Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' media session with reporters on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Cousins noticed the difference with an effective run game last Sunday.
Running back Matt Jones finally got chugging against the Browns last Sunday, running for 117 yards and a touchdown, and the run-pass balance that so many had critiqued over the first couple of games evened out.
Cousins noticed the direct implications of establishing the run early and handing the ball off to Jones more than they had the entire season.
"That does open up things and it keeps us in manageable down and distances," Cousins said. "I think on the first drive we really didn't have a third down that we had to convert. You just, first down, second down, oh, it's first down again. We may have been in a third-and-one, but we don't see that as a need to drop back and spread them out and throw the ball down the field to convert.
"Boy, it helps to be able to stay in those situations and then if we can just stay out of penalties, it gives you more and more opportunities to run the football," he said. "Anytime we can do that, good things happen for our offense. And I think we saw that in the first two drives of what we can be when we're firing on all cylinders." 2. It was nice to finally find consistent success in the red zone.
* *The Redskins' first two offensive drives on Sunday ended in touchdowns and relied on converting both of them while in the red zone, an area in which the team has had trouble to start the season.
"Each play has its own reason for why it was successful, but it's great to see us get down in the red zone and then be able to finish those drives," It certainly does make a big difference in the final outcome of the game."
Citing those two touchdown drives, Cousins reiterated what he saw in coverage. Tight end Jordan Reed had 1-on-1 coverage and Cousins was able to fit the ball into a tight window on a slant route. The other toss to Reed relied more on improvisation.
"The second one, nothing was open in rhythm, but we were able off-schedule to find something," Cousins said. "You don't really draw that one up; you just have to play and react. We were able to pound one in running the football. Another one we were able to just catch them off-guard with a quick count." 3. Having offensive coordinator Sean McVay in the booth has been helpful.
For the Redskins' first away trip of the season in New York, offensive coordinator Sean McVay called plays from the booth above, instead of being on the sideline where he spent all of last season.
Head coach Jay Gruden said that it's easier for McVay to lay out all of his notes and dial up plays easier with everything spread out in front of him. Cousins said the best reason for McVay being there is that the play calls come into his ear cleaner.
"I don't want to make it more complicated than it is," Cousins said. "It's just that I noticed in the Giants' game that it is a little more sterile – would be the word I would use – with Sean. When he's in the box, he doesn't have to yell over the crowd noise. I don't hear the ancillary noise coming through his mic, so the play comes in in a very calm, sterile way. I thought that can't hurt. The original intent was to have Coach [Wes] Phillips down with the tight ends on the sidelines to help them through all their adjustments and personnel and blocking assignments and routes throughout the game. We'll probably just stay with it for now and just stay the course.
"I just hop on Coach [Matt] Cavanaugh's headset if I need to talk to Sean. Coach Cav does a good job and obviously Jay [Gruden] will help as well with what he sees. Whatever needs to get communicated, gets communicated – one way or another.
4. Cousins only assesses his play week to week.
When asked if Sunday's game marked a moment in which the quarterback was finally starting to play the way he wants to in all facets, Cousins wasn't quick to agree
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 5 game against the Baltimore Ravens Monday, Oct. 5, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
There are still mistakes he's made that need correcting, and assessing his play is a week-to-week process that doesn't afford him the luxury of projecting him to play at a high level every single game for the rest of the season.
"I just think it's week to week, it's day to day," Cousins said. "I don't know that you ever say, 'I'm starting to play well now' or 'I wasn't playing well then.' I mean, it's just, who knows? You can win two games in a row, if you lose this week, now it's, 'Cousins isn't playing well and doesn't know what he's doing.' So I just take it one game at a time and do the best I can one play at a time. The old adage, those three words: Do your job. I just try to do my job and I think that gives me the best chance to try to play successfully." 5. Losing a bet can still be a good thing.
Because Michigan State played Indiana last Saturday, and because quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Nate Sudfeld are alumni from those schools, respectively, a bet was made.
The Hoosiers surprisingly beat the Spartans, which meant that Cousins had to wear a bright red Indiana sweatshirt while speaking to the reporters at the podium on Wednesday. Cousins explained, however, that some good was coming out of the bet as well.
"Indiana got the better of the Spartans, but it was all good," Cousins said. "We did something a little unique. I said if Michigan State wins, you've got to give a donation to my youth football camp back in Michigan for next summer. But if Indiana wins, I'll give to the ministry that he supports, which is Assist International that does a lot of work in developing countries. We based it on a percentage of salary, so Assist International is going to get a good check [laughter]. Happy to do it. It's a good thing. So I'm rocking the sweatshirt with pride and going to make that donation."