Kirk Cousins has never been among the fastest or most elusive players on the field, and the Redskins didn’t draft him in 2012 for his scrambling ability. “He is a good athlete who can make plays on the run, but is not going to run past many NFL defenders,” reads Cousins’s scouting combine profile, which has proven accurate over the first five years of his NFL career. Cousins has 90 carries in 50 career games, and while a quarter of a season is a small sample size, he has tucked the ball and run more often and more effectively in 2017 than ever before.
In Monday’s 29-20 loss to the Chiefs, Cousins ran seven times for 38 yards, both career highs. Some of his runs, including a bootleg on fourth and one in the first quarter, were successful. Others, including a keeper on a zone-read play on third and goal later in the same drive, were less so, and likely left fans just hoping Washington’s $23.9 million quarterback would get up.
During Tuesday’s 106.7 “Grant and Danny” show on 106.7 The Fan, co-host Grant Paulsen pointed out than Cousins has now rushed for at least 30 yards twice in four games this season after reaching that total only once in his first 46 games. Then Paulsen asked Cousins what’s up with his newfound wheels.
“I think it’s two things,” Cousins said. “One, I think having played longer and having a better feel for coverages, and pocket presence and feeling the rush, and kind of knowing when my clock goes off, all those things that come with playing. Because when you’re practicing, I have a jersey on that says they can’t hit me, and so it’s hard to really get a true feel for the pass rush and when to take off and run in practice. Now that I’m playing more and more and more in games, I think that’s going to constantly improve. And then secondly, I really do credit the training I do in the offseason. I’ve just continued to move better and better each year, as I’ve gotten a better feel for what my needs are in my training and how to best prepare my body. I just feel like when I do take off and run, or when I move around, I just have a little bit more juice in me than maybe I did a couple of years ago. That’s been encouraging as well.”
Three of Cousins’s seven rushing attempts Monday came on the fourth-quarter drive that culminated in Dustin Hopkins’s game-tying field goal with less than a minute to play. On third and eight, Cousins scrambled for 10 yards and absorbed a big hit at the end of the play. Later in the drive, he picked up 23 yards on two carries on opposite sides of the two-minute warning.
“It was a great play-call by Jay to get us going with the play-action pass the first play of that drive. That kind of got us going, and then from there, yeah, we had a few opportunities to scramble versus man coverage and then had to settle the field goal because we couldn’t quite convert that third down,” Cousins said.
Cousins’s 38 yards on the ground led the Redskins on Monday, and his 30 yards on four carries in Week 1 tied Rob Kelley for the team high. Perhaps not surprisingly, Washington lost both games. Kelley left the game in the first half with an ankle injury, and Perine fumbled a toss to kill the momentum on a second-half drive. That Cousins seems to have a better feel for when to tuck the ball and run when his receivers are covered is a good thing, but Washington still needs some threat of a running game — from its actual running backs — to open up passing lanes.
With the Redskins’ offense running only 50 total plays against the Chiefs, Cousins said there simply weren’t enough opportunities to get Chris Thompson involved. The Redskins’ best offensive player over the first three weeks was limited to six carries for 23 yards and only one reception. Meanwhile, wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. had three catches for 70 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown on Washington’s first drive of the game and a crucial drop in the third quarter. Cousins was asked about Pryor’s early-season struggles and suggested better days are ahead.
“There’s so much potential with Terrelle, and he showed it on the touchdown catch and he’s shown it in other situations,” Cousins said. “He runs right by people, and he has elite speed. He has a lot of length and size. There’s a lot there. We’ve got to pull it out of him, and believe me, he’s working really hard and doing everything he can. He stays after practice, he talks through it, he sits in the front row in meeting rooms, he’s studying, and he’s doing all he can. But he’s only been playing receiver for a few years now. This isn’t something he’s been doing for a decade. I’m still learning what he does well or what he’s most comfortable with. I think there are times where he would rather have a jump ball or a ball stopped to him, than to have to run through the ball. Those are things that I learn as we go. Unfortunately, you kind of have to figure that out early in the season, and sometimes the sacrifice is not making a play. I think as the season goes, we’re going to get better and better. He’s going to start to show up even more, just because I’m going to be able to throw the ball in a way that’s going to make him more comfortable and put him in a position to be successful.”
Cousins, who plans to spend the bye week at home with his family, including his newborn son Cooper, said he thought the offense showed a lot of maturity, resiliency and character in Monday’s loss.
“Based on what we’ve done the first four weeks, I think we have a lot of reason for optimism and excitement going into this stretch here over the next 12 weeks,” he said.
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