We hear from the head coach a lot during training camp. In fact, with daily press conferences, it’s the time of year when we get more direct communication from the man in charge than at any other time of the year.
That’s important for fans who pay attention in July and August, because — really — it takes a lot of work to piece together a picture of who among the 90 players in camp is exceeding expectations and who is not meeting them.
I’ve gone back through the daily press conferences that Jay has held since training camp started on 25 July and extracted his comments about the players. There are some references to injuries included at the top, but I’ve tried to focus on comments about individual players or position battles in the hope that looking carefully at Jay’s words will provide insight to how the roster is developing.
Be warned — this is a long article. Nearly 14,000 words, so either clear your schedule before you start, or read selectively (or not at all, I guess).
I’ve interspersed my own commentary and observations on what I think Jay is really thinking throughout the article — usually at the end of Jay’s comments about a player.
I invite you to add your thoughts in the comments section.
Stacy McGee recovered from his core muscle surgery in the off season. There is a chance [he could miss the start of the season] for sure. We’ll wait and see, he’s doing a great job at working to get back into shape but a big body like that it might take a little bit more time, but I can’t say cause Stacy has had a couple injuries in the past and done a great job of rehabbing and he looks in good spirits and good shape already but that’s just a time will tell kind of thing and depending on where we are on the roster and all that stuff.”
BiB’s takeaway: McGee is unlikely to be ready for the Cardinals game in Week 1, which means he likely starts the season on the PUP list. Given the depth at Interior DL, this gives the team a way to ‘stash’ a player for the first half of the season without a lot of risk. The only way McGee doesn’t start the season on PUP is if there is a severe and unexpected injury to another player that creates a situation where McGee serves team needs better by being on the 53, even if he isn’t active Week 1.
(Joshua) Holsey had an accident, dropped something on his toe he’ll start on [NFI] also. “I don’t know [the prognosis for Holsey], he’s in a boot right now and I think that I’ll start him on the [NFI list] like we have. We don’t know; you know I don’t know, he severed his big toe and we’ll have to wait and see.”
BiB’s takeway: Holsey, who was likely to be ‘on the bubble’ this year anyway, is unlikely to see the active roster. Most likely, he will spend the entire season on the NFI/IR list. After that, he’ll either be released, or come back in 2019, when he’ll be ‘on the bubble’ again.
“Josh [Doctson] is fine, he just had an MRI on his Achilles just to get it checked out and he’s fine.”
The next day:
“Good morning. Josh [Doctson] is okay. Everything checked out fine.”
“[Daron] Payne got his ankle stepped on and he’ll be in a boot for a week or so and we expect him back in two to three weeks. He’ll be okay. He’s in great shape he’s big, strong, physical. He will probably get stronger in his two weeks of working out so it’s not a big deal. He’s already very smart, knows the defense, so he’s in good shape.”
“Ryan Anderson had back spasms. He’ll be back by tomorrow.
Zach Brown is day-to-day just depends on how he feels. It’s nothing serious.”
Mason Foster - “He practiced yesterday, didn’t he? Yeah, he just has a little sore oblique.”
Matt Ioannidis had a turf toe out here [and] he’s been fighting through it. So, it’s kind of slowed him down a little bit. As that gets better, you’ll see more of the true Matt Ioannidis.
BiB’s takeway: So far, there have been the usual collection of scrapes, bangs & bruises that football players collect. No one discussed above, aside from McGee & Holsey, who both started out camp injured, seems to be in danger of missing any regular season playing time due to injury. I was surprised to hear about the IoanMan injury, as I hadn’t heard it reported prior to hearing Jay mention it.
[Injuries last year] did help our depth really. We got a good look at some players in key situations, and they’re going to be asked to do the same thing this year. So, it helped our depth, but you never want to go through that again. It’s good to see these guys work. I’m very happy to see Chris Thompson, Morgan Moses, and Ty [Nsekhe] and Trent [Williams] how much work they’ve put in and Phil Taylor. You know, these guys worked their tails off to get back into shape and get back in football shape. They’ve done an excellent job in doing that. So, the big thing is we’re trying to take care of them out here. We got a lot of new ways to have their bodies recover and help their bodies in that regard. We’ve done the best we could do as far as our due diligence as far as helping these players recover, stay on the field, get them treated, but the players have done an excellent job in getting themselves well. So, we anticipate a new year with healthy bodies.
[Avoiding injuries this season] is the million dollar question, really. You know, guys need to work but, we need them on the field on Sundays. So, that’s something that I need to communicate a) with the trainer and b) with the player. The assistant coach has to know and get involved also. So, they’ve got to understand we’re not trying to push them back and get them reinjured but, we also have to understand that they have to practice to get themselves ready to play on Sundays against these teams in the NFC East and all over the place. So, there’s a fine line there but, we’ll have great communication with the staff, the trainers and obviously the strength staff also and the player.”
“We have a whole new recovery group built in there. [The head athletic trainer] Larry Hess has done a great job, and Mr. Snyder has been gracious enough to give us the opportunity to get some of these things in there. We have all types of recovery tanks, cryo [therapy] chambers; we got foot heal stuff; we got everything: massage therapists, whatever you need we got you covered to get you back on the field. We even got a Gatorade ice machine for God sakes. At the end of the day these guys are going to have to go out there and hit some people and show us they can play the game of football.”
