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Question of the Week: What will Kirk Cousins' immediate impact be when the season starts?

Cousins brings a different presence to Atlanta's quarterback position, and enters an offense with considerable upside. 

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons entered the 2024 offseason intent on landing a quarterback. They got the best one available in Kirk Cousins, a four-time Pro Bowler who was playing some exceptional football last year before his season-ending injury.

Cousins represents an upgrade at the position over what the Falcons have had the last two seasons, no question about it. He enters a favorable situation rife with young playmakers and a full set of returning starters on the offensive line. There are some unknown factors for Atlanta's offense, sure. But this unit has all the elements to become one of the surprise groups in the NFL, and to do so quickly.

Just how quickly circles back to Cousins. What will his presence mean for the Falcons, how soon will it be felt? That is what our cadre of writers has gathered to discuss today. Let's dig in!

Tori McElhaney: A quarterback is only as good as his pass catchers, and vice versa. If the last two years have taught us anything, it's that. This two-way statement is the reason why I believe we will see Kirk Cousins' impact most immediately in the early production of Drake London and Kyle Pitts, specifically.

London and Pitts were the two players a Terry Fontenot-led Falcons front office staked their claim on with consecutive top-10 picks in the draft. They were so highly coveted because of the mismatch opportunities they present on the field. We've seen glimpses of why the Falcons spent such valuable draft capital on them. With Matt Ryan as his quarterback, Pitts was a rookie phenom. Since joining the Falcons, London has been nothing short of their WR1. When it comes to these two, though, the notion of the last two years has been this: If they get more consistent play at the quarterback position, their numbers skyrocket.

Well, the numbers back it up: Cousins is one of the most consistent quarterbacks in the league right now.

For more than a decade, Cousins put together a completion percentage that lands at 66.9%. For reference, Ryan's completion percentage through his first 12 seasons in the league was 65.4% while Matthew Stafford's was 62.6%. According to Pro Football Reference, Cousins ranks fourth in completion percentage among all active quarterbacks. Cousins also spent six seasons of his career in the top-10 in passes completed and passing touchdowns.

You know who all of this benefits most? One would hope London and Pitts.

Will McFadden: For fans wondering if last year's torn Achilles tendon will impact Cousins at the start of the season, I think that's a fair question. It can take time to work off the in-game rust, and there's a psychological component to many major injuries that must be overcome.

Sorry for the bummer start, I promise it gets better from here.

Cousins was a full participant throughout OTAs and minicamp, and nothing at this point indicates he will be wrong about his March prediction that he'll be "full speed" by training camp. That gives the 12-year veteran a good ramp-up window prior to Week 1.

Historically, Cousins has been very solid out of the blocks. In his nine seasons as a starter in the NFL, Cousins has averaged a 66.7 completion percentage, 1,061 passing yards, seven touchdown passes and three interceptions during his team's first four games. His recent play is even better. Since the 2021 season, Cousins has averaged a 66.9 completion percentage, 1,122 passing yards with 8.6 touchdown passes and 3 interceptions in his team's first four games.

For the sake of comparison, this was Matt Ryan's stat line through the first four games of the 2017 season, the last time the Falcons reached the playoffs: 65.19% completion rate, 1,109 passing yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

Cousins is going to be a breath of fresh air for Falcons fans if he performs anywhere near the level that his career thus far suggests. He's got weapons that can attack multiple areas of the field, which plays into Cousins' strengths as a rangy thrower and pre-snap connoisseur. With all of that working in his favor, I expect his presence to be felt early and often.

Terrin Waack: At the bare minimum, consistency. That's what the Falcons have really lacked at the quarterback position in recent years. They cycled through options ever since they traded Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts after the 2021 season.

And look, they tried. The Falcons believed in each passer who followed in Ryan's footsteps. They first signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year contract, clearly wanting a veteran presence and planning to keep him around longer than what they did. They then drafted Desmond Ridder, likely thinking he'd learn behind Mariota and step into starter when ready since a rookie contract lasts four years.

Neither situation worked out as planned. No need to rehash the details. Mariota was released after the 2022 season. Ridder was traded after 2023. Neither completed a full season's worth of play.

Now, the Falcons enter 2024 with Cousins. Prior to tearing his Achilles tendon in Week 8 last season, Cousins had only missed two games since 2015. The Falcons need a quarterback like that, one who is ready to run the offense on a weekly basis. That should allow the unit to smoothly rock 'n' roll.

Amna Subhan: When Week 1 kicks off Kirk Cousins' greatest impact will be his experience. It very well may take a little time for Cousins to find his footing coming off an Achilles tendon tear, but all the wisdom he's learned in his 12 years playing in the NFL didn't require rehab.

His veteran leadership will be especially beneficial for the Falcons young, talented group of pass catchers. We've already seen that take form this offseason with Cousins intentionally building "shared history" with teammates by watching film and connecting with them in ways they best learn.

Come September that will translate into stability the Falcons haven't seen at the quarterback position in years even through an injury comeback. Expect an increase in offensive percentages, but also expect a quarterback that can steady a team. The Falcons let several games slip away last season, Cousins' experience will bridge that gap. Youthful mistakes on the offensive end will decrease, and there will be a level of confidence during late-game situations.

Whatever adversity the Falcons will face in the early part of the season, Cousins will be able to the Falcons get to the other side — likely because he's already been through it.

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