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Final Preseason Game May Be Last Test For Kirk Cousins

By ZAC BOYER

zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

LANDOVER, Md. – Kirk Cousins was hoping to walk out of FedEx Field on Wednesday night with peace of mind. If he could manage the game and not make any outrageous errors, he thought earlier in the week, he’d consider his first preseason with the Washington Redskins a success.

Cousins

The rookie will be able to sleep easy. Cousins, playing into the third quarter, led the Redskins to a 30-3 victory over Tampa Bay in the final preseason game for both teams.

“I’m trying to make the most out of every opportunity I get,” said Cousins, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 222 yards with an interception. “I know I sound like a broken record, but I don’t know how many opportunities I’m going to get going forward, so I need to do the best I can with every opportunity I get.”

Cousins saw extended time with the Redskins holding nearly all of their starters and several other key reserves out of the game. Robert Griffin III, the starting quarterback, spent the entire game on the sideline, and Rex Grossman, last year’s starter and the primary backup, also sat.

That allowed Cousins, taken in the fourth round out of Michigan State, to control the offense. His effort wasn’t all that different from his last extended run at Chicago: He showed comfort within the system, was composed in the pocket and went through his progressions, never getting sacked.

At one point late in the second quarter, with the pocket breaking down around him, Cousins scrambled forward for an 11-yard gain. And his longest completion, a 47-yard lob to Brandon Banks early in the third quarter, was deftly placed over the receiver’s back shoulder, much of the gain coming in the air.

“Any time you have just a couple days of preparation, to put a game plan in for somebody, I thought he handled himself quite well,” head coach Mike Shanahan said. “He played hard.”

Cousins completed 18 of 23 passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns in a loss to the Bears, though he very nearly helped Washington win that game. The Redskins held a 20-point deficit at halftime and Cousins helped them take lead in the final two minutes before the Bears won the game on a field goal with 31 seconds left.

The opportunity to start, though, was different. Cousins said he typically experiences anxiety before his starts because of the pressure he puts on himself to succeed.

He began preparing for the game soon after Saturday’s victory against Indianapolis, in which he entered for the final drive and didn’t complete his only pass attempt.

To complement his film study, which only included tape of Tampa Bay’s previous three preseason games, the quarterback talked to defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.

The Buccaneers’ head coach for the last three seasons, Morris was able to give Cousins some clue about the abilities and tendencies of the defensive personnel he’d face. But with a new coaching staff and only reserves to play against Wednesday, Morris’ pointers could only serve as guidance.

“Whether it’s the first three preseason games or this preseason game or a regular-season game, I need to go out there with the opportunity that I get and make the most of it if I want to have success in this league and stay in this league,” Cousins said. “Preparation is very important to me, and it’s why I’ve gotten to this point, and it’s my preparation that’s going to enable me to go further.”

Cousins left the game with 6:49 remaining in the second half, with Jonathan Crompton entering. If the Redskins’ season progresses according to plan, it will be Cousins’ last appearance in a game until at least next season.

“I’ve gotten more of an opportunity than I thought I would going into the preseason, so I feel pretty good about that,” Cousins said. “I felt like I’ve shown what I’m capable of. I’m still learning. I’m still developing, and I feel like I’ve gotten better from game one to game four. I’m sure by December I’ll be a much better quarterback.”

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