ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Five passes for five completions and 39 yards is the balance of Kirk Cousins’ preseason so far. He may not like that, but he’s OK with it.
Now the Washington Redskins’ unquestioned starting quarterback, Cousins isn’t concerned about the light workload heading into the third preseason game Friday night against the Buffalo Bills. The so-called dress rehearsal will be the only chance for Cousins and several other starters to prepare for the regular season with actual game action.
Cousins feels like he has thrown more than five passes because of all the ones he has thrown in practice. Yet he still sees a benefit in preseason play, however much or little he gets of it.
“I don’t know that I need to play in four, but to play in some is very helpful,” Cousins said this week. “I think that’s what this Friday night will be all about is getting that rhythm so that when we do go out against the Steelers on Monday night, you feel like you’ve been there and you’re ready to go and it hasn’t been too long since you last took a snap in the stadium in a game-like atmosphere against a different opponent.”
Coach Jay Gruden opted to rest Cousins, receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Will Compton and cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland last week against the New York Jets. None are expected to play in the preseason finale next week at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, making the Bills game an important test.
Cousins and the starters should play the entire first half, Gruden said, but that’s not set in stone. The game doesn’t count, but Cousins has a plan for what he wants to accomplish as an offense.
“We want to be sharp, we want to stay healthy,” Cousins said. “We just want to move the football, convert third downs, stay out on the field and score points, and that really never changes.”
Without top running back Matt Jones (separated shoulder) and banged-up third-down back Chris Thompson, Washington will see what it has in rookies Robert Kelley and Keith Marshall. The challenge is to make sure Cousins and his receivers get enough opportunities while also observing the running backs, but Gruden said that goal is one in the same because coaches need to see as much in pass protection from them as running.
“When you’re talking about the running back position, a lot of it is pass blocking and running routes and getting out on the check-downs and picking up blitzes,” Gruden said Wednesday. “That’s why this is such a good game for us because coach (Rex) Ryan over there has a great blitz package and those guys have got to be on top of what they’re looking at and their identification. We’ll see how they do.”
Coaches will also get to see how Cousins does with some game rust. But he’s a different quarterback now than as a backup or someone competing for the job, and it has changed his approach through training camp and the preseason.
Cousins wanted to play well enough as a backup to make coaches say, “We can’t wait for this guy to get on the field. It may not be this Sunday, it may not be this season, but, boy, it’s exciting to see the way he practices and how efficient he is. We can’t wait to see what he’d do in a real game.” Without competition, the 28-year-old gears up for the regular season.
“I’ve heard guys say, ‘Training camp is my Super Bowl’ for some of the guys who are fighting for roster spots,” Cousins said. “So, when you’re not fighting for that roster spot necessarily day in and day out, you can just build towards Week 1 and maybe test to see, ‘Can I fit that ball in there, how can I learn from this rep,’ and, you know, try some different things that you may fail in practice, but only for the purpose of building to be better come the first game of the regular season.”