Washington preparing for Denver's defense to be in top form
[On the Broncos' defense struggling with top teams like Philadelphia and New England, but still remaining among the best defenses]
Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins: "Even when you include those games they're still statistically the best defense in the NFL. It says a lot about what they're able to do in the other games outside of those, and I think we understand the challenge we have ahead of us, the players that are coming here and the good defense — a good unit. Any NFL defense is a challenge, and this week we just have to be very, very prepared for all they're going to throw at us along with our own offense and our game plan. We have to be on the details, be on the screws and trust that if we do that, that'll be good enough. We have our hands full, we know that."
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden: " I know Philadelphia — I watched it closely — [Eagles QB] Carson [Wentz] did a great job on third down and made some plays and great throws. [The Eagles have] given a lot of people problems. I think they're converting 48 percent on third down. Philadelphia also did a number on us twice. Sometimes it's not so much what you don't do, but what the other team does. He made some tight window throws and some great catches. They moved the chains and kept drives alive. They were very efficient in the red zone. Those are areas that if you're an offensive football team, that's your goal to be good on third down and convert in the red zone. That's what Philadelphia did that week. There were some other weeks where Denver has looked extremely sound on defense. Last week against Indianapolis, they did a great job. There was great pass rush and pass coverage. Obviously, they go hand-in-hand. Denver is one of the best in the league."
Denver's quarterback decision not affecting Washington's plans
[On what changes when preparing for Broncos QB Paxton Lynch versus QB Brock Osweiler]
JG:"Not a whole lot we can really sink our teeth into. I know Paxton is a little bit more of a mobile quarterback. He can run outside of the pocket. Quite frankly, those quarterbacks have given us some issues in the past — those running quarterbacks. [Cardinals QB] Blaine Gabbert got us for a couple runs last week. [Cowboys QB] Dak Prescott hit us for some big hits. Obviously, [Chiefs QB] Alex Smith got us a couple times outside the pocket making plays on the move. I think that might be the only difference from what I can tell. Lynch hasn't played a whole lot this year. Osweiler; not a whole lot either for Denver, but both of them are big strong kids with big strong arms. I'd say that Lynch could move around a little better, maybe."
[On whether the game plan will change depending on the quarterback that plays]
JG:"I don't think so. If there is something special that they might do, it's one or the other. You try to prepare for both of them, whatever the difference might be. We're trying to prepare for a system. The players that they have are very good; [Broncos RB] C.J. Anderson, it starts with him and the running game. Then [Broncos WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] and [Broncos WR] Demaryius Thomas are great receivers so we have to know where they are at all times."
Gruden familiar with Joe Woods from Tampa Bay days
JG:"I've known Joe for some time. I met him when I was at Tampa, so I know Joe quite a bit. They have a lot of similarities. They've combined a few defenses from what I noticed. The [Rams Defensive Coordinator] Wade Phillips scheme that they are very effective with. They also brought some different coverages and blitzes over from the different places that Joe's been. They have a good combination of things that keep you off balance. I think they have a little more versatility now with Joe than they have had. They don't have to be that versatile with the talent that they have, but I think they're trying to be more versatile with some of the blitzes and fronts that they're playing."
The Broncos have begun their week of practice preparation for their Week 16 game against the Redskins on Sunday. (Photos by Gabriel Christus, unless noted)
Cousins keeping focus on final two games, not offseason decision
KC:"I think there will be plenty of time for that when the season ends. So I can focus right now on just the Denver Broncos. I have enough to keep me busy today with that, and when the season ends, I'll have plenty of time to look at what's next. But my best chance to have a successful is to have a successful present. I just want to be focused on today's practice and do the best I can and hope that leads to good outing on Sunday."
JG: "He does a great job of staying in his lane. I said this to our people a lot. Kirk really is worrying about his job and what he has to do every week. There is such a huge amount of food on his plate as far as what he has to prepare for; running game, formations, pass protections, routes, situational plays, first, second and third downs, red zone, short yardage, goal line and all that. So he's done a great job of staying in his lane and trying to get his people involved in the offense the best way he can. I haven't really talked to him at all about his contract situation, nor has he brought it up. We're just trying to figure out ways to get first downs on the Broncos defense and worry about [Cousins' future] when the season is over."
Redskins hoping for strong finish to their season
KC: "I'd like to win the games, that's certainly where my focus is. I think you can get there any number of different ways. I'm focused on trying to win these last two games, contribute as well as I can to that effort and we'll let the chips fall where they may."
JG: "I just want to finish strong, really. I just want to finish strong. We had a little lull there. We had a couple bad games back to back before the Arizona game, against the Cowboys and the Chargers; and lost a heartbreaker to the Saints; 15 [point lead] with five minutes to go. I just want to bounce back and finish the season strong. Let these guys continue to compete and play at the highest level that they can. We've been through a lot with a lot of different people in and out here with injury bugs and things of that nature. But, I'd like to see our guys continue to focus and play their best football here at the end — finish strong."
The Broncos overcame four turnovers and roared back from a 21-7 deficit to beat the Redskins 45-21 with the help of 31 fourth-quarter points in their 2013 matchup at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. (Photos: AP)
Cousins recalls 2012 pre-draft experience with Broncos
KC:"I just remember flying out in the morning to Denver, getting picked up and going to the facility to meet with the quarterbacks coach, the offensive coordinator, head coach, president, meeting some of the support staff around the building, and then getting back in the car and heading back to the airport in the afternoon. It was a quick trip."
Elway among quarterbacks Cousins watched growing up
KC: "I grew up in the Chicago area and then moved to Michigan when I was in middle school. I was a big college football fan most of my years growing up, more so than pro football. I followed a lot of Big Ten quarterbacks, a guy like [Saints QB] Drew Brees came to mind when he was at Purdue. Drew's a guy I've always studied, along with all of the big names — the [Patriots QB] Tom Bradys, the [former Colts and Broncos QB] Peyton Mannings and [Packers QB] Aaron Rodgers. Just try to learn from them and study why they've been successful, what they've done and how they've developed as a player through their years in this league. I remember certainly watching [President of Football Operations/General Manager] John Elway when he was playing at a high level and winning Super Bowls. I played for [former NFL Head] Coach [Mike] Shanahan here in Washington and he obviously has a lot of connections in Denver. I'm a football fan and enjoy learning from anybody and everybody who's done it at a high level."