Capable QB: Kirk Cousins is proof Matt Barkley could be something

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Washington Redskins QB Kirk Cousins. (AP)

When Jeff Christensen looks at the play of quarterback Matt Barkley, he not only sees potential but wins for the Bears.

“He could be a good player,” said Christensen, a personal coach for many NFL and college quarterbacks.

“He’s got two things that he needs to work on [fundamental-wise] that I won’t go into. And if he can do it, I can see him having some success.”

Christensen wouldn’t divulge what Barkley must fine-tune, but one of his success stories will be at Soldier Field on Saturday: Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

In Washington, Cousins’ future has been a major topic. The Redskins need to decide whether to pay him handsomely since he’s playing this season on a $19.95 million franchise tag.

But Cousins has produced numbers that most teams — including the Bears — would love to have. A fourth-round pick in 2012, Cousins also is further proof that good quarterbacks can be found anywhere in the draft. Sometimes, it just takes time for him to emerge.

With two games remaining, Cousins is the NFL’s sixth-highest-rated passer. He ranks second in passing yards per game, third in yards gained per completion and fifth in completion percentage. His 4,360 passing yards trail only the Saints’ Drew Brees.

As a team, the Redskins rank third in total offense. It hasn’t translated into wins every week. They are 1-3 in their last four games and have fallen to 7-6-1. It’s why re-signing Cousins to a long-term deal is such a volatile topic.

But Cousins’ success says that sometimes a good quarterback already is in your building. Cousins was drafted the same year the Redskins selected quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick.

“My story has always been one of I need to prove myself and not necessarily have something handed to me,” Cousins said. “It was a good path for me because it did teach me a lot of the right traits and characteristics that I needed to be successful.”

Christensen said he started working with Cousins two years ago. He sees plenty of positive things happening around him, namely the play of the offensive line, which is coached by Bill Callahan, and how the offense spaces it’s talented receivers.

“If you’ve got all that going for you, then be accurate with the football,” Christensen said.

And, for the most part, Cousins has been the last two seasons. He had a 101.6 passer rating in 2015.

What does all this mean for the Bears?

It starts with thoroughly evaluating Barkley, a fourth-round pick like Cousins. Barkley might not have Jay Cutler’s arm, but Christensen said arm strength tends to be overrated.

“It’s how your arm acts and reacts based on your lower extremities,” said Christensen, who runs Throw it Deep academy in the western suburbs and has worked with quarterbacks Jimmy Garoppolo (Patriots), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins) and Trevor Siemian (Broncos), among others.

“What is [Cousins]? He has become tremendously disciplined. Perfect feet,” Christensen said. “And when you have perfect feet, you’re in perfect rhythm and you have perfect balance, and then when you throw the ball, your delivery point becomes very consistent.”

Barkley actually worked with Christensen at two camps when he was a prized high school recruit before he starred at USC.

“A good dude, a good guy,” Christensen said. “He’s never going to have a big arm. He just isn’t. He’s not that kind of quarterback. But he’s a very bright guy, and he let’s it go on time most of the time.”

Barkley’s strong play over his first four starts means he has an NFL future again.

Cousins sees it.

“He’s bounced around a little bit, but he’s done some really good things this year with the Bears,” Cousins said. “You never know where this journey is going to take you in this league.”

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