Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' media session with reporters on Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. "Great execution" is needed for red zone struggles.
By now, the Redskins' struggles in the red zone through their first two games have been well-documented. Inside the 20-yard line, Cousins has completed just 5-of-17 pass attempts with a touchdown and two interceptions. When the team has gotten even closer, inside the 10-yard line, he's completed 2-of-9 passes for five yards.
"You just have to go back and look at each individual series," Cousins said. "I'd says, 'hey, I missed the throw, I mean a guy's open, a guy's got a chance to play for us and the ball falls incomplete, so that's the 'why' behind it in that specific instance. Another time the ball is tipped, another time, you know, maybe I threw a fade and I should've handed it off, so it's more of a decision-making not on the way the ball is thrown, but on the whether to throw it or not."
Last season, the Redskins converted 58 percent of their opportunities in the red zone into points, while that current figure stands at just 30 percent. Cousins knows this is a small sample size, but doesn't question his ability so much as his decision-making.
"Because we've been able to play at a high level in the red zone in the past, the expectation should be high and we know we can play better going forward but it's going to require a great deal of focus and attention to detail and great execution," Cousins said. "It's not just going to happen."
2. The franchise tag isn't weighing on him early in the season.
Many wondered how Cousins would perform under the franchise tag this season, especially with the enhanced expectations of having one of the most dynamic groups of receivers in franchise history.
His early struggles so far -- looking a bit tentative in his decision-making, for starters -- have resurfaced questions regarding his one-year contract. But the fifth-year quarterback has remained steady in his approach and doesn't feel as though he's dealing with any extra pressure than normal.
"I feel like, and I've said this a lot, a little bit of a broken record, I'm always on a one-year deal, a one-game deal, a one-day deal," Cousins said. "I've got to prove it over and over and over, so, if I had been on a contract that is lasting many more years, I would still feel like if I don't play well this year, they're going to look for someone else. So, that really doesn't have a whole lot to do with any type of expectation or desire to play well."
3. Having a balanced attack is ideal, but not always possible.
Part of what may be hampering the team's red zone efficiency is the imbalance between passing and running the football. The Redskins have only attempted six runs inside the 20-yard line this season and the 89-29 pass-to-run ratio has made it easier for defenses to determine what's coming.
Even if they do run the ball more against the Giants, New York's defense is holding opponents to just 3.3 yards per carry, and that was against tough runners such as Mark Ingram and Ezekiel Elliott.
"I think the short answer is it could help," Cousins said. "It's not going to help if we're running for no yards, you know, you've got to be productive in our game. Which we have been frankly, I think. The statistics may not show that but it feels like when I hand the ball off we are getting positive yards."
Cousins said that part of the imbalance, specifically in the red zone, has been his fault, checking out of run plays and opting for passes. He also acknowledged that because the team has fallen behind early, and sometimes by large margins, running the ball hasn't been the most effective way to get back into the game.
"We get in the two minute mode, you can't just run the ball," Cousins said, "So there's a chunk of play at the end of games and the Steeler's game even more so where a quarter of the plays you're calling, you don't even have the choice to run it because in the fourth quarter you're behind and you've got to throw the ball. So the key to be able to have more rushing attempts is in the first two, three quarters play in such a way that we are dictating the tempo and have a lead and can run the ball at the end of the game. And that's a part of the whole process."
4. Doing the little things will help on the road.
The Redskins struggled mightily on the road, especially throughout the first three quarters of the season, last year. They had difficulty starting quickly and fell behind early in most of their contests thanks to undisciplined play.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 3 game against the New York Giants Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
MetLife Stadium accounted for two of the team's losses last season (they played the Giants and Jets there), as Cousins had yet to find a rhythm in the offense. In both games he completed 59 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and four interceptions, contributing to a 64 quarterback rating.
The quarterback said that in order to be successful, the team must execute the small things to prevent them from getting into unmanageable downs and losing momentum on offense.
"I think that ultimately on the road, it's hard enough to beat the opposing team, so you can't beat yourself and we all know the things that will do that so we've got to be disciplined," Cousins said. "Not commit penalties, not turn the ball over, stay in manageable third downs. All those things that lead to winning will lead to winning that much more on the road. So we need to be a mature football team. I think we have the guys on the team who have been there, done that. And it's just a matter of going out and executing, and it will be that way every week."
5. Cousins doesn't worry about reports on the locker room.
Cousins hadn't heard the outside report following Sunday's loss to the Cowboys that claimed there were some locker room frustrations with his play. Because Cousins is pretty adept at tuning out extra noise throughout the week, and especially during the season, this report hasn't stirred him at all.
"You telling me that is the first time I've heard it," Cousins said. " I don't have much time to process it. I'm actually pretty ignorant to all that's being said but you know, stuff gets said. It's a part of the process, part of the deal. You know, people can say what they want, they have a right to do that. I have an opportunity every Sunday or Monday night or whatever the day may be, to go out and play well and try to reverse that trend or those opinions.
"I've learned in this league is that it's a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a full body of work. No one's making big, big decisions after two games. You know, we're going to play this whole season out, see where we are at the end of it. And I'll let the body of work speak for itself at that point. But, I'm excited about the challenge we have this week, but really I have enough of a challenge that I don't need to look much further forward or further back than just the Giants this Sunday."