We already knew the Washington Redskins could survive the preseason without Robert Griffin III, mainly because the key to surviving the preseason is simply staying healthy. And with Griffin on the sideline, the risk was reduced if not eliminated.
But of all the things we learned about the Redskins in their preseason opener against the Tennessee Titans on Thursday night, the most important probably relates to the quality of the quarterbacks listed below RG3 on the Redskins' depth chart.
Backup Kirk Cousins wasn't given a huge workload, but he came up big early. In relief of Griffin last year, the rookie was surprisingly calm and cool, and it appears he's built on that throughout his first full offseason.
On Thursday, he looked like a starting quarterback through and through. He didn't panic when the pocket collapsed and worked through his progressions at veteran speed. With the pressure on, he found a way to survey the entire field before finding Logan Paulsen on his second pass attempt of the game.
Paulsen couldn't hang on, but the throw was good. It was a positive play, despite being Cousins' only incomplete pass of the night.
He also made a remarkably quick read and decision on an 11-yard pass to Fred Davis on the team's second offensive series.
Cousins was smooth on play-action during his two drives. The best example came on the touchdown pass to Davis. On a bootleg, you could tell that Cousins was going to Davis right out of the play-action fake, but he waited for Davis to settle while moving around and surveying the rest of the field in order to keep that defender circled in red from dropping back to where the tight end was heading.
The more I watch Cousins, the more I see how smart he is. That's an underrated asset in a quarterback, and it could be a big reason why the 'Skins might not have to stress about Griffin's knee very much at all this season.
“He does a great job reading defenses and did a good job spreading them out,” head coach Mike Shanahan said after the game, according to The Washington Times.
We'll get to see even more of that as his snap count increases in the weeks to come.
But it wasn't just about Cousins. While Rex Grossman held his own with a touchdown pass, fourth-stringer Pat White outplayed the veteran and did the best RG3 impersonation of the night.
Cousins is a superb backup, but he's a different kind of quarterback. White, meanwhile, put Griffin-like tendencies on display during his second-half snaps Thursday.
He was actually pretty accurate, too, completing five of eight passes with two clear-cut drops. That was nice to see, but the key was that White looked very comfortable running the read-option.
After back-to-back completions to start his second series, he did a fantastic job sucking in the Tennessee defensive front before taking off for 18 yards.
And Griffin should note how he ended that run, as well as the scramble he had two plays later...
Griffin has to be sure to get out of bounds and avoid hits more often this season, and White set a good example on his zone-read runs Thursday.
And then there was that game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter. Again, White exceeded expectations there, starting with a ridiculous 30-yard pass across his body in the face of pressure.
He followed that up with a nine-yard touchdown run, on which he again wasn't touched thanks to a primo pump fake.
White followed that up by somehow buying a ton of time and finding a receiver on a two-point conversion, completing an exceptional performance, especially for a player who hadn't taken an NFL snap since 2009.
“It means a lot,” White said after the outing, per The Washington Post. “It’s good to get on the field. It’s been a while for me. To put that drive together with my teammates and put points on the board and get a victory, it’s a great feeling.”
Redskins fans are probably feeling the same way.