BiB’s takeway: Gruden, along with every Redskin fan, is hoping that the steps the team has taken and is taking have some positive effects on the level of injuries affecting the team. At least one study has indicated that Jay Gruden has the worst track record in the NFL over the past 15 years as regards ‘level of injuredness’ of his teams. This has to change if the ‘Skins want to make it to the playoffs and have some postseason success.
Reps in camp and the importance of special teams
We try to let these guys play and eat. Some guys won’t get as many reps as others, but it’s up to those guys have to take advantage of those reps and special teams will play a critical part in it. [Special teams coordinator] Ben Kotwica and [assistant special teams] Bret Munsey will have a lot of say in some of these roster spots. You get a look at everybody.”
We don’t have any factors here other than the best player will make the football team, anybody that knows me knows that it doesn’t matter if you’re a first round pick or a free agent, rookie free agent, so it doesn’t matter everyone is going to get an opportunity we’ll play the best guy.”
BiB’s takeway: There’s no ‘newsflash’ in the idea that backup players need to play and excel on special teams, but I sense a change in the tenor of Jay’s words. It sounds like he has had a bit of a ‘come to Jesus’ moment about the need to prioritize special teams play in roster-building. It sounds like Kotwica will have a louder voice at the table in 2018 when the decisions are being made on the last player in key position groups. You’ll see this idea reflected in one or two of the player-specific comments that follow. Hopefully, this will mean improved special teams play in 2018.
Josh Doctson - “Well I think [with] Josh... I think people are looking for the stats to fly of the charts. But you know around here, the way we spread the ball around to Chris [Thompson], Jordan [Reed], Jamison [Crowder], Paul [Richardson Jr.] now, Maurice Harris and Robert Davis when he gets in there — it’s going to be hard for one guy to have a fantasy football superstar year. I think in the red zone is where he’s is going to be most dangerous, that’s where we’re hoping that he can realty dominate — in that area of the field — and some tight window throws on third down. Just continue to get better and better, and when the ball is there for him, he goes out and makes the tough catches.”
“[Regarding Doctson as a red-zone target], I think that he’s been a great option for us. We just haven’t gotten many opportunities to him for whatever reason, so it’s not totally his fault that he hasn’t been as productive as people anticipated. Play calling... sometimes the quarterback went elsewhere. It just so happens that that’s what the play design was. But we’re hoping that he does get more opportunities, that’s the big thing. That the opportunities that he does get, we just hope he takes advantage of.”
BiB’s takeaway: Why is Jay Gruden trying to lower expectations about Josh Doctson’s production? I’m not sure, but I think it may be that Jay expects to be an inside-out passing attack, with Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson getting a lot of production in moving the ball downfield, with Doc having to fight for balls on the outside, but thriving in the red zone offense. Jay may also be throwing a little shade at Kirk with the bit about “sometimes the QB went elsewhere”, since Cousins didn’t seem to have much trust in, or connection with, Doctson.
Paul Richardson & Jamison Crowder — “Well those two guys are major contributors to our offense, Paul is our starting Z right now, that guy is a very important player, obviously in the passing game when taking the top off without a doubt, but he can run all types of routes. He and Alex [Smith] are just starting their process of getting to know each other.
“Paul is a guy that you just have to continue to watch on tape, you know, quarterbacks when they see him or even when he doesn’t get the ball there’s a lot of things that he does, when he doesn’t get the ball you say dang I could’ve thrown it to Paul here too. You know, he does a great job of getting open and he’s getting a great-better feel for what we’re trying to do, the angles and the routes. I’ve been very impressed with Paul, coming in here learning an entirely new system. Playing a position that you know is new to him with the terminology, different route cuts, lining him up a lot of different spots. I think he’s done a great job but he’s going to continue to get better. But, he’s the type of guy like I said that Alex [Smith] and Colt [McCoy] they’re going to have to just continue to watch him because he really can run.”
Jamison is a quarterback’s dream as far of getting open in the slot and being a great target for him, a friendly target. He plays a lot bigger than his size. He has very long arms, very athletic. Those two guys are very important parts of the offense they all have their roles. We anticipate those guys doing a good job, Jamison always has, he is a great slot.”
“Crowder, just has a natural feel for the [slot] position, and not only that, but he has great quickness. As a slot receiver you have to have great feel and understanding of man or zone. Now when you do get man-to-man you have to have the quickness to separate and he can do all of that you know that’s why he is so good. And then you have to be fearless across the middle, it’s one thing to get open but it’s another thing catching the ball between to linebackers or having a nickel [corner] traveling and a safety coming down on you. He takes very friendly angles, he got strong hands and he is fearless, quite frankly. You can probably count all the drops he has in his career here on one hand — other than the punts, he dropped a couple of those last year. I think all that put together, his idea of man and zone, separate, quarterback friendly target, strong hands, and fearless make him for a perfect slot.”
BiB’s takeaway: There’s not much to learn here. Richardson will be the speed guy on the outside, but can also thrive across the middle of the field. Jay said yesterday that you need to keep seeing Richardson on tape to see how often he is open without getting the ball. It sounds vaguely reminiscent of last year’s lack of connection between Kirk & Doctson. We keep hearing that Smith & Crowder seem to have a special connection — Jay may be struggling to get Alex to throw long to Paul Richardson. The deeper passing game — especially early in the regular season - may be a work in progress.
Asked if Jamison Crowder would be returning punts - “Yeah, why not?”
