Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Trent Williams' media session with reporters on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Feeding Jamison Crowder more is still about reading the coverage.
A familiar refrain by the media this season has centered on the usage of wide receiver DeSean Jackson, specifically his big-play ability and why the Redskins haven't featured more of it in games.
Those constant questions, often directed at quarterback Kirk Cousins, haven't been needed over the last three games, as the Redskins have indeed taken advantage of his speed and his uncanny characteristic of tracking the ball through the air. In the last three games, Jackson has caught 67-yard, 59-yard and 80-yard passes, two of which went for touchdowns.
Why has this been happening more often? Not because Cousins was tired of hearing about the lack of chances being taken down the field.
"In a couple of the instances that we have hit him, it's been dictated by my read," Cousins said. "I said to you those weeks, 'I go where my reads take me,' and I wasn't lying to you. In those situations my reads took me to him. So when you have the play call against a certain coverage, he gets the football. If you don't have that, then someone else will. We're fortunate to get those situations where he can change the game like that on one catch, one play.
"I think when you throw the ball down the field sometimes you have to let the ball go with some trust. I think the Arizona game was an example where DeSean [Jackson] caught that deep ball and when I let the ball go he hadn't quite gotten on top of the defensive back yet. You just trust that down the field he'll eventually pull away."
2. The Redskins' loss to the Panthers last year was dictated by turnovers.
There were plenty of miscues in last year's game against the Panthers that Cousins would like to forget, except this week it may serve him well to reopen the scabs. Hoping to learn from the Redskins' loss last November against Carolina, Cousins pointed to the team's five turnovers as the key issue that buried their chances for victory.
He hopes that with another year under his belt, and a group of players that have more confidence as an offensive unit, the maturation process will limit those kinds of mistakes, especially at home.
"Hopefully we don't turn it over five times. I think growth would be to protect the football going forward," Cousins said. "Any game, anything can happen, but you would like to think we're a more mature team when it comes to managing, and each play had a reason. One [turnover] was an overthrow to DeSean for an interception. You'd like to think that that ball would maybe would be thrown a little bit more accurately now. You'd like to think so. I'm still going to miss throws but you'd like to think that as you get better those plays don't happen. One was a corner blitz that ended up hitting me in the back and I fumbled. One was a short edge where I was looking left and I fumbled getting stripped. Another one was a running back fumbled. So you just hope that as a football team you're a little more mature and you protect the ball better and can avoid those turnovers."
3. Cousins has been impressed with Carolina's rookie cornerbacks.
When the Panthers cut ways with Norman, they knew they would have a young crop of cornerbacks to contend with and foster this season. Approaching the final three games of the season, they feel much more confident with the duo of rookies that has stepped into Norman's role.
Cornerbacks James Bradberry and Darryl Worley, who became starters several weeks into the season, have begun to find their way. Worley collected his first interception last week against the Chargers and has two games with more than 10 tackles. Bradberry has an interception this season as well and has looked strong in coverage on the other side.
Cousins has been impressed.
"I think that especially when you factor in that they're rookies, it's hard to come into this league and play right away and understand coverages and concepts and play fast," Cousins said. "So very impressive that they've been able to play at a high level as rookies. It's not easy to do."
4. Josh Norman has given Cousins insight into Carolina's defense
Most of the preparation and studying for this week's game against the Panthers defense will be done in the quarterbacks room with offensive coordinator Sean McVay and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh.
But it certainly hasn't hurt Cousins to pick former Panthers cornerback, now his teammate of the last seven months, Josh Norman's brain about Carolina's defensive strategy. The quarterback did this earlier in the spring so as to not take away time from him during this week.
"It really goes back to the spring," Cousins said. "I knew that when we got to this point there isn't much time to pull him away from his preparation and to take that time. That goes back to April or May, cornering him and saying, 'Hey, can you talk to me about the defense and I'll take some notes and get some thoughts on Carolina's defense so that come the week of the game, it's already there.' So we talked a little bit about the coverages and things, but at the end of the day, it's about executing and being on top of our stuff and just reacting to how they play it."
5. Norman has also been helpful to compete against in practice.
The perk of having one of the top cornerbacks in the game, at least, if you're a quarterback, is that you know you will always be competing against the best.
For Cousins, that's meant staring down Norman in practice throughout the week in preparation for his next opponent. That's something the Michigan State product has taken advantage of even before Norman joined the team, training with him before the 2012 NFL Draft. There, he noticed the same intense worker he sees now.
"You see him stay after practice. Winning matters to him," Cousins said. "He's been a part of a winning team and he knows what that looks like. So when you have a veteran player like that who a lot of young players are looking to as an example – and the example he's setting is one of hard work, humility, just staying the course, caring about fundamentals, caring about details in the game plan, you see him make some very important plays in key moments of games. I just think that's a great thing for our culture and trying to go in that direction as an entire organization. I think getting some of your best players to be your best leaders can make a big difference. That's where I guess I'm most pleased with Josh on top of his ability. I saw that back when we were training for the draft when we would do one-on-ones and the way he would approach those and compete, try to really lock guys down. It was impressive back then."