WASHINGTON — The Ravens wiped the floor with the Redskins last Thursday, both teams’ preseason opener.
Kirk Cousins played only two series, completing one of two passes for five yards and taking a sack while failing to advance for a first down. In total, the Redskins pieced together 138 yards on the day in the 23-3 loss.
“We want to be reminded of what can happen if we’re not at our best, and how small of a margin for error we have,” Cousins said, spinning the loss into a positive. “A lot of times in the offseason, people are patting you on the back. They forget about the negative plays, they’re excited for the season, they’re telling you how great you are, and the last thing you want to do is go into Week 1 feeling that way.”
“You want to feel like this is going to be a grind and I’ve got to be on it every single day to have a chance, and that’s the right mindset,” he said. “And so if it takes a bit of a grind through the preseason to get there, then so be it, but there’s no doubt that we want to be in the right place going into Week 1.”
“I grew up in Michigan and obviously followed the Detroit Lions, and I believe — I’m not sure, but I believe — the year that the Lions went 0-16, they went 4-0 in the preseason,” he said. Indeed, the 2008 Lions beat the Giants, Bengals, Browns and Bills that preseason.
“That was about all I needed to prove to me that the preseason doesn’t mean a whole lot in terms of the final score,” Cousins added. “But there’s still a product you’re putting out on the field when you’re out there that I think does reflect on where your team’s at, and we certainly need to be much sharper come Saturday.”
Injury note: Asked if he expects to have Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson and Terrelle Pryor all back in time for the season opener, Cousins said, “That is my expectation, yes.”
“If you were to say, ‘What are you concerned about,’ it really wasn’t Thursday night’s performance,” Cousins said. “I think a lot of that, again, goes back to preparation, the time you have to go over that stuff, talk about it, get reps.
“I think my bigger concern right now is the amounts of days and reps that I’ve been in, but haven’t been going with, alongside the guys I’m going to be playing with come Week 1 when it really matters. I talk about how important these reps are and we haven’t been able to get them.”
“Fortunately, guys like Jordan Reed — yeah, I’ve played with him for a while,” he said. “Jamison Crowder, we’ve got a lot of time built up. But at the same time, you still want to keep building that and the fact is, the injuries haven’t allowed us to do that this training camp.
“It’s helped fill our depth, it’s helped get other guys involved with the one offense to get them experience and develop their abilities, but it wasn’t ideal to be missing these guys for so much of training camp when that’s really when you’re trying to build your offense and build your team.”
Cousins fanatically dissected the catch-22 teams are left in with the current training camp structure. All it took to get him going on the topic was to ask him about the sophistication of NFL offenses.
“As a bit of a football nerd, I think this is a fascinating topic because football’s only getting more complicated,” Cousins said. “They’re not simplifying the game. If you go back 20 years and what defenses were doing to what they’re doing now, it’s only getting more complex, and yet, the time to practice and prepare is less and less.
“There’s a lot of benefits to reducing the practices and reducing the physicality; you hear about CTE, and you hear about all the guys on our team who are injured, who aren’t practicing. If we practice more, and more and more, that’s only going to increase the number of guys who are beat up.
“There’s advantages to pulling back a little bit, dialing it back, having more walkthroughs, getting more mental reps in order to save our bodies and hopefully prolong our careers, and prolong the investment that the team’s making in us.”
“But that being said, I know from my standpoint, I came in under the new CBA,” he said. “I was playing with an offseason program and a training camp structure that was far reduced from what the quarterbacks we’re competing against prepared under when they were young players — you know, the Tom Bradys, the Drew Breess.
“When those guys came into the league in the late 90s and early 2000s, they had full two-a-days all through August and late July, they had a much longer offseason program and so there were far more reps to go around, far more preparation to be had.
“Young offensive linemen were able to develop more quickly because of the added reps, but the challenge there was those guys were also physically getting beat up more. You take the good with the bad, but there’s no doubt that you’re going to progress much quicker as a player if we have more two-a-days, if we have a longer offseason program.”
“That’s not necessarily something I’m advocating for,” he clarified. “But there’s no doubt it’s going to help preparation. The NFL has to balance the player health and safety, and we as players have to balance that with how do we want to invest in our careers, such that we are developing and able to mentally keep up, such that we can stay in this league and hang with the veterans who we’re competing against for spots.”
Cousins also has a unique perspective on conducting joint practices during training camp, a trend that’s becoming more routine around the league but one the Redskins haven’t experienced since they hosted the Patriots in Richmond in 2014.
“Do you feel like you’re missing out?” Rouhier asked.
“Well, that’s always going to be something I want to do,” Cousins said. “I’m going to want to practice against other teams every year, as much as possible. It does give us another look, a different feel.”
“We’re going against the same defense every day — we know them inside and out, they know all of our calls, all of our snap counts — so the familiarity there starts to give you an unrealistic picture of what a real game is going to be like,” he said.
“Even the divisional teams that we play against, and some of the same players we’ve played year in and year out, there’s still less familiarity there than there would be going against our same defense in practice day after day.”
“It would be nice. It would be an added benefit of training camp,” he said. “It seems like more and more teams are doing it, and hopefully in the future we can find a way to make it work, but it also takes two teams. Sometimes, logistically, because we can’t leave Richmond, we need someone to come to us and they haven’t been willing to do that, so you’ve got to find the flexibility on both sides to make it work.”