BiB’s takeway: Jay Gruden is a funny guy who unleashes flippant remarks even in press conferences (remember the remark last week that Kerrigan isn’t known for his golf game?). I wouldn’t read too much into this remark about Crowder as the punt returner. I think that the question of who will return punts will remain open until late into the preseason.
“[Trey Quinn] is fun to watch; he is very smart. You don’t catch 115 balls in college unless you have an idea how to get open in zones — and they weren’t all bubble screens. He caught option routes, seam balls, double moves from the outside, from the inside — he did a lot of great things at SMU. He has shown his ability to move around, grasp the system, see coverage, adjust, break in and out of cuts pretty effortlessly and — really — he has really, really, strong, strong, good hands... as good of hands that I’ve seen out of that position. So, really big upside for him right now. We’re teaching him mostly slot behind Jamison [Crowder] in case something happens to Jamison, so it’s great to have that depth there. He also can return punts, but also has the ability to play outside.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay really likes 3Q, and for some reason continues to talk about him as a punt returner, though Quinn only returned 6 punts in his college career. It sounds like Quinn is likely to make the roster as the backup slot receiver if he can actually produce on special teams. I don’t think he’s a roster lock yet, but someone else is probably going to need to shine in preseason to knock him out of a roster spot.
Maurice Harris - “The thing about Mo is he can play any position, and he is very quarterback friendly, he’s got strong hands and he’s probably, he could be our best route runner on our team. He does everything exactly right, he knows how to set up a defender, he’s strong enough to get away from press coverage and like I said quarterbacks love him. He’s a big, long target, he’s really good after the catch. So, love Maurice Harris. You know [we’ve] got Josh Doctson, obviously Paul Richardson, Jamison Crowder; you know we got Rob Davis is doing some good things; Trey Quinn is doing some good things, [and] Brian Quick. Now we have Cam [Sims] — Cam is doing a good job at wide receiver from Alabama. We have Shay [Fields], we have a pretty good group of wide receivers here that’s a log jam for that fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh spot, so we’ll see what happens.”
BiB’s takeaway: When a reporter asks a question about one player, and the coach goes out of his way to name every guy in camp competing in the position group, there’s a message there. Doctson, Crowder and Richardson are roster locks. There will be two or three other spots for receivers, and right now there’s a lot of competition for those limited roster openings: Davis, Quinn, Quick, Harris, Sims, Fields, Cobbs, Kidsy. Gruden mentioned 6 of those names here — I think this is an open competition for the depth receivers that isn’t likely to be decided until the third or, possibly, fourth preseason game.
The importance of playing special teams for backup receivers
“Very important. You know if one guy can stand out on special teams then that’s your fourth - period. You know we understand that we have to improve on special teams instead of just saying that on the podium or in meeting rooms we’re gonna have to commit to it by maybe keeping somebody that is better on special teams, but maybe not quite as polished at receiver. You know a lot of teams do that but usually your fourth guy is gonna be more of a true wide receiver your fifth guy could more in that role, even as a backup returner, a flyer or whatever it might be.
BiB’s takeaway: I think this is an enormously important comment from Jay Gruden for anyone who wants to attempt to project the final 53-man roster. It’s so important, that I re-organized this article (which was originally defense-first, then offense) to put the receiver’s section at the beginning so I could reference this specific comment throughout the rest of the article.
The Redskins struggled on special teams last year. This was, in part, because the parade of injuries led to a constant turnstile of players on the field during special teams plays last year. But as I’ve reviewed Jay’s comments from multiple press conferences, the need to have a strong group of core special teams players appears again and again as a theme in what Coach Gruden has to say.
This year, according do Jay, the Redskins are committing to improvement of ST by maybe keeping somebody that is better on special teams, but maybe not quite as polished at his offensive or defensive position. He also said that special teams coach, Ben Kotwica, would have more say in which player makes the final cut when a decision needs to be made on the last guy or two in a position group.
I sense that this is an important adjustment in approach from Gruden.
Look for this to be a theme throughout this article.
D.J. Swearinger - losing Montae [in 2017] kind of hurt [Swearinger] a little bit, you know, because [of] the experience those two were getting... the rapport together. D.J.’s role is defined without a doubt. I think he is doing a great job. He’s a great communicator, [a] very emotional player, you know.
Talk about talking trash! this guy is one of the best that I have ever seen... pulling his helmet, yelling, ticking off the offense — you know. He plays with great energy; [he] knows the system very well. It’s very important for him — that’s the one thing that can slow us up, is lack of communication. [Good communication is] the most important thing a defense can have. They have to be fundamentally sound, know where they’re going, and D.J. is a big part of that for us to have success.”
I think Montae [Nicholson’s 2017] injury hurt [the team] a little more than people anticipated. He’s such an all-around great athlete, [with] great speed, and he does complement DJ [Swearinger] quite well.
The safety position we feel good about — but from a starting point, you’re looking at DJ [and] Montae; they do complement each other very well. DJ is very multi-talented —he can do different things. He can cover tight-ends, he can cover backs, he can play in the post also. Those two guys are good. We just have to continue with the communication process. Montae was a rookie last year, [and] he missed a lot of time. DJ was new to the defense, so, hopefully this year it all comes together for them.”
