Cowboys defensive lineman David Irving bats down a Kirk Cousins pass. (Geoff Burke/USA Today Sports)

With criticism of quarterback Kirk Cousins mounting following his shaky start to the season, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said Monday he has “total faith” that his starting quarterback will play better and called for unity on a squad he described as being in “shock” over its 0-2 start.

“Frustrations will be seen,” Gruden said, alluding to a report that some offensive players are losing confidence in Cousins. “That’s just pro football and the competitive nature of these guys. … But we have to understand that we have a long way to go. We can’t lose faith in one another. Can’t point fingers, can’t blame anybody. We all have to point at ourselves and get ourselves out of this rut.”

Cousins’s off-target throws on crucial downs and a fourth-quarter interception were among several factors that led to the Redskins’ 27-23 loss to the NFC East-rival Dallas Cowboys, who were led by a poised rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott.

While acknowledging that Cousins was “not going to be perfect every week,” Gruden reiterated his confidence in Cousins, who so far has looked nothing like the confident, accurate ball-distributor he was in the second half of the 2015 season.


Coach Jay Gruden talks with quarterback Kirk Cousins after he threw a fourth-quarter interception in the end zone against Dallas. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Asked what he believes is ailing Cousins, who has thrown one touchdown pass and two interceptions in two games, Gruden said he believed the second-year starter was putting too much pressure on himself.

“He wants to be great; there is no question about it,” Gruden said. “Sometimes if he feels he’s not playing to the standards we all have set for him, he feels like he’s letting everybody down. He has got to understand, it’s a tough position. He’s gonna make some mistakes; everybody does. You’ve just got to bounce back and continue to play with the great confidence that has made him the quarterback that he is.

“We have total faith that he will turn the corner, play better. But we have to play better around him — play better defense around him, our running game has got to get better. We all have to play better; we have to coach better.”

While Cousins and his enviable cadre of receivers had piled up plenty of yardage, the offense stalled far too often in the red zone in both losses — to Pittsburgh and to Dallas.

Gruden credited sharp defensive play for part of those struggles. He also said that Cousins “missed some throws [he] normally makes.” And he acknowledged that the play calls could have been more varied in the red zone, particularly since so many attempts to score on a fade route failed.

As for offensive players’ confidence in Cousins, Gruden said he believed that everything would work out if each player did his job.

“Guys just have got to continue to run hard for him, block hard for him, and good things will happen,” Gruden said. “We have a very skilled offensive group. We have a tough offensive line that’s protecting their butts off and can block. We have all the making to be a great offense, but right now we’re not great. But we’ll continue to push them and get better, and I think the guys will have faith that Kirk will get it turned around, our offense will get it turned around, as long as everybody does their job.”

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