Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' Jan. 6 press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Having Kory Lichtensteiger back at center will help Cousins as he makes his first career playoff start.
The Redskins got a boost at offensive line before even playing a single snap in the playoffs, as Lichtensteiger was activated to the active roster on Tuesday.
Lichtensteiger was placed on the short-term Injured Reserve in November with a neck issue, but the center is feeling good upon his return to action, and Cousins is excited to get back to work with the Bowling Green State product, too.
"He's a talented player, an experienced player, very athletic, just the ultimate competitor," Cousins said. "He's never going to quit, he's never going to stop. You love having that. It's been really good to get Josh LeRibeus a lot of work, because now we feel like we have a really experienced center who can come in if anything were to happen. He's also been a really talented guard for us. So I think it helps to build the depth on our team with the way we had to do this year."
Cousins added that it helps when the center and quarterback are in-sync with the signal caller having good command before the snap.
"I think the quarterbacks who are successful in this league consistently have really good command," Cousins said. "To have really good command you have to do the things you just said – understand defenses, protection calls, snap counts – all those things that are the game within the game. The longer you play, the more decision making you have over the system itself, the more of a say you have in how things are run, the better you're able to run the show and have that command. So throughout a 16-game season that's really helped develop me."
2. Cousins believes red zone efficiency is "critical to winning in this league."
It's not necessarily a groun-breaking philosophy, but Cousins and Co. were among the best this season at protecting the ball in the red zone.
Matt Jones' fumble into the end zone during the Redskins' Week 3 loss to the New York Giants was the team's only turnover inside the 20-yard line this season, tying them for second in the NFC in red zone giveaways.
"When you get down inside the 20, to come away with field goals usually comes back to haunt you," Cousins said. "So we've made it an emphasis going back to April of being good in the red zone, situational football, coming away with touchdowns, coming away with points. There have been times we get down there and we don't even get points — that'll really hurt you."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Wildcard Round match up against the Green Bay Packers Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
The Redskins finished sixth in the NFL in points per red zone trip (5.22) in the regular season.
"It'll continue to be an important emphasis in the playoffs just like taking sacks and turnovers and third-down efficiency," Cousins said. "Those are things that are critical to winning in this league and the teams that go far and make the playoffs tend to be very successful in those areas and the red zone is one of them."
3. Cousins on Sunday will be going opposite of one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL in Aaron Rodgers.
Sure, Aaron Rodgers didn't have the best season of his already storied career, but the University of California product was still easily one of the best quarterbacks on the year.
The 11-year veteran threw for 31 touchdowns to eight interceptions and 3,821 while leading the Packers to their seventh straight playoff appearance.
"He's tough to beat," Cousins said. "Very talented player, great quarterback, sets the bar high for the rest of us. He's a guy I study and learn from much like the other two [Tom Brady and Drew Brees] I mentioned. So I think it's very important that I stay within myself, just do what I need to do and what I'm coached to do to help our offense."
In the end, though, while Cousins studies Rodgers' play, he won't be considered with him come 4:40 p.m. Sunday.
"It's not my job to stop Aaron when he's on the field and we'll see where we are at the end of it," Cousins said. "I think it's important that we operate well on offense, convert on third downs, score points in the red zone – all those things that I talked about that are critical to winning because of the fact that they have such a great quarterback on the other side that if you don't make good on those opportunities, typically they'll make you pay."
4. The Packers have a talented defense with playmakers at all three levels.
A look back at some of the top images in games between the Washington Redskins and Green Bay Packers.
While the Packers' defense doesn't necessarily stand out statistically, they ranked 15th in total defense and points-per-game against (23), Cousins understands there are many good players on that unit.
Defensive end Julius Peppers, a likely future Hall of Famer, led the team in sacks with 10.5 while Ha Ha Clinton Dix paced the unit in tackles (100).
Rookie first-round pick Damarious Randall, Sam Shields and Micah Hyde all snagged a team-high three interceptions each.
"I believe Sam Shields is a very experienced corner with elite speed. He does a very good job," Cousins said. "You know, B.J. Raji is a phenomenal nose guard. Mike Daniels is a guy I go back to playing against in college. He plays with a lot of leverage, is very strong and they just gave him a new contract for a reason. I think Clinton-Dix does a great job at safety, as does Morgan Burnett. They have players all around the field. I think they're an organization that has built a culture where they have consistent success and stability and continuity that goes a long way. So that counts for something as well."
5. Cousins is "grateful" for the opportunity to lead the Redskins into a marquee playoff matchup.
It was this time three years ago that Cousins was forced to play in relief action in his only playoff appearance against the Seattle Seahawks at FedExField.
A lot has changed since then, with now being the team's starting quarterback at the top of the list.
"I've always said a backup you try to prepare like you're the starter," Cousins said. "It's still a different preparation in a sense that you're not getting the active reps during the week. The meetings may not be quite as catered to you, but if as a backup you're not preparing like the starter then you're kind of asking for trouble. So it has a different feel being the starting quarterback. Again, you just try to stay focused on the same processes I have all year long. I'd be a fool to change something now."
Cousins' sample size against the Seahawks was small (he completed 3-of-10 attempts for 31 yards), but the Michigan State product believes the experience will give him something to "lean on."
"What I noticed was the biggest difference had nothing to do with on the field, it was the environment at FedExField," Cousins said. "I just remember it tangibly being an electric environment, very exciting, and noticeably different from the regular season for whatever season. That's fun. That's exciting to think about. On the field, I don't know that it's much different. I think it's still football. I think Weeks 1-17, the guys on the field are playing for everything. It's their livelihood. It's how they feed their families and I don't know that that desire changes a whole lot come the playoffs. I think it's still a way to feed your family and a very intense game and you're going to get the best from everybody that's out there. So, on the field, I think it's a fast game but it's always been fast."