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Jay Gruden: Kirk Cousins needs to 'relax'

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Kirk Cousins' erratic start to the 2016 season has the Washington Redskins in a 0-2 hole, losing both games at home.

The quarterback seems to be overthinking every play and panicking in the pocket, which leads to off-target throws, forced passes into traffic and misread defenses.

Coach Jay Gruden hasn't lost confidence in his $19.95 million quarterback, but would like to see Cousins get back to the "you like that!?!" swagger the QB exuded down the stretch of 2015.

"I think he just needs to relax, calm down and play the position," Gruden told CSN Mid-Atlantic's Rob Carlin. "He's got all the talent, without a doubt. He's already proven he can make all the throws. Now he just needs to go out there and play. Take every series, every game as a separate entity. Go out and perform with a lot of great confidence and let the people know who's in charge. He's done that for the most part, but he just hasn't played up to expectations. Expectations are very high for him right now. The numbers that he put up last year were very good and now everybody expects that week in and week out. And he hasn't lived up to them so far this year. We imagine if he keeps grinding and keeps working he'll get back to that level."

Cousins has thrown three interceptions through two games after tossing just one pick in the final six games of 2016. In two games, he's completed 65.2 percent of his passes and earned a 78.5 passer rating (30th in the NFL). Cousins has been especially woeful in the red zone, where his passer rating of 19.6 ranks last in the NFL. He has one touchdown to two INTs and a 29.4 completion percentage in the red zone in two games.

Gruden was asked if part of Cousins' struggles could be related to the quarterback thinking too much.

"There could be some truth to that," the coach said. "I think sometimes he presses a little bit. He wants to be perfect all the time and it's not a position where you're going to be perfect all the time. That's just point blank. You're not going to be perfect every play at the quarterback position in the NFL. We've seen that from some of the great ones in the history of the league. ... He's just stressing out a little bit too much, I think we're putting a lot of pressure on him. I think you just got to go back to old school and play the game, enjoy playing it and love playing it. And I think everybody will react to him and play better around him."

The pressure on Cousins isn't helped by the play calling. The Redskins have received no help from the running game and Cousins has attempted an average of 44.5 passes per game, which is tied for the league lead with Blake Bortles (another disappointing 0-2 quarterback).

Cousins is likely feeling the pressure of playing on a high-priced prove-it tag. Through two games, the quarterback hasn't proven anything other than the Redskins' brass was right to tread carefully.

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