Kirk Cousins knows his role behind Robert Griffin III. Unless Griffin gets injured, it's hard to see the fourth-round pick out of Michigan State even getting into a game this season for the Washington Redskins.
"This is Robert's team," he said.
With that in mind, the preseason is essential for Cousins.
"Preseason games right now are my Super Bowl and I need to do as well as I can in every one I get a chance to play in," he said. "I don't downplay my opportunities. I treat every day as important; every rep I get in practice I'm being evaluated, and I'm fighting for a job each and every day."
In his second NFL preseason game Saturday at the Chicago Bears, Cousins was 18-for-23 for 264 yards and three touchdowns. He did it against reserves but made it a game in the second half after the Redskins' starters stumbled.
"It's never as good as you think, it's never as bad as you think. There were certainly some good things to take away to gain some confidence, and there were certainly some things that I want to get better at and be more efficient," Cousins said. "That's why I'm out there learning. I think the best part was the amount of reps I got to play an entire half is so valuable for my development."
As for the level of competition he was facing, Cousins had a different perspective.
"I think that you also can look at is as the guys around you. I'm playing with rookie offensive linemen, I'm playing with rookie wide receivers, rookie running backs," he said. "If I'm playing in the first quarter, I'm playing with veteran wide receivers, veteran linemen, veteran running backs. So there's a trade-off there. But I didn't play against Brian Urlacher on Saturday, and I understand that."
Cousins stepped right in after Griffin's 5-for-8 performance, playing the entire second half as Rex Grossman watched. The rookie QB said he was taking it one play and one series at a time, but it was evident coach Mike Shanahan wanted to see what Cousins had to offer with extended snaps.
"What I'm trying to do is evaluate everyone on our football team. I know what Rex can do because I've watched Rex and he had a chance to play some games," Shanahan said. "I want to get a look at Robert and give Kirk a chance to see what he can do against a good football team in a tough environment."
The Redskins lost the exhibition game 33-31, but Cousins took something of a leadership role in the huddle.
"I told the guys, I said, 'We're working right now. We can sleep on the plane. We can sleep tomorrow. We're working right now, and I want a good tempo at the line of scrimmage, I want our offensive line to be aggressors and wearing down that defense,'" he said. "And I felt like we were able to do that, and I think our play on the field and the results in the fourth quarter showed that."
Shanahan complimented Cousins on what he was able to do, and the 24-year-old's mentality that the preseason is his time to shine.
"First of all, any rookie has to think that way. Anytime you get an opportunity to show people what you can do, I think it is a big plus," the Redskins' coach said. "I think he did a good job and was very relaxed. He went through his progressions and made a number of big plays. You have to feel good about the job he did."
Feel good? Sure. But Cousins isn't celebrating.
"By no means do I feel like I'm patting myself on the back," he said. "I'm back to work and I've got another opportunity on Saturday to hopefully move forward again."
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