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Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins will continue trend of NFL backups starting this year

Shutdown Corner

Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins continued an alarming trend this week.

When Cousins played against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday, it was his first start of the season. He replaced quarterback Robert Griffin III, who has been benched for whatever reason you are willing to accept.

Washington is not alone. The Redskins were the 13th team – more than 40 percent of the league – to give a start to a quarterback that began the season as a backup.

Chicago, Cleveland, Houston, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, Oakland, Green Bay, St. Louis, Tennessee and now Washington have all gone to their second option at quarterback this season, for various reasons.

The Browns, Bills, Raiders and Vikings have had three different quarterbacks this season. The Packers have had it the worst. Four different passers have started for Green Bay (Aaron Rodgers, Scott Tolzien, Seneca Wallace and Matt Flynn).

How important is having a quality backup?

Philadelphia and Green Bay are the only teams on that long list that are realistically still in playoff contention, but the Packers are hanging on by a thread. Green Bay is 1-4-1 since Rodgers sustained a collarbone injury.

NFL teams usually do not invest in quality backup quarterbacks – often to avoid a controversy – but that is a trend that could change after this season. It also means a few quality backups might be in high demand.

Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown and Detroit’s Shaun Hill are unrestricted free agents after this season. McCown shined in Cutler's absence this season, connecting on 66.8 percent of his passes for 1,809 yards with 13 touchdowns, one interception and has a 109.8 passer rating during seven games (five starts). Some NFL observers believe McCown should continue playing despite Jay Cutler’s good health, but he will be back on the bench against Cleveland.

Hill has been Detroit’s backup since 2010, and has been solid when asked to fill in for Matthew Stafford. Hill has thrown 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions and has a 85.9 passer rating since entering the league in 2002.

Backup quarterbacks have been called upon often this season.

Cousins joined the club on Sunday.

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Anwar S Richardson is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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