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Kirk Cousins on leadership: 'There’s a side of me that people don’t understand'

Kirk Cousins on leadership: 'There’s a side of me that people don’t understand'

Watch practice each day at Redskins Park and Kirk Cousins emerges as a fiery, vocal, even combattive at times, leader and quarterback. Watch Redskins games on Sundays, and rarely does the same version of Cousins appear. 

At times it does, often when cameras are rolling. Few moments encapsulate Cousins' passionate side like his comments to Scot McCloughan after the Redskins convincingly beat the Packers.

Kirk Cousins to Scot McCloughan: 'How you like me now?!'

Kirk Cousins. Feelin' it. #HowYouLikeMeNow

Posted by NBC Sports Washington on Monday, November 21, 2016

Cousins addressed trying to get the 'How do you like me now?' player into every game, and from the opening kick, in an interview with ESPN980's Inside the Locker Room (listen here).

I need to be more of that guy. I think from the day I entered the league, I’ve tried to be a little more buttoned down, a little more careful to not stick my foot in my mouth, and I think I need to let myself come out. The guy that the teammates see at practice and at OTAs, the guy that the teammates see in the locker room, from behind closed doors. I think people need to see that, like you said, from the kickoff. As I get a little more experienced in this league, I think it will come naturally, but I think I need to make a more concerted effort to make that happen. I think if I do, I think it will help.

Obviously the biggest question facing Cousins this offseason remains his contract status. Set for free agency at the end of the month, Cousins can stay with the Redskins by signing a new long-term deal or again playing under the franchise tag, like he did in 2016. It seems highly unlikely Cousins actually hits free agency, and team officials sound somewhat optimistic of a new multi-year deal for their quarterback.

In an honest moment, Cousins said he believes he can be a better leader with a multi-year contract.

That is the benefit to the long-term deal. It’s okay, I’m the guy. I’ve got full freedom to lead, full freedom to just be the guy, to make this mine, and to get that permission, if you will. That’s where I think the leash comes off and you’re able to fully go, and I’m excited for that day to come, whether it comes this year or down the road. I can’t wait.

The tune hasn't changed from Cousins about the franchise tag.

He said that if the organization chooses to franchise him, again, he views it as being wanted. Since being named the starting QB in 2015, Cousins has repeatedly said he feels that each week he is proving himself, and that feeling hasn't changed. In fact, he said even if he got a long-term contract, he would still feel like it's a year to year situation. 

ESPN980 broadcasters Brian Mitchell and Doc Walker did a nice job with the interview, prodding Cousins about leadership in a way that befits former players. Perhaps the most interesting comment from the quarterback came about how he can improve. Cousins thought back to a November win over the Vikings.

In that game, Cousins sprinted downfield after an official when he thought a pass interference call should have been made. The scene wasn't a surprise to many who had seen similar histrionics from Cousins on the practice fields in Ashburn, but for thousands of fans, it was a big surprise.

There’s a side of me that people don’t understand. I remember in the Vikings game, when I reacted to what I thought was a pass interference and was all emotional about it I got a lot of questions after, 'Why so much emotion?' I thought to myself, well, that’s who I am. That’s how I would normally react. I think what I’ve shown for years now really isn’t me, partly because there’s so much on my mind and so much I’m trying to do that I try not to get distracted by anything. But when I’m rolling and I’m feeling good, that’s the Kirk that comes out.

Redskins fans would like to see a lot more of the 'rolling and feeling good' Kirk. In the two games against the Vikings and Packers, both emotional showings from Cousins, the 'Skins went 2-0. The QB passed for more than 600 yards and five touchdowns with an average QB rating of 128.35. 

Cousins believes a long-term deal will help him be more comfortable, and it's fairly obvious job security helps any employee. Granted it's a small sample, but the numbers seem to back up Cousins' assertion.

Perhaps Redskins brass should take notice. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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USA Today Sports Images

Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series

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10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

10 Questions in 10 days: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

With Redskins Training Camp set to begin July 26th, JP Finlay takes a look at 10 of the most pressing questions for the Burgundy and Gold. 

No. 10: Major questions at linebacker on Redskins depth chart 

No. 9: What is Kevin O’Connell's new role in Redskins offense?

No. 8: More investments on D-Line, but who goes where?

The Redskins had to improve the defensive line this offseason. The defense ranked dead last against the run in 2017, and without improvement up front defensively, the playoffs would again be out of reach in 2018. 

And for the second straight season, Washington tried. 

The team selected Daron Payne out of Alabama with their first-round pick and Tim Settle out of Virginia Tech in the fifth round. The front office also waived under-performing Terrell McClain in the offseason and moved on from veteran A.J. Francis.

Perhaps most important, the team should have 2017 first-rounder Jonathan Allen completely healthy this fall. He and Matt Ioannidis looked like a strong front in 2017 before a foot injury shut down Allen for the year in Week 5. Add in Anthony Lanier, who flashed big-time sack potential, and the Redskins have a strong, young nucleus.  

But how does it all work?

In the base 3-4 scheme, Payne might have the strength to play nose tackle. Settle definitely has the size for the nose. Both are rookies, however, and will need to learn a lot, and fast, to start Week 1. Veteran Stacy McGee, coming off groin surgery, might be able to hold off the rookies if he is fully healthy. When a nose is on the field, expect Allen and Ioannidis to line up at the defensive tackle spots. If he's not playing nose, Payne will rotate in at tackle as well. Another veteran, Ziggy Hood, will provide depth at tackle, if he makes the team. 

In the nickel package, which the team deploys more than half of their snaps, expect to see a healthy rotation of Allen, Payne, Ioannidis and Lanier. Keeping those players fresh should allow interior pocket pressure, and that could be great news for Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith

With Payne and Allen the headliners, and Ioannidis and Lanier valuable, and Settle capable at the nose, the Redskins have five D-line roster spots about locked down. 

Last year, the team kept six defensive linemen coming out of camp. If McGee is healthy, that spot will be his. If he's not, Hood likely hangs on. It's also possible the team keeps seven D-linemen, particularly as they monitor McGee's groin injury. 

The good news is last year, due to injuries and the talent on the roster, a number of players were forced into spots they didn't truly belong. Hood doesn't have the true size to play nose, but he was forced into the position. Lanier is best served as an interior pass rusher, but was forced to be a run stuffer. 

With more investments on the line, and better luck in the training room, the 2018 Redskins D-line should have more people playing where they belong. And that could go a long way. 

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