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Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins looks for balance between fire and ice

Need to Know: Redskins' Cousins looks for balance between fire and ice

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, November 5, three days before the Redskins visit the New England Patriots.

Read and react

Here are some quotes from around Redskins Park on Wednesday and my thoughts on them.

Jason Hatcher on the importance of Sunday’s game and about the Redskins playing as big underdogs.
Every game's a must-win. We intend to win around here. Every game you play is big. Every game is the most important game of your career. So every game to me is a must win . . . You've got to play. There's grown men out there. You've got to play football, I don't care who you are. Redskins, 14-point underdogs, you've got to play.
Reaction: What a lot of fans and media types don’t get is that all games are important to the players and they sincerely believe they have a good chance of winning every time they take the field. They work all their lives to get to the NFL, work countless hours in the offseason and in training camp and during the season to be able to do what they love to do 16 times a year. That’s not very many opportunities. In the latter part, he's saying that no matter what the public might think, the Patriots will have to play well to beat them. Unfortunately, Bill Belichick's guy's almost always do.

Kirk Cousins on balancing the fire he showed in the “You like that!” video clip with the need to be calm in the huddle:
Finding that balance is important. I think that’s a constant learning process as I play to say, ‘OK, where do I operate best?’ It talked experience and time. There’s a level of wanting to bring that fire and passion because hopefully it can raise the level of play of the guys around you, too. Then also you want to stay poised and stay collected, operate like a CEO.
Reaction: The viral video from after the Bucs win was not the first time that Cousins has shown emotion in the tunnel. The CSN cameras are there after every game and have captured him letting off some steam before. It hard, especially for a quarterback, to find that balance. A defensive lineman can be a screaming maniac as soon as the huddle breaks and after the play. The quarterback needs to stay in command and start thinking about the next play as soon as the whistle blows. It’s a constant battle.

Jay Gruden on DE Chris Baker’s solid season so far:
“I think he’s been our most disruptive lineman, which is good. He’s been good in the pass rush, and obviously in the run game he gets great penetration. The great challenge for him is can he do it on a consistent basis? I tell all our guys, you take one play off against these guys, man, and you’ll be trying to get ready to block the extra point . . . Chris has done an outstanding job of that so far. We need it more consistent to move forward.”
Reaction: Frequently when a veteran player improves from one year to another, it’s not because he discovered something new or because he all of a sudden gained abilities at age 28 that he didn’t have at age 27. His play improves because he becomes more consistent. It’s not as easy as it sounds. It takes a lot of work on details and tremendous focus. I haven’t always been convinced that Baker gets it. He didn’t always seem to take things seriously enough. It appears that he does now.

DeAngelo Hall on what makes the Patriots so successful.
I just think they know who they are and are comfortable in their skin. I think they just bring in guys who fit what they want them to do. Whether that's getting another tight end in Chandler from Buffalo. With Hernandez and Gronk they had two, they were able to run or pass out of any formation. They kind of have that same thing now. Having Kevin Faulk, kind of a scat back, then Shane Vereen the last couple of year, they go find Dion Lewis, he kind of does the same thing, maybe even better . . . I just think they've done a good job of knowing who they are.
Reaction: The Patriots are reaping the fruits of stability. Bill Belichick is in his 16th season there and with control over personnel he has had the opportunity to build the team and then replace players as they leave as free agents, get injured, or just become ineffective. This is every GM’s dream and what Scot McCloughan wants to accomplish with the Redskins. But it takes time. Oh, and getting lucky with a sixth round pick and getting a Hall of Fame quarterback doesn’t hurt, either.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Practice 11:35; Jay Gruden and Joe Barry news conferences and player availability after practice, approx. 1:30

Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 3; Saints @ Redskins 10; Redskins @ Panthers 17

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Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Accentuating the negative leads to positive results for Chris Thompson

Some NFL players ooze confidence. They thrive on emphasizing what they do well and not speaking about weaknesses. In a game as tough and physical as pro football, some players need to feel bulletproof to survive.

Chris Thompson is not like that. He was one of the stars in the Redskins’ 27-20 win over the Rams on Sunday. He rushed three times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught three passes for 29 yards. And while he enjoyed the win, he did not revel in his performance as he made a glaring mistake.

RELATED: JAY GRUDEN NOT INCREASING THOMPSON'S WORKLOAD

In the third quarter, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw him a perfect pass over the middle. The speedy Thompson had nothing but green grass and white stripes in front of him. But he dropped the pass, turning what likely would have been a 62-yard touchdown into an incompletion.

That play stuck with him despite his touchdown runs of 61 and seven yards.

