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Teammates First To See Kirk Cousins' Growth


From his first day as a starter to yet another magnificent performance on Sunday, teammates are seeing Kirk Cousins transcend from a solid quarterback to leader of an effective offense.

Back in August, well before the Washington Redskins were in a position to possibly clinch the NFC East title in Week 16 against the Philadelphia Eagles, head coach Jay Gruden announced that the team had decided on Kirk Cousins as their starting quarterback for the 2015 season.

"It's Kirk's team," Gruden said just moments after breaking the news that the fourth-year Michigan State product would get his first shot at being a full-time starter in the NFL.

While some thought Cousins couldn't handle a full-season load – especially with his previously fluctuating accuracy – the 2012 fourth-round draft pick has shown the exact opposite this season, as he's been sharper and sharper with each passing week.

On Sunday, Cousins was one of the main reasons the Redskins pulled out a 35-25 victory over the Buffalo Bills, connecting on 22-of-28 passes for 319 yards and five total touchdowns.

Cousins' teammates are certainly rallying around their quarterback.

"It's the nature of our sport. It's a prove yourself sport," left tackle Trent Williams said. "Nobody's going to be behind you if you haven't done anything and everybody wants to see you play. So Kirk embraced that and came out here to show people what he's got."

Cousins this season has shown an ability to not only manage an NFL offense, but has at times looked just as good as the best signal callers in the game.

He's already been named NFC Offensive Player of the Week two different times (Week 7 vs. Tampa Bay and Week 10 vs. New Orleans) and Sunday was the fourth consecutive game in which he's recorded a quarterback rating of 100 or higher, and the seventh time he's done so this season.

"I think he's getting more confidence in the offense," defensive back DeAngelo Hall said. "I think he's starting to understand his reads. He's not trying to force things, he's just taking what they give him. Anytime you just take what the defense gives you, whether it's check downs, whether it's low passes across the middle, and then you take your shots when they open up. He's just been smarter with the football. That takes time, that takes maturity, that takes experience and I think over the course of the season he's gained all those things."

Easily the biggest knock on Cousins entering the season was his knack for throwing interceptions at a voluminous rate.

In his last four starts during the 2014 season, Cousins threw nine interceptions.

That issue appeared to carry over to the start of this season, as he had eight interceptions in the first six weeks.

Check out behind the scenes images of quarterback Kirk Cousins' 2015 Photo Shoot.

Over the last eight games, though, Cousins has thrown just three picks.

Cousins has been incredibly accurate at FedExField, as he closed out the Redskins' eight-game regular season slate on his home turf with just two interceptions – both coming in an Opening Day loss to the Miami Dolphins – while turning in the highest home completion rate (74.7 percent) in NFL history (minimum 100 attempts).

For eighth-year wide receiver DeSean Jackson, Cousins' progress is evident each time he steps onto the field.

"With a young quarterback who doesn't have as many reps as you would think or you would want, it really just comes down to trusting," Jackson said. "There are interceptions at times, things like that can shy off a quarterback. But he's just doing a great job of staying with it. That's the biggest thing I can say, because anything can happen. You can try and throw deep and if it doesn't happen, or if you see defenders out there, I can see how that might spook a guy. And you know, a guy doesn't want to make mistakes, a guy doesn't want to turn the ball over."

Jackson says his role as a veteran wide receiver is to be "patient" with his quarterback and "telling him to trust" the process.

"Like I say all the time, the worst thing that can happen is you can overthrow me," Jackson said. "But, as far as interceptions go, if the ball is a completable ball, if I can't get it, the defender's not going to get it. And like I said the worst thing that can happen is you overthrow me. But just really having confidence and trusting each other is something we try to do."

The Redskins are primed for a chance to seal up the division Saturday evening when they travel to Philadelphia for a nationally televised matchup with the Eagles.

Cousins has proven capable of shedding the interception-prone label, the can't-win-on-the-road label and the inability-to-string-together-back-to-back-wins label.

Now he has a chance to prove he can lead a team to a division crown.

"It's great to get to 7-7. We finished 6-2 at home. It says a lot about our play at home and our crowd," Cousins said. "Winning two in a row is good. We just keep taking steps forward. I've said all along it's a process. I don't think everything gets fixed in one week or one day. But we just keep staying at it. I think we're heading in the right direction and that's encouraging."




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