Ashburn, Va. — Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins repaid coach Jay Gruden’s confidence last Sunday with one of his most efficient performances.
Even so, as the former Michigan State quarterback prepares to lead Washington (1-1) against the New York Giants (0-2) on Thursday night in Week 3, he still feels pressure to show he’s worthy of his job.
“You’re being evaluated every play — I feel like every play has a chance to change your life,” Cousins said Tuesday. “I don’t know that I suddenly feel this ease and this peace that comes from coach telling me it’s my team.”
After winning the starting QB spot from Robert Griffin III last month, Cousins shook off a Week 1 defeat to lead the offense to a 24-10 victory over the Rams on Sunday.
Cousins completed 23 of 27 passes for 203 yards and a 4-yard touchdown to Pierre Garcon, precision Gruden attributes to being the established starter.
“When you’re catering the meetings to him and all the reps in practice to him, it’s huge,” Gruden said. “Repetition is king. He’s getting all of this and making them a better player.”
Cousins also avoided the interceptions Sunday that have hurt him at times.
Last season against the Giants, also on a Thursday night, he threw four interceptions after halftime and also lost a fumble in 45-14 blowout loss.
“I hadn’t really thrown four interceptions in a game before that I could remember,” Cousins said. “I learned that when you get down and you want to get back in the game, you can’t get it all back in one play.”
Cousins also threw two interceptions in Washington’s 17-10 loss to the Dolphins in the opener.
Gruden said he still expects growing pains for a QB that isn’t “even near his potential yet.”
Cousins may have an easier time shaking off those mistakes as the established starter.
“The last thing you want to do is throw an interception or an incompletion and look at the sideline and hear people booing and (see) another guy warming up,” Gruden said.
“It’s a stressful enough job as it is, but to have the confidence that you’re able to weather through some storms is important.”
There are other signs of improvement, including Cousins’ 75.9 completion rate through two games and his offense’s ability to convert 8 of 16 third downs in Week 2.
That includes converting on three separate plays of third-and-5 or longer during the 12-play, 77-yard drive in the fourth quarter that led to Matt Jones’ 3-yard run to make it 24-10.
Cousins said it reflects a commitment from himself and from coaches to improve in those situations.
“Whether it’s understanding concepts, reads, coverage recognition, blitz protections, pickups, footwork, ability to move off schedule, overall confidence, all the things that affect a quarterback’s play on third down,” Cousins said.