When I first got here we tried to get a veteran guy leader back there — I think it was Ryan Clark — and then, the next year, we tried to get Dashon Goldson, a guy that’s played a lot. We tried to move DeAngelo Hall back there to try to get some kind of veteran leadership with the guys that can play. But now with D.J. coming back for his second year, [and] Montae coming back for his second year, [the team finally has some youth, skill, and leadership all at the same time].
BiB’s takeway: No surprises here — the starters are DJ Swearinger and Montae Nicholson. Jay is making some excuses for Swearinger’s lapses in 2017, suggesting that he would have had a better year if Nicholson had been healthy. In a theme that we hear constantly from Jay Gruden, his coaches and his players, “communication is the key”. Having two good safeties playing together for the second consecutive year is a new experience for the Redskins, and it gives Jay (and hopefully fans as well) reason to expect better things from the safeties this year.
Deshazor [Everett] does a good job when he comes in there. He can get in the box; he can play different spots also. He’s been here now two or three years, so he’s got some great experience going out there.
We drafted [Troy] Apke to develop into another safety. It’s a great thing to have some experienced safeties back there. Now Apke can develop [and] be a great special teams core player for us, [while] also learning the system. Apke has shown some flashes of being really fast and good.
[Kenny] Ladler has done some good things. He’s is doing a good job.
Fish [Smithson] is still doing a good job.
So the safety position we feel pretty good about as opposed to years past where like, you know, we were [just] holding on.”
BiB’s takeaway: The roster question marks for the Safety position are the two backups: we have 4 guys competing for two roster spots. My reading of the comments above indicates to me that:
(1) Jay wants a veteran back there, so one spot is Deshazor Everett’s to lose. If he simply has a consistent camp/preseason, he’s on the roster.
(2) In the competition for the final roster spot, Troy Apke is the odds-on favorite.
With 3 experienced players ahead of him, the ‘Skins can have a project player in the fourth spot. Apke is described as potentially being a “great special teams player”, and we saw above that special teams ability will be more important than ever before in these roster decisions.
With Jay, I pay a lot of attention to the exact adjectives he uses. He tends to be positive about every player, but he’s more positive about some than others. With Apke, he mentioned that Troy had “flashed” and used the word “great” two times. He described Ladler (twice) with the word “good”, and used “good” for Fish Smithson as well.
Great > good.
Bottom line: Apke will be the fourth safety on the active roster, while Smithson will go back to the Practice Squad and Ladler will go back to the CFL.
Josh Norman - “I like Josh. Josh is a steady main-stay guy here at corner, and does a lot of good things for us in coverage and tackling. I just want to see him continue to work with the young guys, work with himself, and continue to get better. That’s all you can do as a cornerback — study the game, study the people you’re going to cover, study our system, our techniques, our coverages and have a good plan of attack every Sunday.”
BiB’s takeaway: Josh Norman is locked in as a starting CB for 2018.
Quinton Dunbar - ”Feel good about him, Quinton’s done a good job man, he’s got a lot of confidence for a guy who’s only played corner for a few years of his life. You know — I tell you what - I like Quinton. Mentally, I like where he’s at. I think when he first started playing corner all he wanted to do was play press and bump-and-run, man-to-man — and he can do that because he’s long and can run. Now I think he’s started to expand his game a little bit. He’s playing more off coverage and better in zone coverages, and better in the running game, and knows where to fit. The big thing with him is just to continue to get better but he’s got all the intangibles you want for a corner — long, fast.
“When you have that type of speed and that type of length, you know, you try to find a spot for a guy with that type of athletic ability, and Quinton has done a good job with buying in and making the adjustment. Now, with the opportunity he has in front of him, it’s going to be up to him whether he, you know, takes the next step or whatever. But, I have total faith that Quinton can do a lot of great things, and you see him out here running and covering and getting more comfortable with the position.
But when I made the change with him [from receiver to defensive back], [did I ever think he’d be this good]? – I had hopes. He’s very good on special teams, that’s why I thought we had to keep him somewhere some shape or form, but I didn’t know if he’d be a starter this quick – competing for a starting job — so that is a great tribute to him and his work.”
BiB’s takeway: Quinton Dunbar doesn’t need to worry about making this team. He will be a key player in 2018, and Gruden sees him getting better in subsequent seasons. Dunbar could end up being a Redskin for life, and maybe one of the great Redskin success stories when his career ends many seasons from now.
Talking about the cornerback position group
[As to] the cornerback depth, you know Fabian [Moreau] [is] over there, and obviously [Orlando] Scandrick and Josh [Norman], and now Adonis [Alexander] we added. Danny [Johnson] is one of the undrafted free agents so we really like — he’s done a great job. Sso we have a number of guys over there that are doing pretty good.”
“We practiced [Fabian Moreau] a little bit [at cornerback] last year, tried to get him going to backup Kendall [Fuller] but now we have Orlando [Scandrick] here, Orlando [Scandrick] is regulated in that role. We obviously need somebody else in that role, [Greg] Stroman is getting a little bit of it, Danny [Johnson] is getting a little bit of it, Fabian is getting a little bit of it. So were working different guys in there and Fabian is one of them. The more versatility you can have at the cornerback position obviously the better chances you have to get on the field. Fabian knows that, even though he has only played defensive back for a short period in his career he is doing a great job as far as learning what we want to do and how we to do it.”
