Cousins Says Steelers Forced Him To Make Off-Schedule Plays

WASHINGTON — “I feel far more prepared for the regular season this preseason than I ever did in past preseasons, when I played more in games, because of all those practices in Richmond, all those practices going back to May and June. I was getting so many more reps and I feel that foundation is much, much stronger than it would have been in previous seasons as a backup.”

That was Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins after Washington’s final preseason game — in which neither he, nor 24 other starters, played — and roughly a week and half before Washington was blown out 38-16 at home, by the Steelers, in their nationally televised regular season opener Monday night.

Cousins, who played in less than three preseason quarters, completed 30 of 43 passes for 329 yards against Pittsburgh, but had no touchdowns and threw two interceptions, the second to James Harrison in the Steelers end zone to end the game.

The lack of preseason reps against first-team defenses, Cousins insists, wasn’t as much of a factor as it may appear.

“No, I don’t think that the preseason playing time made a big difference,” Cousins said Tuesday on 106.7 The Fan’s Under Center, driven by the Lindsay Automotive Group.

“You always have the benefit of hindsight if you knew everyone was gonna come out healthy,” he said. “I mean if we knew everyone was gonna come out healthy, we probably would have played all four games and every single play in all four games, because it’s worth the practice and the reps and the improvement. Hindsight’s 20-20.

“But I think we have to balance that with being smart and that’s what we were trying to do. We have had a lot of practice reps together, and I think that ultimately it’s about going out there and playing well and we had the plays and the people last night to do it, and we just didn’t get it done mechanically. We’ll just get back to work and be hard on ourselves, and then come back with a lot of energy tomorrow, practice and just get ready for the next week, as life in the NFL tends to be.”

Cousins explained the Steelers created a need for him to make off-schedule plays, an area he admittedly needs to improve, by dropping eight defenders into coverage.

“When you get a three-man rush, you know, when they drop eight guys in coverage,” Cousins said, “there’s a good chance, when you’re putting five eligibles out there and they’ve got eight guys to cover those five, the numbers are against you and so the chance for everybody to be open, or people to be open, in the rhythm of the play is pretty rare, so you end up having to make plays off-schedule when they only rush three guys.”

“I think that happened last night a few times where I’m looking for somebody in rhythm,” he said. “But with them dropping eight guys, that may not be the case, so I’ve got to be able to scramble, extend plays.”

While Cousins didn’t take any sacks, he spoke of trying to find that fine line between getting rid of the ball quickly and letting plays fully develop, including opportunities to extend plays.

“I dropped back or had 43 pass attempts and didn’t take a sack,” he said. “And so there’s a balance there of you don’t want to take a lot of sacks — that’ll kill drives just like penalties and turnovers — but at the same time, you take no sacks, maybe there’s an extreme there where you’re not extending plays, not trying to create a little bit.”

“Obviously you don’t want those strip-fumbles and guys coming from behind that you don’t see,” he continued. “And there’s an advantage to getting the ball out of your hand and avoiding negative plays, but sometimes it’s worth taking a sack or two here or there for three or four plays where you scrambled and converted a third down and found somebody.

“That’s something that, it’s hard to coach — you don’t want to just tell a guy to become that player, because it has to hit his brain naturally, so I’ve got to continue to work on that. That’ll be a point of emphasis and, again, only taking it when it’s there. You still want to find the open guy when he’s there, but if he’s not, having that ability to scramble and do something off-schedule I think could take our offense to another level.”

Follow @ChrisLingebach and @1067TheFan on Twitter.

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