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Need to Know: Did Kirk Cousins over prepare for the Redskins' 2016 season?

Need to Know: Did Kirk Cousins over prepare for the Redskins' 2016 season?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 16, 41 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 29
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 55
—Season opener Eagles @ Redskins (9/10) 86

Did Cousins over prepare for 2016?

Kirk Cousins was not as good down the stretch in 2016 as he was in 2015. The numbers don’t lie:

The difference is stark. Last year he broke most of the team’s major single-season passing records and it felt like he accomplished a lot. This year, he broke his own records but given the way he finished it feels more like he compiled empty stats.

The Redskins’ record doesn’t lie, either. They went 4-1 in their last five games on their way to the division title in 2015. Last year they stumbled, going 2-3 and missing out on the playoffs.

Perhaps we now know why Cousins seemed to hit the wall after playing very well for the first 11 games. This is what he said when asked what his focus would be during the six-week break between the end of minicamp and the July 27 start of training camp.

“My focus is to rest and recover and get my mind in a place where come Week 11, 12, 13, I’m fully energized and ready to go,” he said. “I think that’s key. I do believe that last year I remember watching film for the Steelers Week 1 and it hit me that we hadn’t played a game yet, technically. I felt like I had been going a million miles an hour since the previous end of the playoff game against the Packers. I was almost worn out, if you will, before the season started, because I had pushed so hard to be top of my game in OTA one, and training camp practice one, and preseason game one.”

It would be logical to infer that Cousins didn’t believe that he was “fully energized and ready to go” when December rolled around last year. In his first offseason where he was the starter from the very beginning of the cycle, he went at it too hard.

“I think I was treating every day like it was Monday Night Football against the Steelers,” he said. “I think if you do that 365 days a year, there’s a thing called burnout. OK, you might get it year six, you might get it year 10, but eventually, you’re going to burn out. I just realized , OK… It was like Wednesday before the Steelers game, I said literally everything I have done to this point, which I felt like was a lot, means nothing. It has no value of any kind. You know, when the season is over, I will not be measured on any of it. And, so, that hit me like, ‘Now it counts, now I’ve got to be ready, and I’m pretty exhausted.’ So, that’s all I was trying to get at.”

To remedy this, Cousins has decided to take some time off to refresh himself mentally.

“You know, just enjoying the summer, taking time to get away, spending time with family is all positive things,” he said. “Even right now, just spending time, you know, playing golf, enjoying the time off rather than going over the plays 80 times.”

We don’t see what Cousins does when he is not at Redskins Park but there was some tangible evidence of his more relaxed approach during the OTAs and minicamp that were open to the media. Last year he tended to celebrate touchdown passes and even some third-down completions as though they had taken place in the Super Bowl. This year, he let his teammates know he appreciated their efforts in a more subtle manner.

This does not mean that Cousins will completely get away from football for six weeks. He’s looking for some middle ground.

“It’s a balance. Life, you know, in the middle lies virtue,” he said. “It’s never prepare, prepare, prepare like crazy with no rest and it’s never, ‘Hey, I don’t need to prepare. I can just show up.’ Somewhere is I think the healthy medium and that is what I am always trying to find.”

We will start to find out how well his approach works starting in September. But the proof will come in December when the Redskins will need Cousins to help them win down the stretch to stay relevant in the playoff race.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

Terrelle Pryor reportedly working out with special glasses based on Antonio Brown's advice

New Redskins receiver Terrelle Pryor has been working out with Steelers All-Pro Antonio Brown this offseason. 

The pair documented their receiving drills, ladder drills and even yoga on social media. But what you didn't see, according to ESPN's John Keim, is Pryor practicing with special glasses that Brown recommended. 

Based on Brown’s advice, Pryor has also worn special sunglasses during offseason workouts, designed to prevent him from seeing an object – in this case the ball – until it is almost upon him. Sometimes he takes his gloves off, just to get a feel for the ball with his hands.

The glasses Keim describes sound more like blinders, or even tunnel vision, but the idea is to help Pryor get an instinctive feel for running routes. 

Despite putting up 1,007 receiving yards with the Browns last year, Pryor has only played the position since 2015. His first four seasons in the NFL were spent trying to make a roster playing quarterback. 

Now penciled into a starting receiver role for the Redskins, he knows he has a lot of catching up to do. 

"The good ones, they ask questions and never think they’ve got it. They always want to learn," Pryor said, "I’m not calling myself a great one, but I think I can get there."

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins Playbook: Some good news for Kirk Cousins

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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