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Jay Gruden Expects Kirk Cousins To Take 'Great Step' In 2016

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With an entire offseason and training camp ahead of his as the No. 1 quarterback, Kirk Cousins will have more time to work on getting into a rhythm with his teammates.

It certainly didn't look like it when Kirk Cousins first stepped on the field last fall against the Miami Dolphins in the season opener at FedExField, but the then-fourth-year quarterback had just limited work with the first-team offense.

Engaged in a spirited competition with fellow veteran Colt McCoy for the No. 2 quarterback spot through the entire offseason and training camp, Cousins, who was even taking some third-team reps, wasn't named the Redskins' starting quarterback until late August.

But Cousins would show no signs of a lack in chemistry with his weapons, as he completed nearly 68 percent of his passes in the opening game before smashing several franchise single-season records en route to an NFC East-winning campaign.

With Cousins signed to the franchise tag for the 2016 season and his weapons arsenal even more diverse to now include tight ends Vernon Davis and a returning Niles Paul along with rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson, he'll hopefully be able to find a groove with him teammates earlier in the year.

"It should mean a lot," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told ESPN980 on Tuesday about Cousins getting all the first-team reps. "There's no substitute for repetition, really, as a quarterback. You have to get the reps. Unfortunately for him, we had all the controversies in the last two years, and since he's been in the league, he's been playing second fiddle. Now it's his team. We'll see the type of jump that he makes.

Gruden added that he expects Cousins to take "a great step" forward during the 2016 season.

"He played pretty darn good last year," Gruden said. "He was almost 70 percent completion, was very good with the football on his turnovers and we expect him to make a major jump this year with just the control at the line of scrimmage with the protections [and] the cadence. Just simple things like that that people don't understand the importance of experience."

Perhaps no position requires more film study and off the field preparation than the quarterback position.

Check out the top images of Kirk Cousins from the 2015 season.

That's where Cousins quietly excels.

"He's one of the best note-takers [and] studiers of football that I've ever been around," Gruden said. "I haven't been around that many, obviously, but he is really, really detailed in his work, and that's very important at the quarterback position."

Even if the Redskins and Cousins' camp can't reach a long-term agreement for the July deadline, the team is confident that the quarterback will remain a centerpiece.

Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan said there is a lot of optimism that something can be hammered out before that deadline, though, because he wants Cousins to be "a part of this organization for a long time."

"Everybody in this building, if you ask to a man – players, coaches – we all want him here for a long-term deal," McCloughan said. "I would love to get something done, but you can't force it. They have to agree to what we're looking at, but he's our leader on offense. He's our quarterback. He won the East last year and that's pretty cool because that's what we need here. We need those types of guys, and those are the kinds of guys I'm trying to draft, but also, we can't go crazy because it's about 53, it's not about one. That's what we keep preaching and what we're going to keep preaching, but yes, we want him here."

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