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5 Takeaways: Oct. 7 Kirk Cousins Presser


Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' Oct. 7 press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

1. In his fourth season in the NFL but first as a full-time starter, Cousins feels he's come a long way especially in the last year.

After Robert Griffin III went down with an ankle injury in the second week of the 2014 season, Cousins was thrust into action.

There were some good days (Week 3 against Philadelphia when he threw for a career-high 427 yards) and some bad (four interceptions against the New York Giants).

One year later though, he feels more comfortable in the position of starting quarterback and team leader.

This, of course, was highlighted by the 15-play, 90-yard game-winning drive he directed in the Redskins' 23-20 victory over the Eagles last Sunday.

"I feel like I'm a much improved player," Cousins said. "Every week is a new week. You certainly try and draw on past experiences to help make you that much better going into the next experience but at the same time you've got to prove yourself each and every week."

As he heads back to Atlanta for the first time since he started a Week 15 matchup between the two teams in 2013, he's glad he got to go through a trial run of sorts at the end of that season.

"I think the fact that I've played there before and have been there, that familiarity I think can only help," Cousins said. "I remember it was a game where we were able to move the football. There were certainly some plays you wanted back like in any game. It came down to the final drive, the final play and we came up short. It was a tough loss, one that was frustrating. We felt like we left some plays out there. It was a great game and hopefully we can do a lot of good things on offense this week as well."

2. Cousins, and the entire offense really, benefits from the team's three running backs.

So far, it seems like a different running back for the Redskins makes the big plays each week this season. It was Alfred Morris in the season opener when he ran for 121 yards.

Week 2 Matt Jones got all the play in the media when he ran for 123 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the Rams.

Last week it was Chris Thompson, who recorded a huge 42-yard gain on a third down draw play, easily the biggest run of his career.

Their success can make it easier on Cousins.

"They all run hard. They're all smart guys. They're all great teammates," Cousins said. "They can all catch the ball. They can all pass protect. They really have more in common than they do differences."

While the team knew what they were getting in Morris entering the season, and Jones was expected to be a reliable backup in his rookie season, Thompson has really stood out.

After two injury-plagued seasons, the Florida State product looks every bit the shifty back the Redskins wanted him to be when they drafted him in 2013.

"I've always felt like he could play," Cousins said of Thompson. "It was a matter of getting out there and showing it. I've said to him time and again, we need to get him the football more. We put him in there on third down and he has to stick his face on linebackers and pass protect. He can be pretty good in the passing game, so, it's my job to make sure he can get the football and show people what he can do once the ball is in his hands."

3. It doesn't matter if it's an inexperienced rookie or seasoned veteran, Cousins says his job remains the same when he's under center.

Yes, there may be more of a rapport with guys like Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson who have been there and done that before in the NFL, but Cousins doesn't lack confidence in the younger players in the Redskins receiving corps.

And there is no extra pressure when targeting them. As the quarterback, his job remains the same.  

"I've always felt like as quarterback I'm just a distributor," Cousins said. "As a result I'm as good as the guys around me. If I've got great time to throw and guys are getting open and making plays, I'm going to look good. I certainly feel like I've just had great production around me this year. I feel like our offensive line has played really well both in the run game and the pass game. I feel like the receivers have done an outstanding job and the running backs as well. As a result it makes my job that much easier."

The Redskins have yet to have their full arsenal of wide receivers this season, but once they do, it will only add to a passing attack that is growing.

"I hope that we have depth all season long and hopefully as we get DeSean back and other things like that," Cousins said. "Guys stay healthy and the more weapons we have, the better a distributor I can be the more games we will be able to win."

4. Playing in the NFL has a lot of layers to it, but once Cousins got settled in it allowed him to add some wrinkles to his game.

Cousins admitted that, at first, when a quarterback gets to the NFL grasping the playbook and pace of the game are most important.

As those steps eventually reach levels of comfort, things like pump fakes and hard counts come.

A countdown of the top-12 images of QB Kirk Cousins during the 2012 season.

"You can't be detailing your snap count if you don't even know the play," Cousins said. "You've got to handle first things first. That's one of the points where I make, when you have continuity, when you have experience in a system, you can go to the next layer. It ends up being the difference between winning and losing a lot of times in games because of the parity of talent within the league."

Cousins also said it's important to have that steady growth so that "you can build another layer each year, each offseason and expand upon what you've learned."

"That's where experience and playing and learning things, whether it goes good or badly for you, having that experience makes a difference," he said. "Whether it is the snap count or progressing in your reads, movement in the pocket, all of that stuff improves when you go out there and play and learn from what needs to be done better."

5. Cousins is thankful for the chance the team's former coaching staff – many of which are now in Atlanta – gave him as a rookie and second-year player.

Selected by the Redskins in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Cousins spent the majority of his first two NFL seasons learning and growing under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, now in the same role with the Falcons.

Cousins said he was "pretty clueless" entering Redskins Park for the first time, but the coaching staff helped ease him into the NFL.

"It was everything from spending a lot of time watching cut-ups to going out and drilling, whether it was very basic drills or team drills," Cousins said. "I always felt like Matt LaFleur, who is the QB coach now in Atlanta, did a great job of just spending time with me, staying after practice, working hard to make sure that I was as prepared as I could possibly be. Sometimes I wonder at other places if rookies, especially rookie quarterbacks who are third or fourth string guys, can get forgotten about a little bit. I felt like when I came in as a rookie I was given a lot of attention and time and energy and was really developed quickly as a result of the focus they put on me and on Robert."




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