Cousins resting means McCoy, Sudfeld get valuable experience
LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — Coach Jay Gruden decided Friday to give Kirk Cousins the night off and start Colt McCoy at quarterback in the Washington Redskins’ preseason game against the New York Jets.
He waited to tell McCoy until the very last minute.
“I was walking out of the tunnel,” McCoy said. “For me, that’s the best-case scenario in my role. I’ve got to be counted on at any point. I thought I handled it all right.”
Pressing McCoy and other backups into starting roles was Gruden’s goal, rather than protecting several of his key players in exhibition play. Receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Will Compton, and cornerbacks Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland were also healthy scratches in the 22-18 win.
But the most surprising decision considering the circumstances was sitting Cousins, who didn’t have an injury, warmed up in full uniform and was announced as the starter.
McCoy had no inkling — “not at all” — that Gruden would rest Cousins for what the coach said was an opportunity to get his backup some “quality work.” Cousins watched the game from the sideline in full pads. Gruden denied there was any pushback.
“There’s no reason to argue,” he said. “This is my decision.”
No doubt the No. 2 quarterback on the roster, McCoy was 13 of 16 with two touchdown passes and an interception in the end zone that ended a 15-play, 67-yard drive. Calling the interception to Darrelle Revis “embarrassing” and one he’d like to have back, McCoy considered his first-half showing efficient.
“My job is to distribute the football and stay ahead of the chains as best we can and convert on third downs when I need to,” McCoy said. “And for the most part I felt like we did that.”
Rookie Nate Sudfeld got the job done despite an inconsistent second half that started with him going 3 of 8 for 8 yards. The sixth-round pick out of Indiana picked up some valuable experience by leading Washington on an 11-play, 84-yard game-winning drive that culminated in a touchdown pass to Kendal Thompson.
Sudfeld is a developmental prospect, and this was another piece in his development. Gruden wanted to get the running game going after losing Matt Jones to a sprained shoulder, and that put the offense in some difficult positions.
“He was in some tough third down-and-longs — very, very tough to convert for a rookie,” Gruden said of Sudfeld, who finished 10 of 22 for 77 yards. “But then the last drive he was able to get us in rhythm and make some big completions and guys made some plays around him, so I was happy to see Nate come back and make some big plays.”
Sudfeld watched as older brother Zach caught a touchdown for the Jets in their first game against each other and only got excited when teammates around him said, “It’s all right, you can be happy.” He was happier after he shook off a couple of rookie mistakes by forcing throws and settling in on the final drive.
“I felt like we just were behind chains all day: penalties, bad throws, bad decisions, some drops, so it was really frustrating kind of earlier on when I was in,” Sudfeld said. “I knew once I’d get a few completions I’d get in a rhythm and I knew we could go down and score.”
Gruden expects Cousins and the starters to get significant playing time Friday against the Buffalo Bills in the third preseason game, though he doubts they’ll play in the fourth the following week at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
That just means more time for McCoy to get game reps and for Sudfeld to keep up the learning process.
“As a rookie, everybody wants to be perfect,” Sudfeld said. “I want to throw every perfect pass. I want every ball to be the right read, the right decision. What is cool is its preseason and I’m still young, still learning.”
This story has been corrected to show that Nate Sudfeld’s older brother’s name is Zach, not Nate.