Cousins, RG3 stay calm amid the storm

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Kirk Cousins had just planted his right foot at the top of his 5-step drop when he felt a thump against his helmet Saturday night.

A Chicago Bears defensive end had struck a glancing blow in an attempt to plant Cousins into the turf.

“Oh boy,” Cousins recalled thinking at that moment. “He was closer than I thought he was.”

Cousins was unfazed, though, his composure belying his inexperience as a fourth-round rookie quarterback in only his second preseason game. He stepped forward in the pocket and zipped a short throw to his outlet, tight end Logan Paulsen, crossing the middle.

A play that could have ended in panic and disarray resulted in a 7-yard gain because of Cousins‘ poise.

It was an encouraging sign because as the Redskins continue to develop Cousins and first-round rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III this season and beyond, their pocket presence will be a determining factor in their of success.

“The challenge of playing quarterback in NFL is keeping your eyes downfield,” Cousins said. “Feeling the rush but not seeing the rush. And I think the great ones are the ones who can do that at a very high level.”

One of coach Mike Shanahan’s top requirements for a quarterback is an ability to keep scanning the field for open receivers inside the chaos of an NFL backfield.

If a quarterback looks at pass rushers when the pocket breaks down, he won’t be able to locate a receiver. The play would be doomed.

The talent is not easily taught, so it’s at a premium during the quarterback selection process.

“For most people, it’s pretty instinctive,” Shanahan said. “You can’t look at the rush. You feel the rush. The guys that usually look at the rush have a hard time reading coverages.”

Cousins was virtually unflappable in that regard against Chicago on Saturday night. It was a major reason why he was 18 of 23 for 264 yards and three touchdowns, all in the second half.

Griffin did well, too, according to Shanahan and his own reviews.

“Both of them are natural, coming out of college and not looking at the rush and looking downfield,” Shanahan said.

Griffin stood tall against pressure on a third-down pass in the first quarter and completed a 16-yard pass to receiver Santana Moss down the middle. As defensive end Israel Idonije surged through rookie right guard Adam Gettis’ block, Griffin didn’t flinch and stepped into his throw.

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