As he focuses on fine-tuning his game after two productive seasons in the NFL, quarterback Kirk Cousins will also rely on newcomer Terrelle Pryor Sr. to keep growing at his position.
Last year, at the start of OTAs, quarterback Kirk Cousins was primarily focused on developing his leadership skills and taking ownership of an offense he had inherited with just a couple of weeks before the start of the regular season.
Now entering his third season as the starter, Cousins feels he has the leverage to fine-tune and perfect different areas of his game, looking to grow after his impressive production last season with a new cast of offensive options at his disposal.
"That is where it gets fun because the game slows down," Cousins said. "You're not just fighting for a roster spot anymore. You're fighting to become one of the best players in this league. You know, that is the goal now, and one of the best offenses in this league more importantly. I am excited and looking forward to that challenge and now I am being held to even a higher standard."
Cousins will be operating under the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto this season, considering the success he and the offense had. Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards and set multiple individual records again, pacing a unit filled with weapons. Two big ones left this offseason – DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon – but the Redskins hope free agent addition Terrelle Pryor Sr. and second-year receiver Josh Doctson can make up for those losses.
So far, after just two days of OTAs, Cousins is excited about both players' raw talent and is concerning himself over the next month with getting on the same mental page.
"It is a really good thing we have OTAs and minicamps and training camp and preseason games to get ready for Week 1 so we are building to when it really matters," Cousins said. "I just feel good about the raw ability that they have and now it's just a matter of getting to understand one another and getting to learn the offense as well as we can such that we can execute at a high level and there is no drop-off. If anything, we take another step forward as an offense."
Pryor played quarterback before last season with the Browns, where he made his full transition to wide receiver. That experience has already made an impression on Cousins in the early going, as Pryor is able to communicate better when and where he expects to catch the football, taking into account Cousins' drops and timing.
Because of Pryor's ability to read defenses as a quarterback, he has a better grasp on exploiting secondaries and making sure Cousins knows later why he chose a certain route concept.
"Terrelle is not set in his ways. Kirk is not set in his ways," head coach Jay Gruden said. "They're always talking and communicating, 'How you want to do this? This is how we want it done.' And then I'll jump in there, 'No, this is…' There's always communication and it's good. Terrelle being an ex-quarterback has a great idea of how routes should be run, but sometimes he sees things that the quarterback doesn't see or he's too quick to break when he should stem it up a little bit deeper."
Cousins said Pryor's knowledge has caught him by surprise.
"He's going to hold me accountable because he knows where the ball should go," Cousins said. "If it's Cover 2, and he knows the read is over here -- 'I played quarterback, I know the read is over here' -- he's going to hold me accountable. I like it because I've never had a conversation with a receiver like I've had with him, where he said 'Yeah, it was two invert, so I took it to the post.' He really can see it and he's going to hole me accountable, so you take the good with the bad.
"He's an enthusiastic guy, he's always wanting to run another route," he added. "'Let's try it again, let's do it again,' just a positive attitude and he's been a joy to work with thus far. I'm really looking forward to trying to get him as many touches as possible and allow him to impact our team in any way he can."
The other aspect that will take time getting used to is Pryor's size. The Ohio State product stands at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds, giving Cousins a larger catch radius than he's been used to in his time as quarterback.
Pryor describes his running style as deceptive ("It doesn't look like I'm really flying, but I'm flying," he said) and acknowledges that the next few weeks will be a good opportunity to explore different throws, even if the coverage looks risky to try them.
"When a guy is quote-unquote covered, hopefully he is still open because you can throw him to a spot where maybe the defensive back can't quite make a play," Cousins said. "It is a little new for me, haven't had a ton of experience making throws like that, so it is one of the many things we will emphasize, work on and try to get a better feel for as we go through the offseason program. And as a quarterback it is exciting because we think that adds another wrinkle or element to our offense that hopefully can make us better and help us take a step forward."