In his first season as a full-time starter for the Redskins, Kirk Cousins led a dynamic offensive unit to a division crown behind play that broke quite a few franchise records.
In the span of a few short months in 2015, Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins went from fighting just to get a roster spot to smashing long-standing franchise records.
On Wednesday, Cousins was honored for his efforts last season with the 2015 Bobby Mitchell Offensive Player of the Year award. Former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams presented the award to Cousins with Mitchell in attendance.
Cousins started all 16 regular season games for the Redskins in 2015, leading Washington to an NFC East title.
He would set numerous franchise records in the process, including single-season team records for attempts (543), completions (379), passing yards (4,166) and 300-yard passing games (seven).
Cousins also threw a touchdown pass in all 16 regular season games, becoming the first player in team history to throw a touchdown in all 16 games in a season since the adoption of the 16-game schedule in 1978.
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden saw early on last season when Cousins earned the right to start at quarterback that the Michigan State product had all of the tools to lead Washington for a full season.
"We had a lot of confidence that he could do it based on his ability out in practice," Gruden said in January. "You just never know how that translates into games and situational football and pressure. I think he handled a lot of key situations well, some two-minute drives, obviously some third-down conversions he was very good at, the red zone he was very good at. Those are key situations in the game of football and to watch him get better throughout the course of the season, stay humble, continue to work and prepare was fun to be a part of. Moving forward we're excited about the thought of him being our quarterback."
Among the players that benefitted from Cousins being so successful was tight end Jordan Reed, who became the first Redskins tight end to lead the team in receptions (87), receiving yards (952) and touchdowns (11) since Jean Fugett achieved the feat in 1977.
Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins on Wednesday was named to the NFL's 'Top 100 Players of 2016' list, checking in at No. 85.
"I just feel like Kirk is a real accurate passer, man, he also can read the defense really well," Reed said after signing a multi-year contract extension in May. "He did excellent last season at doing that. I feel like I can create separation for him and get open, timing, where he needs me to be and things like that. I think those are some reasons why we were effective last year."
The way he performed last season has allowed Cousins to enter this season more confident, which is something five-time team offensive captain Trent Williams has already noticed out of the starting quarterback.
"I think it comes from a team telling you, 'Hey, this is your franchise,'" Williams said. "And in the NFL there is no way you're going to win without a good quarterback. If a team puts that much trust in you to give you the keys to their franchise that has to boost your confidence and with him being a confident guy already, I think all it did was add more fire to him and more competitiveness. He's a book rat. He studies his plays like you wouldn't believe. He knows everyone's assignments and he knows what the defense is supposed to do so a guy like that has no choice but to succeed in my opinion."
As Cousins takes the reigns of a potent offense this season, he's hoping that his individual growth will allow everything to run smoothly for the unit.
"I think it's just constantly trying to go back each and every day after walkthroughs, after practice, watch the film, listen to your coaches, be critical of yourself and say, 'How can I be better and how can I more consistently help this offense move the football and score points?'" Cousins said at training camp. "I think we had a very good year last year and if we can replicate that again, I think it should be a strong season. We're always looking to get better and improve upon what we've done. That'll be the focus as long as I'm here."