The improvement of Kirk Cousins’ play over the course of this season, his first as a starter, has been well documented. In the first six games this season he completed 66.2 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and eight interceptions and a passer rating of 77.9. In eight games since he has a 72.8 percent completion rate with 16 touchdowns, three interceptions, and a passer rating of 115.0.
One of the factors in his improvement is the simple fact that he is gaining more experience. Coming into the season, Cousins had played 731 snaps at quarterback in the NFL. Through those first six games this year the running total was 1,172. That is close to a full 16-game season’s worth of snaps. Now, through 14 games this season, his cumulate snap count has reached 1,675.
Having that knowledge to draw on when he is in the film room or as he steps up to the line and reads the defense in front of him has helped his development immensely according to Jay Gruden.
“Oh, yeah, there’s no question,” said Gruden. “When you are talking about a play and you can go back to three or four weeks ago, ‘You remember this play versus this coverage? This is what we’re talking about.’ It hits the quarterback’s brain a little bit easier than, ‘This is what I want you to envision and see.’ If you have direct experiences of playing that play versus that coverage and you understand what we’re talking about and know where we want to go with the ball, man, it just helps out a lot.”
For Cousins’ part, he is looking forward to his “database” of knowledge growing even more as he plays more.
“After one game I had a database that was a certain size and after 20-something I have a database that's a little bit bigger,” said Cousins. “If I have the good fortune of playing 50-plus games then I'll have an even bigger database. So it grows every game and every game you play, like I've said over and over again all season long, you just keep stacking those days up on top of one another.
“The accumulation of knowledge is a powerful thing."
It’s not just the accumulation of knowledge that’s important. The application of that knowledge is what makes good things happen on the field and Cousins has a particular knack for being able to do that.
“Kirk is really good about that as far as remembering plays that happened before and understanding what we’re trying to do and what we’re trying to attack and how to attack it,” said Gruden. “Every rep that he gets, man, it’s just fuel for him. It’s just tools in his toolkit and he’s using every one to his advantage.”