Adonis Alexander - “[Being selected in the supplementary draft] puts him behind. It’s hard, you know because we throw a lot at them day one here and we expect them to remember and retain what they went through at OTAs and mini-camp and all that good stuff but he wasn’t here so he’s behind. He’ll catch up, he’s a bright kid and [defensive backs] Coach Torrian Gray had him before at Virginia Tech so, he has a great way of communicating with him and we’ll get him up to speed but he is slightly behind.”
BiB’s takeaway: The Redskins normally carry 6 CBs. Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar are locked in. Scandrick is a strong favorite to be on the regular season roster as well. The final three spots will come down to fit (abilities in slot and boundary), skill (for 2018), potential (beyond 2018) and special teams ability.
The candidates for the final three spots are Moreau, Stroman, Johnson, Alexander, Texada, and Prince Charles (with Holsey out for the season with foot injury).
I don’t think Jay’s comments give us a lot of guidance about which three of these players most likely make the roster except that Jay has indicated:
(1) he will prioritize positional flexibility (able to play both boundary and slot corner); and
(2) we know that the best special teams players will have an advantage.
I’m prepared to say that Moreau, Stroman, Johnson and Alexander are probably competing for the 3 spots, and that the real competition will be at punt returner between Stroman and Johnson, with the better returner making the squad.
Remember what Jay said about the backup position when discussing the receiver group?
You know if one guy can stand out on special teams then that’s your fourth - period. You know we understand that we have to improve on special teams instead of just saying that on the podium or in meeting rooms we’re gonna have to commit to it by maybe keeping somebody that is better on special teams, but maybe not quite as polished at [the position].
So, my projected CB depth chart, based on Jay’s press conference comments is:
Top 3: Norman, Dunbar, Scandrick
Next 2: Moreau, Alexander
6th CB/PR: The better returner of Johnson & Stroman
Josh Harvey-Clemons - Once we get the pads on, [and] play against other teams we’ll see, but he is very long and very slippery – so to speak. He’s about 230 pounds right now, he’s losing a little bit of weight out here [in] the heat but he’s doing a pretty good job. And, really, with the defensive line we have in front of him, they are doing a great job keeping the blockers off of him also, so that is very important so those linebackers can flow sideline to sideline without getting guards up them.”
“I think it has been good for J H-C [to get extra practice reps due to other players having minor injuries]. Last year we pretty much only had him playing some, and now, [we’re] trying to get him acclimated to some base role linebacker. He’s learning the defense and improving. You know, [Martrell] Spaight is still there; [Zach] Vigil is still there, Shaun Dion [Hamilton] - we will try and get him up to speed. So in Zach’s [Brown] absence, we have some guys that have some quality reps who need it.”
BiB’s takeaway: The message seems to be that Josh Harvey-Clemons has a long way to go. Jay gives him some praise, then uses the word, “but” — uh oh. “Pretty good job” is fairly faint praise from Jay this time of year, when he is often effusive about players. One of his most positive comments about JH-C is that the DL is keeping blockers off of him. Hmmm...
Jay says he’s “learning and improving” and that the team “will try to get him up to speed”, ending with the comment that the Redskins have “some guys that have some quality reps who need it.” None of this sounds like Harvey-Clemons is making himself indispensable. Based on Jay’s comments, I’d say the depth behind Brown and Foster is likely to be a bit of a question in 2018.
Talking about the reserve inside linebackers
3 August - “They’re doing good. Obviously, Shaun Dion [Hamilton] is doing a lot of good things. So, I’ve been impressed with him also. So, that’s another position that is going to be fun to watch. You know, I think a lot of it will have to do with, could have to do with special teams. The backup, the third and fourth, fifth inside linebacker, they have to be very good on special teams. There’s no if, ands or buts about it. So, I think Coach [Ben] Kotwica would have a lot to say on that. [Zach] Vigil came in last year at the end of the year and had a great game against Denver [Broncos], did some good things against the [New York] Giants. Josh Harvey[-Clemons] is more of a dime-type player, but he can get more work in base. So, he’s doing good. So and then, Sean Dion [Hamilton], you know, at Alabama, before he got his injury, him and Reuben Foster were probably the best linebacker tandem in college football. So, a lot to like about these guys, but now it’s just a matter of getting them in there and see who the best ones are.”
BiB’s takeaway: It sound like there is not a lot of clarity regarding the two (or possibly 3) players that will back up Foster & Brown. The thing that jumps out at me in the final comment from 3 August is that the one player that Jay didn’t mention is Martrell Spaight. Typically, the ‘Skins would keep 4 LBs total, but I get the impression that Jay wants to keep all three of the guys he mentioned: Vigil, J H-C, SDH. Again, Jay talked about the importance of special teams, so if the team keeps only 4 ILBs, special teams play will probably decide which of these three guys gets cut. My feeling is that Jay will keep Vigil for veteran experience, that he likes SDH, and that JHC only makes the cut if the team keeps 5 ILBs or SDH can’t perform well enough on special teams.
Ryan Kerrigan - What I think people just don’t understand about Ryan is Ryan has never said two words about anything negative around here. He’s always been an upbeat, positive guy, he’s never missed a day of practice. He practices just like he plays, hard. He’s just a no nonsense, work your tail off, playmaking guy. You love guys like that, really. He’s a great example for the young guys, he’s a great example for the veteran guys on how you want to maintain a career and have you want to have a great career. He does things right, when he gets treatment, he’s never late to a meeting. If you are going to dial up a professional football player, how you want him to act off the field, on the field, on game day, production, Ryan Kerrigan is really a starting point.”
