- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 28, 2016

RICHMOND — Kirk Cousins didn’t have to wait in line Thursday or talk about making the most of the snaps he will receive in camp with the second unit. No one yelled for an autograph from No. 10 since it was assigned to rookie wide receiver Valdez Showers, draped over the shoulders of a player other than Robert Griffin III for the first time four years.

Cousins comes to Washington Redskins training camp in Richmond still on a one-year deal, but as a richer man in a solidified position. He’s the unquestioned starter following a record-setting season as the team’s starting quarterback. When he speaks to the media, it’s now from a podium. In the past, Cousins would stop to chat when walking off the field among the last players since he was always doing extra work after practice. This year the questions for him are based on whether he’s going to handle being the No. 1 quarterback from the start of camp well.

“I think we’re going to find out,” Cousins said. “It’s still so early in the development. We’re still in the first day of camp and the preseason. We’ll find out as we go.

“Right now it’s just all talk, but there’s no doubt that you have more comfort when you’ve played and been the starter and been out there and had experiences. What we went through last year I think has helped me now having confidence going forward. You know, hopefully it translates into a great offense and a lot of production, but it’s just talk right now until you go out there and prove it.”

The shift in Cousins‘ numbers last season was dramatic. Just 11 interceptions in 543 attempts, cutting his interception percentage by more than half, and a franchise-record 4,166 passing yards. He endured, at least at the start, another strange season when it came to his position, something the organization seems to have so much trouble avoiding. But, Cousins‘ success eventually made Griffin’s future clear. Cousins would be staying and Griffin would be leaving, making training camp a calmer environment for once.

So, at camp, Cousins is trying to be balanced. Asked what he wants to fix from last season and feels like he handled well, he didn’t pick anything specific on either side.

“I think it’s just a constant growth process,” Cousins said. “I don’t know that there were all these areas where I was deficient last year and I don’t know that there were all these areas where I just feel like I’ve arrived. I think it’s just constantly trying to go back each and every day after walkthroughs, after practice, watch the film, listen to your coaches, be critical of yourself and say, ‘How can I be better and how can I more consistently help this offense move the football and score points?’ I think we had a very good year last year and if we can replicate that again, I think it should be a strong season. We’re always looking to get better and improve upon what we’ve done. That’ll be the focus as long as I’m here.”

Cousins and the Redskins could not strike a long-term deal in the offseason, so he is again working under a one-year contract. Though, this one pays him roughly $20 million. On Thursday, Cousins explained he thought the franchise tag the Redskins used to put him under contract for a season — and last season’s chance to start — was actually reflective of how they valued him.

“I was given a great opportunity last season – it’s not just like I took it,” Cousins said. “I had a great opportunity; I was put in a spot to succeed with great coaches and great teammates. Fortunately we had a great year, but I think the franchise tag says a lot.

“They didn’t have to tag me. No one forced them to do that; they chose to do that of their own accord. In this league it’s one year at a time – whether you’re on a long-term deal, one-year deal or two-year deal. I mean, I had a four-year deal as a rookie but it didn’t feel like a four-year deal, it felt like a one-day deal every single day I was here. So I don’t think things have changed a whole lot in that regard. I have got to go out there and prove myself each and every game of every season. When you do that, I think the rest will take care of itself.”

He at least gets to start knowing who is No. 1.

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