The 5 o’clock club is published Wednesday to Saturday during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.
Jay Gruden talks offense
With the trade for Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, most journalists and fans haven’t really focused on much of anything else in the past couple of days, but Jay Gruden had some really interesting things to say about his offense, both the running game and passing attack, in his Halloween press conference. I thought it might be useful to try to stitch a few of his comments together.
Gruden spent some time talking about his future Hall of Fame running back, who is 33 years old and currently the 5th ranked rusher in the NFL.
I really don’t ever think about his age or wearing him down. He’s never come to me or Randy [Jordan] and said, ‘Hey, I need less workload; I need people to come in for me.’ If that happens, then sure I will take it off of him, but he’s playing so well right now, when we call a running play, he better be out there. He’s just playing really well and he’s handling the workload right now.
In a comment that may have been just a general off-the-cuff remark, or may have been Atlanta-specific, Jay discussed the possibility of the run-pass mix changing a bit:
Every game is different. This week we might have to throw the ball a little more, they might load up the box and we’ll have to throw it a little bit more, but right now [Adrian Peterson] is in a great place.
One theme that I’ve noticed from TV analysts, print journalists, fans, teammates and coaches alike is that AD is being used in a wider range of offensive formations and play designs than has been true for most of his NFL career. There seems to be a consensus that Peterson is enjoying a lot of success because he is embracing the marriage of his gifts with a different style of offense that seems to take full advantage of what he can offer.
He’s still feeling his way through some of these different types of runs that we have and he’s handling them extremely well and I expect him to be a major part of our offense moving forward. He has to be right now, the way we are throwing the ball.
A theme that has emerged over the past three weeks in Jay’s press conferences is to acknowledge that the passing game isn’t clicking, to minimize the issues, and to express confidence that it will get better. This week, he seemed to add an element — talking about adjusting the run-pass mix to be a bit less run-heavy and a bit more pass-dependent, which may be a reaction to the Falcons coming to town, or may just be Jay recognizing that they can’t ride Peterson this hard for 16 games and the playoffs.
Once we get the balance to where we want it, I think we can be a lot more effective on offense.”
Jay did smile when he delivered this next line, which sounded a bit defensive in response to a question that implied that the Redskins offense might not be able to match Atlanta’s passing attack:
We’re focusing a little bit more on the running game. We probably have a lot more rushing attempts and more rushing yards than they do, so I like to compare that stat.
In an earlier press conference ahead of the Giants game, Jay had talked about the effect that the larger receivers — playing due to injuries to the smaller starters — was having on the running game.
With the absence of Chris [Thompson], Paul [Richardson Jr.] and Jamison [Crowder] we have a pretty big set of receivers that are good at blocking safeties and corners and all that so it really provides our running game a spark so sometimes the running game is a little better option.
Asked specifically about Maurice Harris filling in as slot receiver for injured receivers Jamison Crowder and Trey Quinn, Jay doubled down on what the big receiver means to the running game, and why the Redskins might rely more on the rush than the pass at the moment.
“Mo is really good in the running game as far as blocking. That’s just one thing, it’s part of the reason our success in the running game has been so much better, I should say, is because of Mo Harris and Michael Floyd and the bigger receivers and Josh Doctson’s blocking. That’s kind of hurt us in the past a little bit. You don’t block the safety; it’s a gain of three. If you block the safety, it’s a gain of 12.
Still, though, Jay never loses sight of the desire to balance out the attack. He finished that answer by talking about how this all helps the Redskins passing attack.
Those guys are doing a great job in the running game, which in turn will help out our play actions as we get going.”
I mentioned already that Jay has tried to minimize the issues in the passing game, saying repeatedly over the past few weeks that the issues just require coaching and minor adjustments, and expressing confidence that it will all be corrected soon.
18 October: “We’ve had a couple shots. We’ve missed a couple but they are still going to be a major part of our success later on.”
22 October: “ I think once [Josh Dotctson] gets a few opportunities to make some plays and he makes them, they’ll be coming in bunches. We just haven’t had that splash play yet. Those opportunities will come, he’ll get them.”
23 October: “We will get better on offense. The numbers will come. We’re going to stick with the plan and we’re going to get better for sure.”
24 October: “Stick with the plan. Guys are doing good overall, got some wins but I know we can do a lot better offensively.”
31 October: Asked about receivers running the wrong routes, Jay said, “Well, some of it is attention to detail, but it didn’t happen a whole lot. There are just a few instances where that happened and that can happen from time to time. Guys moving around in different spots, like you said, but guys missing practice from time to time. But for the most part, we’ve got to get that corrected.”
So Jay has been minimizing the issues in the passing game, whether they are with the receivers, the quarterback, the offense as a whole, or the play design.
