How do you take a quarterback that threw for nearly 5,000 yards a year ago and make him better? That's the big question Kevin O'Connell will have to answer in 2017.
During his days as quarterback at San Diego State, Washington Redskins quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell thrived as a duel-threat quarterback. Yes, O'Connell threw for more than 7,600 yards with 46 touchdowns, but O'Connell made a habit out of torturing defenses with his mobility as well, finishing his four-year career as the Aztec's all-time leading rusher among quarterbacks.
Now in his first season in Washington, O'Connell will oversee the development of Redskins quarterbacks Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy and Nate Sudfeld—and quite possibly—convince them to adopt more of an opportunistic tuck and run mentality themselves within Jay Gruden's offense.
"You know what? I think it's all situational, you know, understanding maybe it's in the red zone, maybe it's third down when a defense drops eight in the coverage and you got a little bit extra time to hold it and try to see if Jamison [Crowder] or Jordan [Reed] can work their way open maybe verse double coverage and then if all else fails, he's plenty athletic enough to go steal us a first down or two," O'Connell said of Cousins. "He did it last year against Chicago [Bears], he ran for a touchdown against [the] Detroit [Lions]. I mean, he's clearly demonstrated that he's got the ability to really steal you some yards. You're not going to live and die with it with his ability to throw the football and our offenses ability to traditional run the football behind our offensive line with our backs we have. We really want to pick our spots and I think if he's smart about it, it could really help us."
However, sometimes having a running mentality as a quarterback can lead to injury. So, while O'Connell want's his group of quarterbacks to take more risks with their legs, he also wants them to be smart about it. The Redskins are a team that only carry three quarterbacks on its roster, and O'Connell understands how importance of keeping all three healthy throughout the season.
"Every once and a while there is going to be a third down where they take off and there on the sideline and they got to get us that extra yard or two," O'Connell said, "but other than that, we like those guys to be sliding when they can and protecting themselves for sure."
But when it comes to basic mechanics, O'Connell thinks that Cousins is in great shape coming off of a 4,917-yard season through the air, and is excited to help the veteran quarterback improve in 2017 and beyond.
"I think after the last two years of taking almost every snap, it seems like he really understands what we are trying to get accomplished with each individual play," O'Connell said. "Both in the pass game and in the run game and he's doing a tremendous job of controlling things and getting us into the right plays, getting us into the right protections and then when it's time to make a decision and make a throw, he's doing a really good job being accurate with the football and moving the team on a daily basis."