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Broncos will get long look at 'special player' in Kirk Cousins

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Should the Broncos go get Cousins? (2:05)

The SportsNation crew discusses whether Kirk Cousins could solve the quarterback problems in Denver. (2:05)

LANDOVER, Md. -- Over and over again this past week, the Denver Broncos have described the Washington Redskins as “Kirk Cousins' team" in some fashion.

Or as defensive coordinator Joe Woods put it: “He carries that whole offense on his back. I think they put a lot on him to make the right decisions."

And Cousins is certainly the centerpiece of Sunday’s game given he could be an unrestricted free agent in the coming months if the Redskins don’t use the franchise player tag on him for the third consecutive year and given the Broncos will consider any and all options to build a long-term plan at quarterback.

Despite an array of injuries almost everywhere in the Redskins’ offense, Cousins is eighth in the league in passing with 3,636 yards and tied for seventh in the league with 24 touchdown passes. That is despite being one of the most sacked quarterbacks in the NFL -- he has been sacked 38 times -- and without a receiver among the league’s top 30 in receiving yards.

“I think he’s a special guy," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said this past week. “ ... He’s been hit a lot this year. He has like [38] sacks and he hasn’t blinked at all. He still looks down the rush and throws the ball into coverage. He’s a special guy. It starts with him offensively."

With that in mind, here are some things to watch for in the Broncos-Redskins game (CBS, 1 p.m. ET):

Pressure cooker: The Redskins have struggled mightily with injuries on the offensive line this season, and Cousins has paid the price physically. He has been sacked at least four times in six games this season and twice been sacked six times in a game. The Broncos haven’t always found their groove in the pass rush this season, with Shane Ray -- now on injured reserve -- having tried to play with a splint on his surgically repaired wrist and with offenses having sent waves of blockers at Von Miller, but Miller will certainly bear watching in this one. Miller has 10 sacks, his fourth consecutive season with at least 10 and the sixth overall in his career.

Just stick with a good thing: This isn’t difficult. The Broncos have had five games this season in which they’ve seen fit to run the ball more than they’ve passed it, and that has been in all five of their wins. This team, built the way it is, with the changes at quarterback throughout the season, plays with a far better tempo when it runs to set up other things. Maybe that isn’t glamorous, maybe it isn’t how things will be one, two or three seasons from now. But right now, it’s how this team should play. The Redskins are 28th against the run, and if things go right for the Broncos, C.J. Anderson should flirt with getting the 142 yards he needs for his first 1,000-yard rushing season.

Keep Jamison Crowder hemmed in: Crowder has a hamstring issue, so he might not be full speed. But when he’s in the lineup, he is, by far, Cousins’ favorite target (Cousins has 29 more pass attempts Crowder’s way than to any other player this season). Crowder was formally listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, but the Broncos anticipated he would be in the lineup on, at minimum, a situational basis. Crowder is a quick-twitch player, and while he has just two touchdown catches, when Cousins needs a play, he’s going Crowder’s way. The Broncos have not surrendered a 100-yard receiving game to a wide receiver this season (Kansas City tight end Travis Kelce, with 133 yards in the Chiefs’ Oct. 22 win over Denver, is the only player to top 100 yards in catches against the Broncos’ defense this season).

A milestone chase: Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas needs 160 yards during the Broncos’ final two games to reach 1,000 yards for the sixth consecutive season. He is tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown for the longest current streak in the league of 1,000-yard seasons, with five. Little has gone as the Broncos had hoped in the passing game this season, with three different starting quarterbacks, one fired offensive coordinator and, until the past two games, an almost constant struggle with turnovers. The Redskins, especially with Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders having practiced just one day this past week because of an ankle injury, will likely get cornerback Josh Norman on Thomas as much as possible, so the Broncos might have to use some motion or perhaps bunch receivers to help Thomas get room to work. The Seattle Seahawks' Doug Baldwin, the Minnesota Vikings' Adam Thielen and the Los Angeles Chargers' Keenan Allen have each had 100-yard games against the Redskins this year. Thomas, who has seen even more double coverage since Sanders has tried to play through an ankle injury, has had one 100-yard game this season (133 yards in the Week 5 loss to the New York Giants).