But on Wednesday, he let slip that perhaps the coaching staff sees this as a more significant problem than Jay has been indicating with his recent comments would indicate.
We had a big meeting about it today and discussed the issues that we have.
A big meeting?
But then Jay went back to the standard patter.
Really, we’re not far off. I know it’s hard to believe, I’ve said that a couple weeks now in a row, but with the running game the way it is we haven’t had to have our passing game flourish statistically like everyone wants it to be. As long as we are winning games, protecting the football, that’s the most important thing. Our offense will be able to throw the ball eventually, with success.
So, we had a big meeting about it, but it’s no big deal. We’re winning and the passing game will click very soon. Really.
More on the Redskins attempts to get the passing game going, including Jay Gruden calling a "big meeting" yesterday: https://t.co/ji5QYeb1kd— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) November 1, 2018
Talking about Jordan Reed
Jay was also asked about the seeming inability to use Jordan Reed effectively.
“Yeah we targeted him I think 10 or 12 times last week, missed him four or five so I think with some of the routes he runs it just takes some getting used to and that will come. It should have been here by now, but we just missed uncharacteristically on a couple of balls outside, we just threw it out of bounds and a little option route we over threw him. There are some things we can clean up with Jordan, some things we can clean up with Alex, but for the most part, it’s good to get those guys the work, get them on tape, talk about them and move forward, but they’ll get it together.”
“We” seem to be making a lot of mistakes here.
Let me re-phrase part of what Jay had to say there:
We targeted Jordan Reed I think 10 or 12 times last week, but Alex missed him four or five times, so I think Alex needs to get used to the routes Jordan runs, and that will come. Alex should have figured this out by now, but he just missed uncharacteristically on a couple of balls outside, Alex just threw it out of bounds, and a little option route Alex over threw him.
Jay has become much more adept at masking his frustration with his starting quarterback, but if you follow his comments over the course of the season, I think the cracks are starting to show.
This is what Jay had to say about Alex a week ago:
He’s missed some throws uncharacteristically, for sure. Some of it is he’s felt a little pressure, hasn’t gotten his feet set from time to time. But, he has made some great throws under duress. Escape the pocket a few times getting out of trouble. Only took one sack yesterday which is good, [offensive] line did a pretty good job for the most part. So, there are things we can all improve on.
This is what Jay had to say about Alex two weeks ago:
“I think the critical side of me, the coaching side of me, there are some things we’ve got to clean up. Get his eyes in certain progressions a little bit quicker and maybe get off some a little bit quicker. Sometimes he hangs on too long giving guys too much of a chance where he needs get off of them, get to the next guy. But for the most part, I thought he improved from last week to this week and there is still some improvement to do for everybody across the board. I like where he’s at. I like that he’s buying in and he’s learning.”
This is what Jay had to say about Alex before the season started:
That’s why we wanted to get a veteran quarterback here that can adjust to different schemes and alert on the fly. We are not in here to build the team around him; the team is built and he has to lead it, like, right now.
“He’s the smartest person I’ve been around, without a doubt. He’ll get the most of his receivers and offensive line because they’re going to want to play for him and they’re going to feel confident that he’s going to make something happen in a positive way.
I get the sense that Jay was expecting Alex to get it a lot faster, and that it’s frustrating to be in Week 9 and have a “work in progress”.
Jay let his frustrations with quarterbacks spill out all over the floor during his press conferences in 2014 and 2015.
By 2017 his frustration stayed hidden for most of the year, and didn’t really crack Jay’s exterior until the season was finished; then he threw some shade at Cousins publicly, though not very dramatically.
I sense that Jay struggles to be diplomatic in public... it’s not really his nature. He seems like a pretty open guy who has had to learn through experience not to speak openly as a head coach in public, though, to hear Alex Smith tell it, Jay is pretty straightforward when they are together.
There was only one thing about the Alex Smith press conference this week that I wanted to comment on, and — in a roundabout way — Alex wasn’t really talking about the Redskins offense. When he was asked a question about the impact of defensive pressure up the middle, Alex really gave a tutorial on what happens when Gred Manusky lets the DHogs out.
“I think a lot of times as quarterbacks we get trained within our pocket movement. A lot of times you do get trained with edge pressure, you get trained a lot of times, wherever it may be with free rushers, how to avoid, things you can do, escape drills, all that stuff. I mean quarterbacks get taught a lot on that.
There’s not much you can do when you just get interior push up the middle. It affects you in a lot of ways; vision, it’s hard to see, it’s tough to step into throws and like I said, it’s not something you train as far as an escape route. There isn’t necessarily a lot of times a place to go – you’re just getting pushed – it’s a little suffocating sometimes when that happens. It’s tough to train for and tough to play against.”
