ASHBURN — During this year’s training camp, no occasion was too small to warrant a celebration from Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.
After one touchdown pass, he jumped on coach Jay Gruden’s back, shouting out praise to his wide receivers.
Cousins has always been animated, but he also has a reason for his newfound confidence — an offseason spent working with quarterback gurus and a transformation that has coaches inside and outside Redskins Park raving.
“I think he’s in a really good place,” said former NFL quarterback Jeff Christensen, who spent a month working with Cousins in his home state of Michigan.
Christensen, who runs the “Throw It Deep” passing academy, worked with Cousins on maintaining a steady base to throw from, regardless of what pressure the defense was bringing or what happened on previous snaps.
The coach said the confidence shone through at the end of the summer, when Cousins invited Alfred Morris to town for some pass-catching work.
Still, the real validation came last weekend in Baltimore, when Cousins threw an interception early in the first quarter.
Last year, Cousins lost his grip on the starting job when interceptions snowballed into turnover-plagued outings. Saturday night, though, he bounced back flawlessly.
“He was very confident, and that was something that we were very optimistic and excited about seeing, because you want to be able to see a guy work through some of that adversity,” said offensive coordinator Sean McVay. “For that to happen that early in the game, you hate that, but then you look back, it ended up kind of being a blessing in disguise where you can say, ‘Hey, you experienced that.’ We saw it in a preseason setting, so if it does happen in a game, we know he’s just going to be able to continue on and be good moving forward.”
Receiver Pierre Garcon said he thought the mental side of the game was coming quicker to Cousins, that he was making his reads more accurately, and in less time, than previous years.
That, combined with releasing the ball quickly, will be important in the first two weeks of the season, against the ferocious pass rushes of Miami and St. Louis.
“You know, when you get in the second year in a system, there’s a comfort level,” Gruden said. “Certain quarterbacks take a giant leap, certain quarterbacks don’t. But I feel like Kirk has taken a giant leap so far. We feel great about the progress that he has made.”
One of the coaches Cousins consulted with was Jon Gruden, former Tampa Bay head coach and current Monday Night Football announcer.
Gruden obviously possesses insight into how Jay’s system works — the two are brothers.
Getting extra reps, no matter where they took place, was key for Cousins, who feels like in his fourth year he’s beginning to absorb the things that are demanded of him as a pro passer.
“I heard a quote from Bill Walsh a while back that said, ‘The accumulation of knowledge is a powerful thing,’” Cousins recalled. “It’s all about the accumulation. It doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t happen your first year in the league. Gradually you accumulate knowledge, you accumulate experiences and as you accumulate it, it becomes a powerful thing.
“I’m hoping to be able to tap into that power starting this year.”