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Kirk Cousins stays level-headed as he prepares with first team while RGIII is on the shelf

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim,RGIII

Prepares with first team while RGIII is on shelf

He's working with the starters for now, knowing at some point it will change. That's fine with Kirk Cousins. The Redskins paid a heavy price to draft Robert Griffin III. He flourished as a rookie; the job is his when healthy.

That, of course, is fine with Cousins. All he wants to do is take advantage of whatever time he gets, whether in a game -- throwing for 329 yards and two touchdowns in his lone start vs. Cleveland -- or in spring workouts with the starters. It might continue into August and maybe into the season. It might end when camp begins.

"However long I have a chance to get reps is a blessing," Cousins said. "Obviously I want to see Robert come back healthy and as strong as ever. I see this as a great opportunity for me for however long it lasts."

The Redskins drafted Cousins in the fourth round of the 2012 draft, three rounds after Griffin. It was controversial: Some critics howled about drafting another quarterback; others liked the value Cousins provided at a position of need in Washington for approximately 20 years.

Cousins proved his worth against the Browns, but he had mixed results in other relief appearances: throwing a touchdown pass in a comeback win against Baltimore but tossing two interceptions in a loss to Atlanta.

Like Griffin, Cousins impressed coaches and teammates with his work ethic. Time and again during open locker-room sessions, he could be seen on a couch in the hallway studying plays.

"My mindset last year was to be ready to go and to have a mindset of preparing like I'm starting," he said. "If you start to let the thought that I'm probably not going to start creep in, then I think your preparation starts to suffer. I'll never regret the preparation that I put in. I'll never regret that."

While this offseason could temporarily slow Griffin's growth, it could do the opposite for Cousins. He'll get more reps in practice and increased work with the starters, something that would not have happened otherwise. In the end, it could help the Redskins should Cousins be needed again during the season.

"Anytime a quarterback gets the reps that Kirk is getting right now, he develops," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "That's what we're looking forward to him doing, is developing during these OTAs. And with the extra added reps that he's getting, you can see the progression in his game. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and we like what we see."

Cousins and Griffin are obviously much different quarterbacks, with the latter multi-dimensional. But Cousins was more mobile than anticipated, mostly in running bootlegs or sliding from the pocket. Though he only ran the zone read once last season (handing off to Alfred Morris against the Browns), there's a chance he'll be aligned in the pistol formation at times this season. If he plays, that is.

"I feel much more comfortable doing it," he said. "I'm working hard on my agility to make it a viable option for me."

It's all part of his mindset.

"I want them to be excited about me. I want to create excitement in that coaching meeting room, even if I not out there on Sundays doing it," Cousins said. "I want to continue to work hard so that happens."

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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