ASHBURN, Va. (AP) When Sean McVay left the Washington Redskins to coach the Los Angeles Rams, Kirk Cousins signed a jersey for him with a poignant message.
''I owe you my career.''
During McVay's three seasons as offensive coordinator and two as play-caller, Cousins became a full-time NFL starting quarterback and set and broke the franchise record for passing yards. Now Cousins is trying to rebound from a rough season opener against one of the coaches who knows him the best.
''There is a familiarity there and that does present a challenge, as you'd imagine, with knowing what makes the offense go, not only the scheme but the personnel, and so we've got to be aware of that and plan accordingly,'' Cousins said Wednesday. ''If we can run our plays very detailed and be disciplined in the way we execute, usually that can overcome familiarity. But certainly if we don't execute well, it certainly gives them the opportunity to capitalize.''
Last week in an opening home loss to Philadelphia, Cousins was 20 of 43 for 240 yards with a touchdown, an interception and two fumbles. The interception at the goal line was a turning point in the game, and his sack-fumble that was returned for a touchdown essentially ended it.
Cousins said if McVay were still around he'd have the same advice as coach Jay Gruden, offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell. But McVay also was always the coach who told Cousins in good times and bad: ''I believe in you.''
McVay saw good things in Cousins, particularly his quick release, and put his faith in the 2012 fourth-round pick out of Michigan State even when second overall pick Robert Griffin III was anointed the starter and savior of the franchise.
''Any time you spend time with Kirk, he's not a guy you want to bet against,'' McVay said. ''He's a guy that you believe is going to figure it out eventually, and I think once he got his chance, he clearly showed why he's very capable, and he's only going to continue to get better.''
Cousins is confident the Redskins will be better Sunday in Los Angeles than they were in a 30-17 loss to the Eagles. A lot of that is on him.
''I'm encouraged because a lot of the mistakes you look at from Sunday, they're very correctable,'' Cousins said. ''They're very fixable. If they weren't, then you'd be sitting here pretty nervous, but I do feel like, including myself, that a lot of the stuff that we didn't do well enough can be fixed and corrected and need to be.''
McVay knows all about that. After starting as the assistant tight ends coach and moving up the ladder with the Redskins, he was most recently in Cousins' ear giving him tips and pointers and helping him fix problems.
With Washington aiming to avoid an 0-2 start and McVay's Rams trying to move to 2-0 after routing Indianapolis 46-9, it's now up to McVay to game-plan against the Cousins.
''At the end of the day, you don't know when they are going to do certain things,'' McVay said. ''You might know what certain guys tendencies are and stuff like that, but you still have got to go play and react. We have got some great players on defense. They have some great players on offense. I think it is going to be a great matchup.''
It's primarily a matchup on the field, but Redskins left tackle Trent Williams expects there a chess match between Gruden and McVay. Williams considers himself a pawn in that game.
''He knows us better than any average coach that we will face,'' Williams said. ''It's going to be different, but at the end of the day it's not like he's out there with a helmet on. He can anticipate what's coming or he can guess what's coming or make an educated guess on what's coming. That doesn't mean that it's necessarily going to happen.''
NOTES: Gruden said WR Josh Doctson was limited at practice with hamstring tightness. ... S D.J. Swearinger was limited in practice with a back injury.
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