Kirk Cousins: I can be like Dalton

ASHBURN, Va. -- When Kirk Cousins learned that Jay Gruden was coming to Washington, he knew it would be good for him.

He wasn't sure if he would get on the field, not with Robert Griffin III as the Redskins' quarterback. But Cousins knew that the team hiring Gruden as coach would be good for him simply because of who Gruden worked with in Cincinnati.

And now Cousins will replace the injured Griffin on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It was the best possible scenario," Cousins said, "for me to have a coach who has proven success with a guy in Andy Dalton, who I would say is a similar player to me."

Both Cousins and Gruden are attempting to emulate the success the first-year Redskins coach had as an offensive coordinator with Dalton and the Bengals.

"He is a very similar guy to Andy," Gruden said. "They both wear rubber rings on their ring finger, you know. They're drop-back quarterbacks and they're both very good, competitive, smart players. But Andy's done it. Andy's proven it. He's won.

"We don't expect Kirk to go out and win the MVP next week or win a Super Bowl to prove he's an upper-echelon quarterback right away. We do expect him to produce and play within the offense and not make mistakes and do what he's supposed to do. We expect him to be effective."

The ability to manage a game speaks to Dalton as well. Neither player is imposing physically: Cousins is 6-foot-3 and 202 pounds. Dalton, in the league a year longer than Cousins, is 6-2, 220.

Both know who they are and what they must do as quarterbacks.

"I'm not 6-5, I don't run a 4.3," Cousins said. "I don't have an arm that can throw it 90 yards. If I don't have good command and if I'm not making good decisions and if I'm not doing a great job of managing the game, then I'm not going to be playing very long.

"The focus for me has to be having a good command, making great decisions, knowing where to go with the football. Sometimes that's taking a sack, sometimes that's throwing it out of bounds. But always giving us a chance to win the game at the end."

Dalton's success with similar talent -- and mindset -- helps Cousins know how he must operate in Gruden's offense.

"I believe if I just do what he tells me to do and stay patient, trust the process, keep working, good things are going to happen," Cousins said. "He has a proven track record. ... I watched him have a lot of success with Andy Dalton."

Cousins will start Sunday because Griffin dislocated his left ankle in a Week 2 win over Jacksonville.

It's a far different -- and better -- scenario than the one Cousins stepped into at the end of 2013, when he started the last three games for a 3-10 team whose coach knew he would be fired. Cousins did not play as well as hoped for -- his passer rating went from 94.8 in his first start against the Atlanta Falcons to 31.8 in his last on a rainy day against the New York Giants.

But he said the experience helped him, and it was evident Sunday when he came off the bench to complete 22 of 33 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

"You gain that confidence, that 'Been there, done that' kind of feeling," Cousins said. "Whether it was close games against Atlanta or Dallas or the tough game in the rain against the Giants, it's hard to pinpoint any specific change or development.

"I think it's just a gradual ability to continue to make better and better decisions and to continue to manage the game at a higher level -- that the longer I'm out there on the field, the better I'm going to get."

Cousins also said it's much easier starting for a team that's 1-1 with optimism than one going nowhere.

"That creates a heightened sense of urgency," Cousins said.