“I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “On the plane ride, getting dressed after the game, this morning watching film, when I was outside at practice, I was thinking about that one play. My first thing I wanted to do when I got out there in individuals with the quarterbacks was to run that route again and catch the ball.”

FANTASY: TO START CHRIS THOMPSON OR NOT?

Instead of reliving his glory, he went to work to correct one mistake.

This is not a lone instance of Thompson focusing on negative plays that he made. He said that mistakes stick in his mind more than good plays. During a few minutes talking to reporters on Wednesday, he recalled going the wrong way on a choice route against the Dolphins in 2015, costing a possible touchdown, making a similar mistake against the Browns last year, and errors that led to sacks of Cousins last year and of Robert Griffin III a few years ago.

“All of those things that I look back at that I did wrong, it helped me become a better player this year,” said Thompson. “I’ve been able to go back and look at that and see what went wrong and fix it now. As of late as I’ve become more confident in what I’m doing and more confident in my abilities I’m able to play better.”

Whatever Thompson is doing to become a better player is working. He signed a two-year contract extension earlier this month. Jay Gruden sings his praises whenever he’s asked about him. His teammates almost universally admire and respect him. In his fifth NFL season, many analysts around the league are starting to recognize him as a main cog in the Redskins’ offense.

It is unlikely that he will change his approach.

“I had to mess up a lot in order to get where I am now,” he said. Thompson will continue to perfect his game by putting his imperfect moments under the microscope. 

MORE REDSKINS: FIVE UNDER PRESSURE VS. RAIDERS

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Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

Redskins Playbook: Cousins, Gruden remain quite confident in offense. Maybe they're right

One of the best offenses in 2016, the Redskins early returns so far in 2017 rank somewhere between underwhelming and underachieving. That does not mean good games aren't coming in the future, however, at least according to head coach Jay Gruden and quarterback Kirk Cousins. 

"I would like to think that as the year goes on the offense gets better and better," Cousins said Wednesday. "Hopefully we take those steps going forward and we just hit our stride and play much better than we have the first two weeks."

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In the first two games of the season, a loss at home to the Eagles in Week 1 and a win in Los Angeles over the Rams, Cousins hasn't played particularly well. Against Philadelphia, he played poorly, accounting for three turnovers and completing just 57 percent of his passes. In LA, he showed progress. No turnovers and his completion percentage jumped up nearly 10 points. 

More importantly, Cousins shined on the final drive of the game, going 3 for 3 and throwing the game-winning touchdown. It was that drive, and a number of near misses in both games, that has Gruden optimistic. 

The coach called the Redskins passing game "very, very close" to hitting on all cylinders.

"There is a lot we can improve on in the passing game, from Kirk to the routes to the protection. It’s a work in progress, but we will get there," Gruden said Monday. "We have total faith that we will get it done and his numbers will get better."

Considered in a certain way, he's right. 

In Week 1, the Redskins offensive line struggled and Cousins was sacked four times. The run game got nothing going, generating just 64 yards on the ground. Cousins was able to throw for 240 yards, and despite all the turnovers, the offense still had a chance to steal a win late in the fourth quarter. 

In Week 2, the Redskins line blocked better and the run game produced at a high level. Cousins' yardage total was quite low, only 179 yards, but a big gainer got dropped and a few other opportunities were missed. 

Cousins supporters will scream about passes being dropped in Weeks 1 and 2. Cousins detractors will scream about passes missed in Weeks 1 and 2.

READ MORE: KIRK COUSINS' HITS AND MISSES FROM WEEK 2

The truth is likely in the middle. There is a solid baseline of production from Cousins from the last two seasons, and clearly Gruden expects that to come. Perhaps Week 3 against Oakland will be the opportunity. 

"We’re just going to keep sticking with the plan, getting these guys open the best way we can and hopefully we give Kirk the protection and he sees the throws and makes the throws," Gruden said. "But we’re right there, really. I like the group that we have."

The 2016 Redskins finished third in the league in total yards gained. Obviously the team lost a ton of production with the exits of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. Don't discount that, or the departure of former offensive coordinator Sean McVay. 

Despite all that, Cousins still has weapons. And talent. He knows he can be better, and knows he needs to be better.

"We have still done some really good things the first two weeks and have moved the ball, but I think there is more in the tank there that we have got to bring out,” Cousins said. 

To beat the Raiders, the Redskins will need to bring everything out of the tank. That likely means a 300-yard passing game from Cousins along with multiple touchdowns. 

The quarterback and the coach think the offense is ready, and close to a breakout game. Maybe they're right. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!