The last time the Ravens faced the Washington Redskins, a rookie quarterback led Washington to a 31-28 overtime win on Dec. 9, 2012. The Ravens will meet that same quarterback on Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium, but it's not Robert Griffin III.
Kirk Cousins, the Redskins' fourth-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, replaced Griffin, the No. 2 overall pick in the same draft who left for the Cleveland Browns this past offseason, late in the fourth quarter. Cousins delivered an 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Pierre Garcon and a two-point conversion rush to tie the score at 28-28. A long punt return set up the game-winning field goal in the extra session.
There are only 11 Ravens players left from that 2012 campaign, but one, outside linebacker Terrell Suggs, remembered Cousins vividly.
"He did pretty good against us, too, unfortunately," Suggs said before jokingly lobbing an expletive at Cousins. "He had a really good game, and he's also had success. He won a job. They took it from a guy that I think was favored to have the position. It goes to show the kid can play, and they believe in him."
After three seasons as Griffin's backup, Cousins emerged from the preseason as the starter last fall. He set a franchise single-season record for passing yards with 4,166, ranked second in club history with 29 passing touchdowns, and led the league with a 69.8 percent completion percentage.
This season, Cousins ranks sixth in the NFL in passing yards (1,172) and has a 91.8 passer rating. But his coach Jay Gruden said Cousins is still a target for criticism even after a three-touchdown, 77.8 completion-percentage showing in Sunday's 31-20 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
"I think everybody just expects him to do great things," Gruden said during a conference call Wednesday with Baltimore media. "He has a great supporting cast, a very good offensive line, and expectations are high for him. We have to realize he is in his second year as a starting quarterback, and he is not going to be perfect. He is going to get better and better every week the more he sees, the more he does. And the more reps that he gets, the more he will continue to get better."
After Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr dissected the Ravens for four touchdowns in Sunday's 28-27 win, the defense understands the folly of overlooking any quarterback. Cornerback Jimmy Smith said Cousins has the defense's full attention.
"When he's on, he's on," Smith said. "He's dangerous. So we're really going to have to defend the deep ball. We're going to have to defend his intermediate passes."