an extra blocker. When he got the ball in stride, he could start and stop, letting the defense run right past him and then he would gear right back up. His touchdown cradle catch was a frozen rope that Jernigan caught between two defenders in the back of the end zone.

While the rest of the Giants offense took the second half off due to injury (Eli ManningRueben RandleHakeem Nicks), Jernigan found a way to exploit Washington’s defense on a reverse.  He bobbed and weaved down the sidelines rumbling 49 yards for a touchdown.  The Redskins had no one else to worry about as Curtis Painter was in as the quarterback in the second half (he threw two completions out of eight for eleven yards and an interception).  Buy Jernigan now if you can especially with the rumors coming out the Panthers are very interested in Nicks for 2014.

For follow-up questions or information, contact me on twitter @AndrewMiley