HaHa Clinton Dix talking about becoming a Redskin
My emotions were super high. I gave Green Bay my all and I’m excited about a new start. I’m at a place where I love. I love Sean Taylor. I love this game. [I] played here a few weeks ago man. My eyes always light up every time I play here. I’m happy to be a part of this organization and I’m ready to keep things going and that’s on to the next W and that’s Atlanta [Falcons].”
I remember checking on details about Daron Payne when he was drafted and coming across a reference to the spelling of his name, and that he preferred ‘Daron’ rather than Da’Ron, which he said someone had done at Alabama.
Of course, Adrian Peterson has created confusion amongst fans for years because his “AD” (All Day) nickname from his father is so close to his initials, AP. We discussed that shortly after he signed with the Redskins to bring a little clarity.
It seemed only natural to learn a little bit about a guy named HaHa Clinton-Dix. I found out a couple of nuggets via the power of Google:
- His name is Ha’Sean Treshon Clinton-Dix
- He was nicknamed “Ha Ha” as an infant by his grandmother. Apparently, his name was often being pronounced /hɒˈʃɑːn/ (like “Shaun”) instead of the intended /hɒˈsiːn/ (like “seen”)
- In an interview, he explained that the true nickname is actually “HaHa” (no space, two capitals).
So, HaHa it is, then.
“The NFL is a big family. Every guy in this league I follow on the internet. Every guy in this league I treat and have a high level of respect for because they play this game and they play it with a passion. So, I’m just coming over to another family. I’m glad to be here and glad to be a part of something special and I’m ready to get things rolling.”
Clinton-Dix and Swearinger worked out together this past off-season, and became close friends.
I’m real close with [DJ Swearinger]. I watch a lot of his games. I study his tape. I love the way he plays the game. I’m excited to be back there with him. There’s a lot I can learn from. A lot of Bama guys out here to as well. I’m ready to get in and contribute in any way I can and help this team win.”
“Every time I came here [to play in Washington], I’ve felt like I was at home. From the crowd, from the stands, from the fans, even to the band – I love the band. Their locker room was right across the hall from ours every time we played here for away games and I always stuck my head in and told them thank you and how much I appreciated them. So, just coming back here now and being a part of it really means a lot to me.”
“Check this out. I got practice in about an hour. I came here to play. I came here to work. Even if that’s on special teams, I’m just helping contribute to this team any way I can, because number 20 is going to be suited up this weekend, and you can bet that.”
“I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to work, I’m happy to be a part of this organization, I can’t preach that enough and I’m ready to put on a show. I’m ready to have fun doing it. I’m glad to be here.
This guy reminds me of Vernon Davis and Adrian Peterson in terms of a guy who is excited to arrive in Washington with a chance to advance his career with a team that wants him and needs him. This is pretty admirable when you consider that he got traded, not signed as a free agent, and that he only had a short day to adjust and internalize the fact that he was no longer with the team that drafted him 5 years ago.
Everything happens for a reason. I’m excited to be here. I’m a man of God and one thing that always came to me was be ready for change. Change is here. I’m accepting it. I’m accepting my role here on this team and I’m ready to play ball. I’m so excited to be here. You guys don’t even understand. You’ll see.”
I really became a fan of HaHa Clinton-Dix when he said this in the middle of the press conference: “I’m so excited to be here. You guys don’t even understand. You’ll see.”
I could just feel that this wasn’t a player mouthing platitudes that were expected of him, but a young man who was genuinely excited to be in Washington, playing for the Redskins.
The deeply positive impression was only strengthened when I watched Gruden’s press conference this week and heard the coach say that no one on the coaching staff had ever worked with Clinton-Dix before:
Jay Gruden: “This is the first time we’ve really had a chance to see him in person other than watching him on film and playing against them. I know [Greg] Manusky and Torrian [Gray] have never had working with him.”
This isn’t a guy reuniting with old coaches or teammates, but a player who has a winning attitude who sees himself in a positive situation. I do think the situation was made better by the relationship that HHCD has with D.J. Swearinger, which seems reminiscent of the Adrian Peterson-Trent Williams connection. HaHa and D.J. appear to be guys who just love each other, and now are thrilled to get the chance to play together.
Forgive me if that fills me with optimism.
Predict what will happen with the Redskins passing attack against the Falcons
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It will finally click into place and flourish. At least 300 yards and two TDs passing this week.
More of the same — less than 200 yards in the air, but the Redskins win
‘Skins passing game fails, Redskins lose
Who is your favorite Redskins defensive tackle?
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Rate your excitement level about the trade for HaHa Clinton-Dix
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