It's hard to truly gage much from an OTA session in late May, especially once the starters leave the field and the backups take over. While it's still important to watch for standout performances, or poor ones, the level of competition varies. With that in mind, it seemed particlarly interesting to watch the normally mild-mannered Kirk Cousins engage with his receivers and coaches towards the end of Wednesday's practice session.
Cousins became animated during his portion of drills, yelling about routes and celebrating a good play. The session clearly meant something to Cousins, as he walked off the field in a spirited conversation with offensive coordinator Sean McVay talking about plays and the best way to audible when facing pressure from a zone defense.
Asked what happened that got Cousins so excited, he replied, "just trying to get better and compete."
Early last season Cousins was the clear cut backup to Griffin, and when RG3 injured his ankle in Week 2, Cousins came in and performed well, going 22 of 33 for 250 yards and two touchdowns in a win against Jacksonville. The following week Cousins had perhaps his best game, throwing for more than 400 yards and three TDs against the Eagles in a 37-34 loss. The game in Philadelphia marked the high point for Cousins, however, as his season derailed from there. Over the next four weeks Cousins would go on to throw eight interceptions before being benched for Colt McCoy at halftime of a Week 6 game against the Titans. Cousins would never see the field again.
Once Griffin came back healthy, he took back his starting spot from McCoy. Through poor play, RG3 went back to the bench, only McCoy came in as backup. In fact, when Griffin and McCoy were healthy, Cousins did not make the active roster on game days. So who is the current backup for Griffin?
"I'm just competing every day," Cousins said. "I think that's a good question for Jay."
Which leads to an awkward quarterback depth chart. Or more accurately, a non-existent QB depth chart.
"It’s tough. They’re both good quarterbacks," Gruden said of McCoy and Cousins. "Right now we don’t have a depth chart for the second and third teams. We’re going to let them split the reps up and go from there and then make a decision come game day."
While somewhat unusual to not have a depth chart, considering it's May, it's also not too important. Gruden made clear that RG3 needs to be better in 2015 to keep the hold on his job.
"We have high expectations for the quarterback position and Robert in general," Gruden said. "We expect significant strides to take place from Year 1 to Year 2."
NFL teams are not known for their forthrightness, and maybe the lack of a depth chart relates to the ever-present possibility of trading Cousins. Redskins GM Scot McCloughan talked about that possibility prior to the draft, though the GM said the team got no offers worth pursuing. Some around the NFL believe Cousins has great potential as a starter, including his former coach Mike Shanahan, but the high interception totals from 2014 did not help his trade value.
Gruden knows both his QBs have value, and he wants each player to push Griffin.
"These two guys aren’t going to lie down and just hand the job over," Gruden said. "They’re going to do everything in their power to prove that they are starting-caliber quarterbacks in the National Football League. Like I said before, they’ve all had a taste of being a starter in the National Football League and they all want it back real bad. So I expect all three of them to compete and make each other better."
Playing the averages, it's likely McCoy or Cousins will see the field this fall for the Redskins. Griffin has not played a full 16 game slate ever in his three NFL seasons, either due to injury or poor play. It's entirely possible both Cousins and McCoy play, just as it remains possible Cousins lands on another roster before the first games are played in September.
No matter what happens, Cousins wants to compete. Even on a practice field in May.