ASHBURN — Black Sabbath, AC/DC and Guns N’ Roses set the backdrop for the Washington Redskins’ first practice since gutting out a last-minute victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
When the Redskins are at their best, they’re a heavy metal kind of team. They aren’t built to dance around opponents. Their success on offense is contingent on the guys with their hands in the dirt.
Kirk Cousins, who is still maturing as a passer, needs to have confidence in his offensive line. He has to be able to go through his reads without worrying too much about a linebacker flying in from his blindside — and he was well-protected against the Eagles.
The Redskins started their final drive from their own 10-yard line, trailing by four points with 5:39 remaining. Cousins marched the offense downfield on a 15-play, 90-yard drive.
Cousins punctuated the drive with a four-yard dart between two defenders to wide receiver Pierre Garcon for a touchdown. He left the Eagles with just 26 seconds to try to mount a comeback.
“The offensive line is playing outstanding,” coach Jay Gruden said after Sunday’s game. “The pockets that they’re giving him, they’re giving him the ability to scan the defense and get off his first read and get to his second or third progression, which makes life a lot easier for a quarterback.”
Cousins also needs to give his linemen good reason to protect him on a given play. They need to believe that Cousins will make the right decisions to ensure their hard work pays off. It’s a reciprocal relationship dependent on mutual confidence, and both parties came through on Sunday.
“[Cousins’ confidence] definitely boosts everybody [else’s] confidence,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “He’s a very confident guy who performs well. He does everything it takes to be a good player.”
Williams wasn’t the only one expressing confidence in Cousins, who’s in his first year as the team’s bona fide starting quarterback. Others recognized that the 27-year-old Michigan State product’s growing confidence has a contagious effect.
With tight end Jordan Reed sustaining a concussion, a sprained right knee and a sprained left ankle in Sunday’s game, Derek Carrier will likely see a vastly increased role in the offense. Despite arriving via trade after the Redskins’ second preseason game, Carrier expressed confidence in the possibility of an increased role, partly due to Cousins’ assurance.
“When you have someone that’s as calm and collected as Kirk is,” Carrier said, “it’s really easy to be out there and fight for him and not get too high and not get too low and just keep working.”
The Redskins will face the undefeated Atlanta Falcons this Sunday. Falcons coach Dan Quinn has noticed the ongoing improvements in Cousins’ game.
“One of the things that jumps out to me is the accuracy,” Quinn said. “That’s not all just the quick game. It’s the shots down the field, the quick game [and] the keepers that come out of it. [He’s] a guy that has real knowledge of where to go with the ball, the decisions to make with it.”
Gruden, meanwhile, was most impressed by the development of his quarterback’s field vision. At the same time, he recognized that Cousins still has room for improvement.
“I think his ability to go back and scan the field and go to his first, second and third progression, throw the ball away when he has to, overcoming a bad series or a bad game is what we are hoping to see him continue to progress with,” Gruden said.
“The more [repetitions] he sees at quarterback,” he added, “the better he’s going to get. … Repetition is king.”
Cousins, for his part, agrees.
“I feel like I’m a much improved player,” Cousins said. “Every week is a new week. You certainly try and draw on past experiences to help make you that much better going into the next experience, but at the same time, you’ve got to prove yourself each and every week.”