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Cousins appreciates his next, and possibly last, big chance

Cousins appreciates his next, and possibly last, big chance

This Sunday, for the first time since 2011, Kirk Cousins will take the first snap of his team’s season. The game four years ago was in East Lansing, Michigan and Michigan State’s opponent was Youngstown State. This Sunday has the bigger spotlight of the NFL as the Miami Dolphins come to FedEx Field.

Many players in Cousins’ situation would tell you that this Sunday is just another game, another opportunity. But Cousins isn’t afraid to admit how important starting the season opener again is to him.

“That’s certainly a focus for me is being able to understand yes, it’s a big game, yes, it’s important, but I’m the kind of guy who is going to acknowledge that,” said Cousins. “It’s my job to almost stay relaxed and enjoy the process and enjoy the moment, have fun and put a smile on my face. I think that’s certainly a point of emphasis for me this week. Like you said, haven’t been in this position in a few years so it’s a cool opportunity though. Last time I did it, in 2011, the season went alright. It was a good year. Hopefully, we can have the same thing this year.”

The 2011 Spartans went 11-3, losing the Big Ten championship game to Wisconsin. If the Redskins post double digit wins and lose a playoff game the season would certainly be considered “a good year”.

Perhaps more relevant to Cousins immediate situation is that this is his first start since October 19 of last year. In the first half against Tennessee that day he lost a fumble and threw an interception, helping the Titans go into the locker room with a 10-6 lead. Colt McCoy took over in the third quarter, led the team to a comeback win, and Cousins didn’t take a snap again the rest of the year. It gave him time for some thought and for some regret.

“I think, like I said, anytime you have a job to do and you feel like you didn’t get the job done, it’s going to eat at you if you care about it,” he said. For me I deeply care about it and so it was eating at me. It was important then to say, ‘Alright, what do I do now? What do I do about it now?’ Obviously I couldn’t go right back on the field and try to fix it. But that may have been a good thing to just be able to go back and learn from it and slowly try to grow and build off of it.”

He was the inactive third quarterback for much of the rest of the season so he did not need to spend time going into the coming week’s opponent in great detail. Cousins spent time looking at film of successful quarterbacks and of himself.

“I felt like, I’ll go back and just study my own game and try to improve my own perspective,” he said. “You’re always looking at how can I get better, with the circumstances around me and the situation I am in. What can I do to get better and deliberately practice, whatever that is.”

Quarterbacks don’t often get another chance if they are buried on the bench like Cousins was last year.

We will see how much Cousins’ self-study pays off starting with his next, and perhaps last, big opportunity on Sunday.

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Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Redskins offseason questions: Can Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

The good news for the 2016 Redskins was that they didn’t collapse after winning the division the previous season as has been their pattern in the past. The bad news was that they didn’t take the next step and improve from a franchise that can compete to make the playoffs into one that is playing multiple postseason games year in and year out.

That work begins right now for Jay Gruden, Scot McCloughan and the players. In the coming weeks, Redskins reporters Rich Tandler and JP Finlay will examine the biggest questions facing the Redskins as another offseason gets rolling.

RELATED: #RedskinsTalk podcast: Is Kirk too nice?

Will Kirk Cousins take the next step in 2017?

Finlay: The better question might be what constitutes the next step for Cousins? And going one step further, will it be with the Redskins? Answering the second part first, Cousins will be the 'Skins quarterback in 2017. Taking the next step is trickier, since the passer has thrown for more than 9,000 yards in the last two seasons.

For me, Cousins can still get much better, particularly in the red zone. If the Redskins scored at the same pace they pile up yards, this team would have won 11 games in 2016. 

In 2016, Cousins ranked 3rd in the NFL in passing yards, yet outside of the Top 10 in TDs with 25. To really enter the next phase of his career, Cousins needs to lead an offense that scores more, and that means 30+ touchdowns. He can do it. 

Tandler: I don’t look at the next step for Cousins being about numbers. Sure, maybe he can throw for 5,000 yards and 30-plus touchdowns on year. But being a top quarterback is more than that.

I want to see him go into Seattle next year and rally the Redskins from a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter. I want to see him go into a playoff game and, unlike what happened against the Packers after the 2015 season, will the team to a win when the Redskins aren’t playing their best and when a QB like Aaron Rodgers is on the other side. I want to see him glare at a lineman who missed an assignment and correct a receiver who went the wrong way on a route.

To be sure, he has led the team to some comeback wins and he has played very well in some key games, like the division-clinching win in Philadelphia in 2015. But a top-flight quarterback can’t essentially negate one of those with a play like the season-ending pick against the Giants. Sure, any quarterback is going to have an off day. But you have to have more pluses than minuses on the ledger.

Cousins has been a starter for just two years so maybe he can develop into a top-shelf quarterback. Putting up good stats is part of the picture but he won’t be there until he elevates and motivates those around him. Maybe he can take that next step but until he does there is no way of knowing if he will. 

More offseason questions: 

What are reasonable expectations for Josh Doctson?

— Will there be a surprise salary cap cut?

— Should the Redskins defense switch to the 4-3?

— Is Spencer Long the answer at center?

— How many D-linemen do the Redskins need?

— Should the Redskins draft another QB? 

— With Sean McVay gone, will the Redskins run the ball more?

— Can Cravens handle the transition to safety? 

— Will the Redskins re-sign Pierre Garçon? 

— Will Rob Kelley be the lead running back in 2017?

— Defense in the first round?

— Will they make a change at left guard?

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN and @Rich_TandlerCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTuneshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

Some good news from Redskins Park: Josh Doctson running, catching football (VIDEO)

There hasn't been much good news out of Redskins Park lately, as the team deals with pending free agency for QB Kirk Cousins and others combined with rumors of infighting among the front office. So video of 2016 first round pick Josh Doctson running and cutting comes at a great time for beleaguered 'Skins fans. 

Doctson posted the video to his Snapchat account. When he last spoke after the Washington season ended, Doctson made clear he was feeling much better and that '100 percent health' is his main goal this offseason.

His rookie year, however, was a different matter.

The receiver out of TCU missed all but the first two games of the year. Even in those games, he played a very reduced role. Drafted 22nd overall, he had just two catches all year as an obscure Achilles' injuries landed him on the injured reserve. His plight could not be figured out by a slew of doctors and specialists, and the team finally decided to sit down their prized rookie.

A breakout year in 2017 would serve Jay Gruden's squad well, as the team stands to lose DeSean Jackson and/or Pierre Garçon to free agency. It looks likely the 'Skins will lose at least one of their starting WRs, and losing both is a distinct possibility. That could result in more than 2,000 receiving yards leaving the Redskins offense, and the team will need Doctson to pick up a good chunk of that production.

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

Want more Redskins? Check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates or click here for the #RedskinsTalk Podcast on iTunes, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!