October 15, 2014

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Kirk Cousins leads the NFL in interceptions. He is the worst quarterback in the league on third downs by far. He is better than Chad Henne - and no one else - in the second half.

So it was no surprise Wednesday when coach Jay Gruden said that Robert Griffin III will reclaim the Washington Redskins starting job when healthy and sufficiently up to speed in practice, and that third-stringer Colt McCoy might get into a game if, according to Gruden, ''things continue in this downward spiral.''

But, for now, Cousins still holds the No. 1 spot and must figure out what's gone wrong in his four starts - all losses - since Griffin was hurt. He'll try again Sunday when the Redskins (1-5) host the Tennessee Titans (2-4).

On Wednesday, Cousins' self-diagnoses ran the gamut. Perhaps, he said, he's doing ''too little'' on third downs by settling for a shorter pass rather than waiting for a longer route to develop. Perhaps, he added, he's doing ''too much'' in the second half, when his team is trailing and he's forcing throws.

As for the interceptions, he noted that seven of his league-leading eight have come in microbursts - four in the second half vs. the New York Giants and three in the fourth quarter against the Arizona Cardinals.

''That's just atrocious,'' Cousins said. ''But the other quarters have not been consistent with that. I think the other quarters for the most part have been good football. But it's been two, two-and-a-half quarters that have really got away from me. I need to make sure that doesn't continue to happen.''

Compared to Griffin, Cousins was sharper and more precise when operating new coach Gruden's offense in training camp and preseason, benefiting from having more experience as a pocket-passer. It was enough to make one wonder if there could truly be a quarterback competition in Washington.

But Cousins has succumbed to the NFL's high-pressure moments. His third-down passer rating is 39.8, more than 20 points below anyone else among those with enough attempts to qualify for the league's leaderboard. His second-half rating, which includes all of his interceptions, is 63.9.

Gruden pointed out that Cousins isn't getting much help from the running game, or from other problems on both sides of the ball that are causing the Redskins to play catch-up late in games. But he also said Cousins, who has seen spot duty over three seasons as Griffin's backup, is pressing in certain situations and needs to calm himself down.

''Moving forward, he's just got to have the same poise that he has early in the game, he has got to have that times five late in games,'' Gruden said. ''He will learn from it, and the only way you learn is going through it. And sometimes unfortunately you are going to have some rocky times, and he has had a few, but those are the best ones to learn from.''


AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL


Follow Joseph White on Twitter: http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP

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