EAGAN, Minn. – Kirk Cousins’ goal is to reach a point with the Vikings where he’s playing with a “quiet mind.”
Cousins joined “Voice of the Vikings” Paul Allen on KFAN’s 9 to Noon following Monday morning’s walk-through session. During the interview, he was asked to assess his comfort level with pass protection schemes at this point.
The quarterback, who signed with the Vikings in March as a free agent and has been adjusting to a new system under Offensive Coordinator John DeFilippo, said that the process is “coming along.”
“It’s very important because once you know that you’re protected, you’re sending your five or six players to the right five or six or seven on defense,” Cousins said. “You can play with a quiet mind, look for the open guy, go through the progression, feel the rush, not see the rush.”
He added that if he’s uncertain if the player is going to the right defender and if pressure may be coming, it’s difficult to play quarterback freely.
“The more I can get the protections dialed in, the better I’m going to be able to play,” Cousins explained. “But I do think we’ve been pretty solid, and the defense in practice holds their disguises a very long time – again, continuity, they know what they’re doing, they can trick you – but I think we’ve been on top of it for the most part, and it’s going to be good to go against some other defenses here in the coming weeks.”
Paul Charchian, who was co-hosting with Allen, followed up with Cousins and asked him to further explain the concept of playing with a quiet mind.
Cousins defined the term as reacting rather than thinking.
“You go to the line, you make your call, you make the read, you go back and watch the film and you say, ‘Man, the call was right, my footwork was perfect, the throw was accurate, and yet I never really stressed about it, never really had to think twice about it, I just did it. I just reacted and played,’ ” Cousins said. “The longer you’re in a system, the longer you’ve played with certain guys, the more continuity and experience there is, the more you can do it.”
Earlier in the interview, Cousins pointed out that Minnesota’s defense has so much continuity after being in the same system since Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer took over in 2014. The offense, meanwhile, is working not only with a new quarterback but with a new coordinator, as well.
Cousins came to Minnesota with six NFL seasons under his belt, including the past three as Washington’s starter. He also carried with him a reputation as being a “tight ends quarterback” after having success with the bigger-bodied pass catchers.
From 2015-17, Cousins threw 26 touchdown passes to tight ends, including 19 to Jordan Reed.
Cousins said it was an “oversimplification,” however, to say that he favors the position group in general.
“I think you’re going to use your best players,” Cousins said, pointing out that wide receivers Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson each surpassed 1,000 receiving yards during the 2016 season, and Jamison Crowder led the Redskins in touchdown catches with seven as a slot receiver.
“When you have Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis, you’d be silly not to get them involved quite a bit because they create good matchups on your team,” Cousins said. “But then Chris Thompson this past year arguably was the best player on offense for the Redskins as a running back because of all the plays he made in the pass game. So, I’d like to think we get involved with whoever could help us, and it could be any position.”
As Cousins works to master DeFilippo’s offense, he described it as a very balanced system.
He stressed that the Vikings need to run the ball rather than rely too heavily on the passing game each week, and he added the importance of versatility as far as targets.
“We don’t want it to be just a [Stefon] Diggs and [Adam] Thielen show,” Cousins said. “I think that’s great, but if we can get Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) involved, get Dalvin Cook involved, get Latavius [Murray] involved, get other guys catching the football, I think that will help.”
Cousins added the significance of having a high completion percentage, being efficient and protecting the football.
“If you look at the record here under Coach Zimmer, when [the Vikings] won the turnover battle, we’ve won a lot of football games,” Cousins said. “We want to protect the football, be really good on third down and situational football, and I think I want to be the same player I’ve always been.
“But hopefully we can just win a lot of football games along the way,” he added.