Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels provides five takeaways from Kirk Cousins's press conference at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun Co., Va.
1. With the majority of the team's starting offensive linemen injured, Cousins is focused on getting backups ready.
The Redskins will have their work cut out for them this Sunday after another round of injuries suffered last Monday night, this time to the majority of the offensive line. Of the starters, only left guard Shawn Lauvao participated in practice on Thursday, meaning several backups may be called into action this Sunday.
Rookie Chase Roullier lined up at center alongside Tyler Catalina at right guard and T.J. Clemmings at right tackle. Hope remains that left tackle Trent Williams will be able to suit up again against Dallas, along with Brandon Scherff and Morgan Moses, though head coach Jay Gruden said Spencer Long was a longshot to play against the Cowboys.
That means Cousins has been doing everything he can to get adjusted to new linemen in practice in the case that either or all of them need to play.
"I think the focus is on getting the new guys ready and making sure they understand the nuances of the position and the nuances of our offense, trying to make sure that as a unit – as 11 guys – we are working as one," Cousins said. "When you have new people, that can be harder to do, but that is why the practice time is so valuable. So we focus more on the guys who are in there and making sure that it's moving smoothly with whoever the 11 are that are in the huddle."
2. Chase Roullier's experience against the Eagles and during the preseason should help him on Sunday.
In the likely event that the sixth-round draft pick will need to start at center on Sunday, Cousins seemed confident that their rapport will be off to a better start based on their previous opportunities working together.
"Chase did a good job against the Eagles, going against some really good players inside against them," Cousins said. "He] held up well and has shown that he can pass protect well. I mean, he has shown that all the way through OTAs and training camp. So we feel really good about Chase. He's got a good demeanor about himself. He can anchor well and he is only going to get better as a player. Now as a rookie, is it a challenge? Sure, but we feel good about his potential and we just have got to work through growing pains. I think those of us that are veterans have got to be that much better on game day and really help lead and set a good example and make plays."
Cousins rejected the idea that the Redskins will strip down their playbook to help the transition for him and the rest of the offensive line. Cousins expects them to be professionals and said that the team can't prepare to win by filtering out some of the plays and packages.
"So we are going to say 'Hey, we expect big things out of you. There are only 53 guys that we chose to be on this team and if you have one of these spots, we are going to ask a lot out of you and ask you to deliver,'" Cousins said.
3. The Redskins have been efficient with multiple tight end sets because of the matchups they create.
Some of Cousins' best pass plays of the year have been to tight end Vernon Davis, who for the last three games has made at least one big catch, streaking down the seam of the field. Putting teams in their base defenses, so that linebackers are forced to cover Davis, has contributed to this recent success.
The bigger tight end packages also present the threat of a run, Cousins said, facilitating some helpful play action and bootlegs. This has been Cousins' bread and butter, operating with lots of room outside of the pocket and finding a streaker over the field. That was evident in the first half of the Eagles game on a 32-yard completion to Niles Paul.
"You give a greater threat of the ability to be a little more physical at the point of attack," Cousins said of the bigger personnel groups. "So, defenses have to match that typically with an additional linebacker or less defensive backs on the field. When you start to put less defensive backs on the field, we feel like that certainly puts us in an advantageous position to have our athletes at the tight end position maybe have an advantage on a linebacker or a safety at that point."
Cousins said that the offense is always looking for favorable matchups, and having a plethora of options with multiple tight ends in on the play only helps in being more successful.
"I think it can give defenses a lot of challenges as to, 'Do we put a bunch of athletes on the field? Do we put a bunch of guys who can stop the run? How do we defend that?'" Cousins said. "Week to week, teams are going to have a different approach."
4. Cousins believes the Cowboys' defense begins with the tone set by defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
The Cowboys defense hasn't been particularly dominating. They've allowed close to 24 points per game, which ranks 22nd in the league, and more crucially are allowing opponents to convert on third down 44.8 percent of the time, good for 26th in the league.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 8 game against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
The latter statistic will be crucial for the Redskins, who had trouble converting on third-and-short against the Eagles. But as Cousins knows, this rivalry always provides tight, physical games, and that the defense is filled with playmakers capable of changing the game.
"Coach Marinelli, I think he just gets his players playing hard," Cousins said. "There is just great effort from the first snap to the last, all the way through the whistle. All 11 guys play hard and it really stands out on tape as you watch. I still have a lot of respect for Sean Lee. I just feel like when he is healthy that he is as a good of a player that there is that we play all season long. He always challenges us."
Cousins also mentioned defensive end Demarcus Lawrence, who has started his season at a prolific rate, leading the league with 9.5 sacks and providing a substantial challenge for a potential patchwork offensive line this week.
"You see a lot of talent and it just seems like every week that's what we see when we turn on the tape," Cousins said. "Every week it's like 'Man, they're such a talented team and what a great challenge and we can't afford to make mistakes because they will make us pay.'"
5. While the Redskins continue another tough four-game stretch in which every opponent has a winning record, Cousins says the only way to operate is day by day.
It's the only way Cousins knows how to approach the season. Trying not to get caught up with the playoff picture starting to develop midway through the season, Cousins said he's focused on going 1-0 each week.
"I think the best mindset in this league – otherwise you're going to overwhelm yourself and want to take a nap – is to just go 1-0 each week and really 1-0 each day," he said. "I feel like I can spin my wheels sometimes looking at all the challenges we have up ahead and there is such small room for error. But if we just focus on, 'We have to beat the Cowboys on Sunday, let's just look no further than that,' and we can't play the Cowboys until Sunday. So let's just focus on having a great Thursday practice.
"I think if we can do that – take it one day at a time – I think that is our best mindset or our best approach to be successful by the end of the season," Cousins added. "But, yes, the next several games are going to be a challenge, but not only that, I feel like the first nine games have been a challenge when you look at the whole thing. When you look at the Eagles twice, the Chiefs on the road, the Raiders are a good football team, the Rams have proven to be a good football team – it just keeps going. That's the NFL. I guess that's the beauty of it. That's what makes it so fun for fans, but it certainly makes it a great challenge for us as players."