Washington comfortable if other rookie must start

ASHBURN -- He learned from his own mistakes. In his first action of the season, Kirk Cousins remembered trying to force a pass on the Redskins' final drive. It was intercepted, and the Redskins lost.

Cousins learned from watching Robert Griffin III, too. He can't run like Griffin, but that doesn't mean he has to stand still in the pocket, either. So Cousins took note when Griffin slid from the pocket in the first quarter Sunday and hit Joshua Morgan for a touchdown.

All of that paid off for Cousins in the final minute. It's why the Redskins are hopeful that -- if Griffin can't play Sunday vs. Cleveland -- they can win with Cousins. He's only a rookie, but he has shown that, if nothing else, he's prepared and poised enough to help in a pinch.

On his game-tying touchdown pass, for example, the ball was supposed to be thrown to Santana Moss, running out and cutting back inside. But he wasn't open, so Cousins pump-faked, drawing the cornerback on the outside out of position. Cousins slid out of the pocket to the right and dropped a perfect pass over the top of the cornerback to receiver Pierre Garcon. Against Atlanta, Cousins stayed in the pocket and threw to a covered receiver for an interception.

"My time in against the Falcons was invaluable," he said. "I said it at that point, and looking back now it's still true."

Watching Griffin apparently also has helped, whether consciously or subconsciously. Cousins isn't going to run the option -- he runs the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds compared with Griffin's 4.3 seconds. But he has picked up other ways Griffin creates plays.

"You start to see that on film quite a bit, and in your own way you try to emulate that maybe a little bit more than when you're backing up a guy who doesn't do that often," Cousins said. "I think just seeing how Robert plays, watching a quarterback in front of you play at a high level, benefits me because I'm learning from a guy who is doing it the right way."

The Redskins' offense would look a lot like last season's under Rex Grossman: stretch zone runs, inside zone runs and play-action passes. A difference between Cousins and Griffin: The latter takes fewer chances with his throws.

"Kirk will come in and sling it around," Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "He reads defenses and lets it go. He doesn't sit there and hesitate. But when that does happen, like a couple times in the Atlanta game, he made a couple mistakes. I know he learned from them, and hopefully if he does get more reps this week, he'll be better."

But Cousins knows there's a difference between playing well for one minute vs. 60.

"That's a lot of time to screw up, a lot of time to be exposed," Cousins said. "I said to my brother, Kyle, [on Sunday], 'I went 2-for-2. Let's not get carried away.' ... When you go the distance, you have a chance to show your true colors, so I don't think going 2-for-2 is a convincing argument to say I know what I'm doing or I've proved that I know what I'm doing. I still have a lot of football, and I need to show that."