NFC South: RG III benched

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The Atlanta Falcons don’t have to worry about facing Robert Griffin III and his ability with the read-option, when healthy. But the Falcons' defense still has to be aware of what new starting quarterback Kirk Cousins is capable of doing for the Washington Redskins.

Cousins
When these teams met last season, Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon knocked Griffin out with a concussion, and Cousins stepped in and completed 5-of-9 passes for 111 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown. But Cousins also had two late interceptions in the Falcons’ 24-17 road win.

"You know, Kirk can throw the ball pretty well," Weatherspoon said. "He did a great job last year when he came in; kept them in the game. Ultimately, he was just a rookie, so we sat back on him in some zone coverage when they had to go down the field, ended up getting a couple of interceptions there at the end to close it out.

"We expect him to be prepared. He knows he’s the starter this week, and that’s always great as a player – when you know early. So he’ll be coming in with some confidence. We just look forward to going out there and just doing our job against him."

Cousins pointed out how last year’s game against the Falcons represented his first NFL regular-season action.

"Did some good things, but also made some mistakes," Cousins said. "Every chance I’ve gotten to play – whether in practice or in games – I’ve learned something from those reps. And I’ve learned from my mistakes. And I’ve learned from my successes."

Cousins might not get much protection from his offensive line, but he could get a boost from a strong running game that ranks second in the NFL, led by 1,000-yard rusher Alfred Morris.

The Falcons won’t have to contend with Griffin's version of the read-option. But they still have to stop the ground game – something they’ve been unable to do consistently all season.

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