Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels provides five takeaways from Kirk Cousins's press conference at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun Co., Va.
1. The team's lack of third down conversation prevented any chance to develop a rhythm.
Kirk Cousins will be the first to tell you that the offense's performance in Los Angeles wasn't good enough on Sunday. The Redskins only converted 2-of-12 third downs against the Chargers, giving them only 51 offensive snaps, a total Cousins knows isn't acceptable to win.
"It's hard to have a very productive game as an offense when you only have 51 plays but we have no one to blame but ourselves because you're not going to run many plays if you're not staying on the field and you're not converting third downs." Cousins said. "I think that was the challenge and that has been a bit of a challenge much of the season and we are going to have to be better these last three games in situational football in order to have a chance to win and come away with a better feeling."
The biggest issue in approaching third downs has also been starting drives on a better foot. The Redskins experienced numerous negative plays that created second-and-long situations that made those third down chances tougher.
"Whenever we call play-passes on first down – drop backs, screens, whatever it may be – we want productive plays," Cousins said. "I just think it comes down to execution. The plays are all designed and have a reason for why they are being called. All 11 guys have to go out there and make their block, do their assignment, all fire off at the same time and be on the screws. It doesn't take much for a play to not work. If we miss one detail it can be the difference. We just have to be very locked in and I think that's where the challenge lies because you have got a lot of new players, a lot of new guys who haven't been playing together for a long time and it can be tough to all be together at all times."
2. Cousins will try to get as many reps as possible with his new running backs.
As if the running backs group hadn't already hurt enough, the team lost Byron Marshall on a freak play against the Chargers as he lined up a kick return. The third down back had done a nice job filling in for the injured Chris Thompson but the Redskins must rely on another new face now.
In this case that's Kapri Bibbs, who was activated off the teams practice squad. Cousins knows running backs coach Randy Jordan will get his group prepared, but the confidence and intuition Cousins had shared with Thompson, and was learning with Marshall, will have to re-established with Bibbs.
"I found during the Chargers game that any new players who came in, if I did communicate and over-communicate they nodded back that 'I've got it. You don't have to tell me.' So they were on top of it and some of it is just that familiarity," Cousins said.
"You can say, 'Run a choice route,' but if you haven't banked 100 reps of choice routes it's hard to really…they can still run a choice route but the difference between running a choice route after doing it 100 times and running a choice route doing it for a second or third time, there is certainly a big difference. So get as many reps as we can, get as much familiarity as we can and then go play. It's part of the game. It happens."
3. It's important the team doesn't dwell in the past so they can attack the next three games.
Head coach Jay Gruden was adamant at his press conference that for the Redskins to play strong in the final three games of the season, they must not let the past disappointments linger.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 15 game against the Arizona Cardinals Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Naturally, Cousins agreed, knowing the team can learn from the past, but shouldn't let their emotions carry over into the new work week and begin affecting the product on the field.
"I believe that you learn from the past and you certainly want to make sure it doesn't repeat itself but there is no doubt that you do need to wipe it, you need to hit the reset button a little bit," Cousins said. "You need to just move forward and not allow anything emotionally to linger and that's where we talk about being mentally and emotionally tough. Mentally and emotionally tough people are able to do that. It's human nature to kind of let stuff linger or get yourself in a pattern that's negative and we can't just do that. We have to rise above it and I think that is why we are professionals is because we have to be able to do that and it is not easy."
4. The Cardinals defense is filled with playmakers that will make Sunday's game a challenge.
Even as the Cardinals stand at 6-7 on the season, their defense has remained competitive and challenging and is filled with playmakers capable of changing the game.
Overall, the team ranks eighth in yards allowed per game (320.6) and has been particularly stout against the run this season, allowing opponents just 3.7 yards per rush while holding other teams to just 96.8 rushing yards per game.
Defensive end Chandler Jones has had an impressive year along the line with 14 sacks and two forced fumbles. But what sticks out most over the last couple of years is the Cardinals' defensive scheme, which allows them to thrive with hybrid players such as linebacker Deone Bucannon, who can run with just about any wide receiver, and safety Tyrann Mathieu, putting together a strong year after missing parts of last season with lingering injuries.
"Patrick Peterson is a Pro Bowler, I think six times and counting," Cousins said. "Tyrann Mathieu is one of the better safeties in all of football. Chandler Jones is an outstanding pass-rusher. They've had some injuries on the defensive side much like any other defense, but still a lot of good players out there that are making plays. I think there's a lot of smart players – crafty guys – and they'll provide a good challenge."
5. Cousins isn't worried about any reports of discord as the season winds down.
Over the past couple of weeks, national reports about some discord between teammates and Kirk Cousins have flown around the media lacking credibility. As the team has struggled lately, Cousins was asked if any of the narratives have impacted him as he tried to focus on the rest of the season.
He brushed it off in typical form.
"I don't read it enough to know how much is out there," Cousins said. "It doesn't bother me because probably I'm not aware of how much really is out there. People can say what they want to say. If it helps them and gets more clicks and gets more traffic, then great. That's good for them and that helps them and I'm not going to lose sleep over it. We've got to win football games. That's our job and we haven't done that enough this year and so hopefully these last three games we can do that."