BiB’s takeaway: We don’t need comments from Jay Gruden to know that Ryan Kerrigan is one of the franchise pillars, and possibly the most important player and leader on the defense, but it’s nice to be reminded. Ryan Kerrigan has never missed a game in his 7-year career. He’s started 112 of a possible 112 regular season games.
Preston Smith - “I think he needs to be a dominant edge setter really, to go along with Ryan Kerrigan. It’s a time for him to step up, he’s got all the tools in the world and he’s proved he can be an excellent pass rusher, he’s very good against the run and he’s long, tough, and strong – motor. He’s got a good motor, so basically [we expect] great things from Preston. Watching these guys on the edge, we were putting on our outside zone yesterday and it’s a pain in the rear trying to get out there with Ryan and Preston setting the edge, and obviously Ryan Anderson also. I expect great things from Preston and I know he does of himself. It’s a big year for him.”
BiB’s takeaway: This is the kind of quote from Gruden where I pay attention to specific wording:
- He needs...
- It’s time for him to step up...
- He’s got all the tools...
- I expect great things...
- It’s a big year for him.
Gruden is talking about tools, potential, the future, and the need to prove things. This is the final year of Preston Smith’s rookie contract, yet we’re not hearing that the team is actively trying to extend his contract. I listen to Jay’s comments about Smith and I sense that he isn’t sold that Preston has reached his potential; I sense that he wants Preston to prove more. I sense that we won’t be seeing a contract extension for Preston unless he excels in 2018.
Ryan Anderson - “We gotta get him healthy number one, he’s had the back spasms a little bit to slow him down early. But, you know, he probably thinks he had a down year [in 2017], but he didn’t have a down year. He plays behind Preston [Smith] and [Ryan] Kerrigan you know, and then we had Junior [Galette] also last year and so he’s really the third, fourth guy. As a rookie, you know, I think a lot of the guys have high expectations they’re coming in and leading the league in sacks and tackles and forced fumbles and passes batted down and all that stuff. But, in reality you gotta earn your stripes, especially if you’re playing behind somebody of great quality like Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith. So, he’ll get his work and we’ll continue to work him. The big thing for him is to put practices back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back together, [and] continue to get him better, but I see steady improvement and growth from him in the weight room, his weight, his effort, so I like where Ryan’s at.”
BiB’s takeaway: I found these to be some of the most enlightening comments about a player from Coach Gruden this offseason. A lot of fans have been critical of Ryan Anderson; certain writers on this website have been extremely critical of the franchise for selecting him so high in the draft, and question Anderson’s potential based on his lack of athleticism. I was impressed with Gruden’s point of view on Anderson and putting expectations in context. My takeaway is that Gruden is comfortable with Anderson’s development, and that the franchise is committed to continuing to develop Anderson going forward.
“You know Pernell McPhee has done a really good job; he is a nuisance rusher. He doesn’t look like he has a lot of speed, but he gets around guys every time. He is very good very productive, very strong, hard to block at the point of attack — he has been a good surprise for us.
I had a good idea of what Pernell McPhee [is] about from my days at Cincinnati, when he was at Baltimore. He was really a pain to play [against]. He played up outside, [and also] lined up over the guard. He was really, really, good — then he had some injuries in Chicago [and] wasn’t quite as productive. I’m banking on the fact we’re getting Pernell McPhee from Baltimore. [Being] able to move him around and do different things with him is exciting. He can do a lot of things; [he’s a] smart kid, [and] very athletic.”
I like everything about what he’s brought to this football team so far. [On] first [and] second down he’s going to be an outside linebacker. He’ll back up [Ryan] Kerrigan and Preston Smith. It gives much needed depth at that position.
You know the 3-4 defense can’t function without four... at least four... maybe five good outside linebackers. So, he’s one of them, and then third down that’s where I think he’s going to make us say ‘hey!’ He can play over the guard; he can play defensive end. [McPhee can do] a lot of good things, but he’s a great player and [we] just gotta keep him healthy.”
BiB’s takeaway: I think there are important ideas at both the beginning and end of this comment. A lot of readers watched the video from Brett Kollmann, “Pernell McPhee is a Grown Ass Man”, and Gruden’s initial comment reflects the ideas presented in that video. McPhee will outplay his athleticism through strength and smarts.
At the end of the comment, Gruden acknowledges that McPhee played very well in Baltimore —- not so much in Chicago. While the Redskins may be crossing their fingers a bit and hoping that McPhee has a return to form, I think that the Redskins will use McPhee more in the way Baltimore used him, by moving him from an edge setter and run stopper, to having his hand in the dirt and getting after the passer.
Personally, I expect Redskins fans to be very impressed with Pernell McPhee this season. I see him as a very good under-the-radar free agent signing this year.
“Petey [Robertson]. Petey has been unbelievable. Yeah, he’s been great. Very, very athletic, and you’re talking about a guy that can possibly help on special teams as your fourth or fifth linebacker, and he’s one because cause he can run. You know, last year we had him on the practice squad a little bit, and he was active late, but he was doing some running back stuff for us [in practice] cause we had a lot of injuries at running back.
