Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins says game experience ranks as the single biggest reason for his marked improvement in recent weeks.
“My fundamentals are much better [and] I feel like I’m a more polished quarterback, a more polished player, a more mature player,” he said. “That is in all phases—whether it’s fundamentals, decision making, recognition of defenses. That comes with time.”
“And that’s no surprise," he added. "I mean, if you start and play long enough in this league, you expect that to happen.”
When the Redskins (4-5) visit Cam Newton and the Panthers (9-0) on Sunday, Cousins will make the 19th start of his four-year career. But, more importantly, it’ll mark his 10th consecutive start of 2015. Prior to this season, the 27-year-old had never made more than five starts in a row.
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And that, according to Cousins and his teammates, matters—a lot.
“He’s never been handed the keys to a team, and I think that’s a culture change to a person,” offensive captain Trent Williams said. “You go from not just playing in spots, to, ‘This team is yours, and [how] you play will be as far as we go.’”
Added Williams: “He’s just more comfortable in being that guy. I think that’s the difference. It’s not that he’s made throws that he couldn’t make before; he’s always had a talented arm. He’s always been a talented quarterback. Now it’s all about him [because] the team is his.”
Cousins agreed, saying the consecutive starts have accelerated his development in a number of ways.
“I think it’s a much different routine and a much different rhythm than when those starts are coming at sporadic times [and] are unpredictable,” Cousins said. “You’re able to build a rapport with your teammates and with the offense, with the coaching staff, with the system, and it lends itself well to developing much more quickly than when those starts are sporadic over a longer period of time.”
Cousins’ increased comfort level has become apparent the past three weeks. During that span, he’s completed 71-percent of his passes for an average of 286 yards. He’s also notched eight touchdowns and only one interception en route to a pair of NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
“The exciting part is [game experience] makes you a much better quarterback,” Cousins said. “And you say, ‘If I can have that kind of a growth in nine weeks or in one year,’ you’re excited about, ‘Man, what could happen if I could play for several years in a row and continue to grow?’ That’s where you start to get excited and really want to commit to working and developing to see what could happen.”