Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Trent Williams' media session with reporters on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
1. He took stock of the offense during the bye week:
The bye week is a chance for rest and relaxation and also a time to reflect on everything that has taken place over the course of the season. Cousins definitely participated in the latter to analyze his and the offense's play through eight games – a nice sample size that some teams aren't afforded with earlier bye weeks in the year.
"I think last year that was a benefit for us to be able to go into the second half of the season with a better understanding of what was working and what wasn't," Cousins said. "Hopefully we can have a similar improvement as a result of this year's bye week, but we do feel like we've been productive as far as moving the football."
Cousins knows that with all the offense the Redskins amassed, especially in their game in London, the point total needs to find some equivalency.
"I've stood up here and said that and we feel like we need to score more points," Cousins said. "Whether that means just converting more third downs, converting more short yardage, being better in the red zone, those are the ways I think we can be better in the points category."
2. The Vikings defense has many smart players
While the Vikings have lost three consecutive games, their defense remains extremely challenging for opposing offenses. Minnesota's defense is first in points per game (15.8), third in yards per game (298.9) and third in yards per play (4.8).
Up front, defensive tackle Linval Joseph is handful to deal with – he's recorded 35 tackles and three sacks -- while linebacker Anthony Barr has been strong up the middle with 32 tackles and a sack. At safety, Harrison Smith has nearly matched his tackle total from last year through eight games, totaling 56 with one sack.
The challenging aspect for Cousins is the unit's continuity with each member of the group.
"It starts there with Coach [Mike] Zimmer and his scheme," Cousins said. "And in addition, they've got really good players. And in addition to having really good players, they've played together now for a few years so they have continuity and they're very smart football players. They're not just good athletes but they're smart, aware players. When you combine all that, it makes for a really tough unit. And we'll have our hands full across the board – the defensive line, the linebackers and the secondary. So it's a great challenge for us though. That's what we're excited about, to see how we measure up against a very good unit."
3. Red zone struggles have a couple of cures:
It's no question the Redskins have played differently in the red zone this year, and it's made an impact considering nearly every game has come down to the final few drives.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' offense preparing for their Week 10 game against the Minnesota Vikings Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2016, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
Washington is ranked 30th in red zone scoring percentage (40.6 percent) while last year they ranked 11th, scoring 58.4 percent of the time. One of the ways Cousins acknowledged the team can get better is by avoiding poorly thrown passes that lead to interceptions. That's a no-brainer. He was also critical of how he might find opportunities if his first reads don't take him there.
"I think there are times where in the rhythm of the play guys aren't going to always be open," Cousins said. "You know, if teams play max coverages and cover people, maybe everyone's not open and that's where I look and say, 'Can I scramble? Can I make a play off-schedule?' So those would be the two things that come to mind personally for me that I can try to improve down in the red zone."
The Vikings rank 20th in the league in red zone defense, allowing opponents to score in the 57.89 percent of the time, which should help Cousins and co. a little more inside the 20-yard line.
4. Cousins believes Ty Nsekhe is ready at left tackle:
The Redskins will lose left tackle Trent Williams for the next four games due to suspension, so they will rely on journeyman Ty Nsekhe to slide in and fill the All-Pro's void. Cousins knows the veteran will be ready for the opportunity, and has already gotten a sample of his play at left tackle this season.
Against the Giants in Week 3, he was forced into action at left tackle while Williams moved to left guard to account for injuries to center Trent Williams and Shawn Lauvao. Cousins knows about Nsekhe's long road to getting this opportunity and admires his perseverance.
"He's got a big frame and it really helps to have that size and he's worked really hard," Cousins said. "So it hasn't been an easy path, but so many of these guys in an NFL locker room, they wouldn't be here if they had given up at the first sign of adversity. So Ty's a great example of someone who just kept pushing and kept going and now he's in a great position to be successful."
5. Jamison Crowder makes him more accurate:
It's no question wide receiver Jamison Crowder has been one of Cousins' favorite target over the first eight games of the season. Now in his sophomore year, Crowder has taken some bigger strides and has already doubled his touchdown production this season, hauling in four scores.
His 40 receptions are second behind tight end Jordan Reed this season but Crowder leads the team in receiving yards with 498. Often lining up in the slot, his ability to break free of defenders in open space has allowed him more targets, and his long arms, as Cousins noted Wednesday, make the quarterback feel as though he's even more accurate on his throws. "Jamison has long arms for his height, so sometimes his catch radius is bigger than it may look," Cousins said. "I think we've seen that on a couple of the catches that he's made through the last couple of years that he can be an easier target than he may look at his size. He's a friendly target. I feel like sometimes he makes me a more accurate quarterback with the way that he chases down the football and brings it in. He's a great player for us and makes a lot of plays [and] we have got to find ways to continue to get him the football."