RICHMOND, Va. -- The verbal chess match in practice started when Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, his offense positioned inside the 10-yard line, hard counted. That caused the defensive linemen to jump and Will Compton to make a change.
And then it continued. As Cousins inched toward the line, that tipped off Compton. So he barked orders, using a one-word signal to revert to the original call.
It resulted in a win for the defense when they covered the play well, forcing an errant pass at the goal line to a covered target -- the ball skidded in front of receiver Pierre Garcon, with Bashaud Breeland right on his inside hip. It also exhibited one of Compton's strengths: The ability to communicate, loudly, forcefully and on time.
"It was like Will and Kirk were going back and forth like they were playing Madden," Redskins end Ricky Jean Francois said.
That's what happens in games and the time to hone those skills are in the spring and summer. For Compton, it starts in meetings when the last thing he'll ask of the coaches is if they're facing a certain look, should he stick with the call or check to another one.
Compton obviously needed to check and when Cousins hard counted, it triggered his first call.
"He got movement by our defense and then he knew what defense we were in," Compton said. "He's trying to get max protection and the best routes possible against man-to-man zero coverage. As he's checking, I know he's talking to his linemen and getting everyone rallied up. So we have to get out of it."
At this point, Compton said he knew Cousins had dissected the coverage and his audible would take care of the defense.
"They would have enough to block us and now all they need is one second to get the ball out," Compton said. "So I check to coverage. They're keeping extra guys in so now we have way more than the law allows and they have a few receivers running and we have all the guys dropping now. He knows that. He knows what some of our signals are as well. ... It has to be fast and it's going through my mind, 'If you do this, be loud.'"
There was no problem with that. But if Compton had not been loud, then the safeties might not get the call. He has to work on being loud not just for practice, but for what he'll eventually face in a game.
"Will's good at that," Francois said of the calls. "And we have to be behind him. If we aren't, that play could have been a touchdown. Kirk is good enough to find where the empty [spot] is."
It was just a play in practice, but it was revealing.
Compton nearly picked off Cousins in a two-minute drill, with a good read and a solid break. The ball bounced off his hands and Breeland intercepted -- his fifth since camp opened. Cousins and the offense had been moving the ball well but on this play he failed to beat Compton with his arm. Compton was dropping to the hook/curl area. As Compton dropped, Cousins had already turned his shoulders, which signaled a quick pass to the outside."The corner has to have time to race to the has to get to the ball," Compton said. "So if I can buy him time for a second out on the numbers, that's where I can get in that window. Kirk tried to zoom it in there. It's a quick progression route and he has to trust his arm."
Compton had a strong day overall. He covered slot receiver Jamison Crowder down the field, with safety help over the top. Cousins' pass was incomplete. But this was an example of something the coaches talked about in regards to Cousins. They've said he knows better when to try and squeeze a pass into a tight window. Cousins took a shot with Crowder because it was third and 8; and he put the ball a little inside so that way only Crowder had a shot. But Compton's coverage was too good. However, there was no shot at an interception.
One thing I've noticed with rookie defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis: He's able to move well laterally. That was evident on a couple plays, partly due to footwork and leverage. It enabled him to get involved in a couple run stops versus the second offense.
Cousins showed what he did last summer quite often: poise in the pocket. He did a nice job keeping his eyes down field and stepping up into the pocket. It led to one completion to tight end Jordan Reed. Another time Cousins slid to his left as he felt the rush, but kept his eyes scanning the field and, this time, had to throw back to the right to Rashad Ross. A nice job in the pocket. But one play later: the pick. It's a dangerous play for a quarterback and it's one where you really have to know your arm and if you can zip it past someone.