This weekend when the Patriots host the Redskins at Gillette Stadium, Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is going to get an up-close look at a guy he’s spent an awful lot of time looking at on tape over the last year or so: Tom Brady.
Cousins has worked closely with quarterback guru Jeff Christensen over the last year-plus, and he flies Christensen in every other week from Illinois to D.C., where the two spend time watching film and working on technique.
“We check every facet of Kirk’s throwing style,” said Christensen, who runs the Throw It Deep Quarterbacking and Receiving Training Academy in suburban Chicago.
And who do they spend the most time looking at when it comes to footwork, technique and mechanics?
“We watch Brady tape all the time,” Christensen said. “With a lot of guys, every single throw they are doing some different with their feet or their arm, and when they continue to do that, it’s almost like every third throw is improperly delivered. Some of their throws are coming out at different spots, and quarterbacks should have one release point.
“You watch Tom warm up on the sidelines before and during a game — he’s trying to get that proper release point. That feel. This is a game of feel, and I don’t think a lot of quarterbacks get that. I think Kirk is starting to figure that out, and I think the more he understands that, he’s going to get better and better and better.”
Christensen, who has worked with Cousins for the last year-plus and also counts Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as one of his clients, said that it’s not his goal to get involved with what they’re doing during the game.
“What we do is constantly reinforce what is going on with overall throwing process so they don’t start slipping,” he said. “And I’m happy to say that through this period with Kirk, he’s getting better.”
Cousins, who emerged as the starting quarterback this season for Washington, has gone 184-for-268 for a 69 percent completion rate this season, with 1,737 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. It’s been an occasionally rocky run through the first seven games, but Christensen points to Cousins performance late last month against the Bucs when the quarterback led Washington to a second-half comeback after the Redskins fell behind by 17 points as proof that his pupil is continuing to grow and mature into the job.
“His success in that game came down to two things — spacing and route running, and quarterback technique and the ball being on time,” Christensen said of Cousins, who went 33-for-40 for 317 yards and three touchdowns against Tampa Bay.
“I’m not sure people understand how hard that is,” he added. “He had zero vertical deep threats throwing the ball, because DeSean Jackson was out. He had no one to take the top off the defense and get the safeties out of the equation. The running game really hasn’t popped like it can, so they’re not able to bust a few runs like the Patriots are — they can run for three and four yards at a time, but there aren’t a lot of gashes. And so play-action suffers because of that. But he still got it done.”
It remains to be seen whether or not Cousins’ attempts to pattern his game after Brady will pay off this weekend against the Patriots, but Christensen believes that he’s certainly pointed in the right direction.
“It’s been a great experience working with him,” Christensen said of Cousins. “He’s a bright young man with a really good future ahead of him.”