Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins' media session with reporters on Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. Yes, being a starter for the entire offseason made a difference.
It wasn't until just days before the Redskins' regular season opener against the Miami Dolphins last season that Cousins was named the starting quarterback, a gig earned through his play during the preseason.
The Michigan State product would share an almost even amount of highs and lows through the first half of the season before truly excelling in the second half of the year, leading a high-powered offense that would land in the playoffs.
Instead of alternating reps with the second- and third-team units for the entire offseason like he did last year, Cousins was able to spend the last few months building on what was laid out last year.
"We should be more explosive," Cousins said. "And I don't want to create an environment where these expectations are now we can't meet them, because we're just supposed to complete every pass now and play perfectly. 'Kirk had all this time as the starter now, and he has so many weapons to throw to that he should go 50-for-50 and throw for 500 yards.' It's not going to be that. But, there's no doubt that the circumstances seem to have been set up in a way where I don't have many excuses, you know?"
Even though the talent is there for another potential record-breaking season, Cousins believes he still has to go out and prove himself this year. Remember, his franchise tag is only for this season.
"We have a great opportunity to go be effective and play well and that's exciting and something for our fans to be excited about," Cousins said. "But, we've got to go out and prove it. You know, we've got to go out and play well and right now it's just talk and it doesn't mean a whole lot. So, check back with me in several weeks down the road."
2. Part of the run game's success depends on what Cousins is calling in the huddle.
Perhaps one of the more talked about topics for the Redskins recently has been the team's struggles running the ball last season and whether they've done enough to correct the issue.
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Matt Jones, Chris Thompson and Alfred Morris combined for just four rushing touchdowns with quite a few games in which the Redskins were held well under 100 rushing yards last year.
As they look to be stronger on the ground this season, Cousins believes he can play his part, too.
"My role in the run game is to get us into the right plays and not be running the ball into bad looks," Cousins said. "My job is to be excellent with my backfield action so hopefully I can, in my fake, hold the defensive end or hold the players so that they're not running against a guy who's unblocked. So I look at what I can do to help the run game."
Of course, having a strong passing game certainly helps.
"I think if we can throw the ball effectively, that probably should help the run game in theory," Cousins said. "and we'll continue to try to do that and trust that if we do, good things will happen."
3. Kory Lichtensteiger is an important cog on a high scoring offense.
Entering his third season as the Redskins' starting center, Lichtensteiger makes a "big difference" for the offense as he's essentially the quarterback of an offensive line that is still relatively young.
"It's quite a bit of mental, making calls, and being composed and being able to identify fronts and pressures, and then knowing what the proper call is in a split-second," Cousins said. "I can't afford to wait. I have got to react to his call and then make my decisions. So he's got to be a quick thinker and those guys are hard to find."
Cousins added that even though the Redskins have tried to bring in other centers, it's been hard to replace Lichtensteiger.
"You can't just roll anyone out there," Cousins said. "You need someone who can accurately shotgun snap, who can effectively snap the football consistently. There are a lot of nuances that go into playing the center position and it's hard to just plug a guy in who may not have had a lot of experience doing that in the past."
4. When DeSean Jackson "wants to be elite, he's elite."
Go ahead and look through Jackson's bio to see all that he's accomplished in his career to date. He's a three-time Pro Bowler who has averaged nearly 18 yards per catch in his first eight seasons.
In his two seasons with the Redskins, Jackson has totaled more than 1,700 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 24 games.
Oh, and he also has a little bit of speed, too.
"He's the real deal on every single route in the playbook, in the route tree," Cousins said. "He can run every single one of them. He plays bigger than his size. He's made some catches here in the preseason that show that he plays much bigger than his size. I'm just continuing to build more and more confidence in him and really believe that when he wants to be elite, it's as good as anybody out there."
5. A consistent Steelers defense will be a tough first test.
Before facing the familiar foes in the Cowboys and Giants, Cousins will face the Steelers for the first time in the regular season.
Pittsburgh's defense has been consistent for decades now according to Cousins, and he expects no different from the unit on Monday night at FedExField.
The Steelers were particularly dominant against the run. In the offseason, they revamped the secondary, too.
"They play very, very hard. They play fast," Cousins said. "I just think it's a culture and a defense that they can plug people in that may not be very experienced or that may be new, but they can still be very effective. It's a challenge for us. They'll bring a lot of different pressures and fronts and personnel groupings. We've got to be on the screws when it comes to recognizing those things and reacting accordingly. I have a lot of respect for their defense and they'll present a great challenge."