He’s a great athlete. He can rush the passer. You know, he was a defensive end in college and we tried him at inside linebacker for a little while. That wasn’t quite his cup of tea, [so] we moved him back down as an outside linebacker/defensive end in nickel [defense]. He’s done very, very well.”
BiB’s takeaway: Watching this press conference live, I was surprised by the alacrity with which Jay responded to this question — he started answering before the journalist had even finished framing the question. That, as much as the specific things that Jay had to say, led me to take more notice of this answer than I normally might. We again see the reference to special teams ability. Jay uses the word, “great” which is a good sign for a player when Jay talks about him in training camp.
While the Redskins might be expected to keep only 4 OLBs in total, Jay’s comments make me think that Robertson is a candidate to make the team as the 5th OLB. My reading on Preston Smith (which I gave above) reinforces my impression that “Petey” might make the regular season roster because, if Smith isn’t re-signed, the team will be glad to have an experienced OLB in camp in 2019.
As someone pointed out in the comments section earlier this week, Pete Robertson is Trent Williams’ cousin.
Interior Defensive Line
Jonathan Allen - “We have very high expectations for Jonathan. He is an excellent football player without a doubt. He’s is not a one dimensional player at all. He plays the run equally [as well] as he can rush the passer. So we just got to make sure we keep him fresh and healthy somehow. But he is a very tenacious guy; he loves football, [and] prepares his tail off. [Jim] Tomsula is doing a great job with him. I have no worries about Jonathan, the only thing we just have to keep him on the field. He is going to be a great player.”
“I think he is very comfortable with his weight, with his stamina, with his movement so, I think he is in a great spot. You know, really, he is a very confident player, a very skilled player. He’s got great hands, great strength, [and he’s] very hard to block in the running game. He’s is one of the reasons why Josh Harvey-Clemons and those guys can roam freely, because him and [Daron] Payne, [Matt] Ioannidis, and Ziggy Hood, and Phil Taylor [Sr.], those guys are doing a great job in the middle.”
BiB’s takeaway: There’s no surprise here. Jay loves Jon Allen already and is expecting great things from him this season. Another reference to the DL keeping blockers off of JHC.
Matt Ioannidis - “Matt’s a very hard nose player. He plays with great energy and passion; [he’s a] tenacious-type guy. He had a turf toe out here [and] he’s been fighting through it. So, it’s kind of slowed him down a little bit. As that gets better, you’ll see more of the true Matt Ioannidis. But, he’s a guy that just is one of the hardest working guys in the weight room. He’s gonna get stronger and stronger. I don’t know how much stronger he can get ‘cause he already is strong. But [he’s a] great guy to have, [a] rotational type defensive lineman starter [who can] play four-technique, five, three, nose... whatever you want him to play he’ll play it. Great guy, good player.”
BiB’s takeaway: I mentioned at the top of the article; I hadn’t realized before Jay’s press conference comments that IoanMan was injured. Jay’s comments are predictably positive for Matt, but my expectations go beyond what Jay’s comments would indicate. If the Redskin defense turns around from its disappointing 2017 performance, NFL fans nationally will probably attribute the turnaround to better known players like Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Josh Norman and DJ Swearinger, but Matt Ioannidis is probably the most underrated defensive lineman in the NFL, and pairs with Ryan Kerrigan as the most underrated players on the Washington Redskins.
Tim Settle - “I was really impressed with Tim yesterday because we had two or three guys down. He had to take a lot of reps, and he got stronger, actually, as practice went on. And this is a great experience for some of these young guys, you know. Unfortunately, we lose a couple of guys to injuries; but fortunately, some guys we really need to look at, we get a good look at. Like Tim is a great example. He had a great day yesterday.”
“[Settle and Payne are] different. You know I think that Settle is probably — I don’t know — Payne is a little bit stronger right now that’s for sure. But, Settle gives you a little bit of position flex also but, Settle’s probably more so the nose, I guess. Payne is probably [more able to] play every spot along the line.”
“[Settle] has done well, you know. We’ve had [some injuries in the early part of training camp]. You know, Pip [Ondre Pipkins] was down for a little bit, and we had Daron [Payne] go down, and we had another one go down. So, we had two or three guys who were missing practice, so Settle had to step in and take a lot of reps, and he — you know — took advantage of it, and that’s what we expect these guys to do. That’s what training camp’s all about. For these young guys they have to wait their turn and when they do get their reps, their opportunity rises, they have to take advantage of it. And Tim has done a good job of that.
Now it’s a matter of him being consistent, putting days back to back together, and getting into games and producing in the games and being in the right spot. He’s got good strength, lower body strength is excellent, and he’s got a pretty good get-off, you know, for a big man, which is good to see. So, continue to get him [reps], and just watching him steadily improve with Coach [Jim] Tomsula. He’s going to have the chance to be a good one too.”
BiB’s takeaway: I get the sense from Gruden that Settle is seen as a good player for the future, but perhaps not ‘good enough’ right now. Jay contrasts him with Payne, who is stronger and has more positional flexibility. Jay describes Settle’s get-off as “pretty good” which we’ve seen already is rather understated praise from Jay Gruden in early August. Jay talks about the need for consistency, getting into games and producing, and having “the chance” to be a good player.
Assuming McGee starts the season on the PUP list, the DL Roster locks appear to be: Jon Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis, and Anthony Lanier. There is probably room for 3 more players to make the Week 1 squad (though the Skins might go with just 6 DL if they want to carry an extra player at a different position group), and Settle, as a 5th round pick, is likely to be first in line. I’d say Tim Settle probably makes the 53, but may be frequently inactive in 2018. He seems to be more ‘future potential’ than ‘right-now’ contribution.
Derrius Guice - “Well you know we’re going to rep him - team run - seven on seven and just normal progression for a rookie running back. You know, he’s gotta learn mentally. Physically he’s in great shape. Strong, strong, strong, strong. He can run. Saw him run out there today - looked great running. So, the physicality of Derrius Guice is not the issue. We just got to make sure he gets it mentally. I don’t think he’s going to have a problem. He picked it up very fast in OTA’s. He didn’t have any mental mistakes; [he] did a great job, so I anticipate Derrius getting plenty of looks – plenty of touches”
Discussing the draft-day slide of Derrius Guice, and ‘character concerns’
“Quite frankly, we didn’t have any questions on his character. You know, in every interview that we had with him and talked to him, we never had a concern about him at all. I think, you know, when you watch his college tape the year he played with [Leonard] Fournette, he was a dynamic player. [At the end of the 2016 season] We thought he might be the first player picked in the Draft. Then the last year he played (2017), you know, he was playing through some injuries and he didn’t look quite the same. I think that’s probably why he fell, more so than his character. So, grabbing him in the second round was obviously a great treat for us, but character was never a concern. He’s been great, never been late, attentive, great attitude, always happy, happy-go-lucky and fun to be around quite frankly.”
There were five or six good backs in the draft. Now, he wasn’t the only good back in the Draft. I mean, you know, you talk about [Nick] Chubb and the other kid, Sony Michel, and [Rashaad] Penny, I mean it’s not like he’s dropping. Those guys are good players. So it just depends on what type of back you wanted for your team. It just so happens that he was there when we picked him and we took him. So, all those guys are good players, you get drafted in the second round you’re a damn good back, it’s not like you’re a scrub. So, this guy’s a good player, and a lot of great players have been taken in the second round so we anticipate him being one of them.”
“He is a confident guy now, that’s not an issue there. That’s - I mean, holy cow. He’s very confident and I like that about a back. You have to be confident about a back. He’s very powerful; he knows he’s very powerful. He’s very fast and he knows he’s fast. So there’s really no reason for him not to be confident. The big thing is we just got to get him to know what to do and be confident in the fundamentals of what tracks he’s hitting, pass protection, all that good stuff. But, I think he’s a guy that is just born with a gift of having great energy on a daily basis. He wakes up in the morning with a great bounce in his step and every day is the same with him. I think just he’s gonna be fine, quite frankly. Every day, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, whatever day we play he’ll be ready.”
BiB’s takeaway: Clearly the Redskins had no reservations about drafting Derrius Guice, and they have big expectations for what he’ll bring to the offense.
Martez Carter - “The running back? It’s tough you know, he’s trying to take advantage of those reps. He doesn’t get many because we have six guys in front of him right now you know but very similar you go back to the days of Rob Kelley. When Rob Kelley was the seventh guy on the totem pole, every time Rob got the ball we were like, “who’s number 22?” Then he ended up making the team. So, hopefully that will happen with Martez. The more he gets comfortable, the more reps he gets, that he’ll catch our eye.
But, you know it’s tough because he’s not a very big guy so, he’s really not a first, second down back and the skill set you have to have for the third down back, he doesn’t have quite yet but, I think he’s kind of a ‘tweener’. I think he can do some first, second down stuff and possibly some third down but we’ll wait and see.”
BiB’s takeaway: When the UDFAs were added following the draft, I thought Martez Carter had an excellent chance at making the Redskins roster. After reading Jay Gruden’s comment above, I have jumped completely off the Martez Carter hype train. Jay’s language is all about hope, having a logjam at RB, and Carter’s lack of a clear role. At this point, I think the best that Carter can hope for is to, maybe, get onto the practice squad.
The RB group
We don’t know how many we are going to keep. A lot is depending on other positions, you know, how many offensive lineman we have to keep and how many tight ends, you know, are we going to keep a fullback or not. Can Rob Kelley or Samaje Perine possibly be a fullback? You know, there are other things that we still have to continue to look at.
But, right now we are trying to get them in a position, let ‘em go out there and compete, and then we will start to mix and mingle some of our personnel groupings of that nature and try to start figuring it out for the regular season. But, that won’t start happening until probably after the second preseason game quite frankly, leading up to the third preseason game.”
We have a different style of backs. It’s tough, you know you talk about first, second down backs, we got three to four of those guys.
We have guys that can come out of the backfield and protect, we have three of those guys.
We got a couple guys who can do a little bit of everything.
So, it’s very interesting group and very exciting group to me. They’re all great kids, they all work extremely hard but at the end of the day it’s going to be about the guy who protects the football, the guy who can protect the quarterback and makes the tough runs, runs after contact, and we’ll let it play out and go from there.”
A comment from 27 July - “The good thing is Kapri Bibbs is very good out of the backfield and Byron Marshall has shown things that he could be a very explosive player for this football team out of the backfield and running the football between the tackles and outside. So, I think we have [Chris Thompson’s backup] spot covered.
Fortunately last year when Chris did get hurt we went to Bryon [Marshall] and then he got hurt, he pulled his hami [hamstring] and then Kapri did some good things so that is an important spot in pro football eventually you’re going to get to third down four or five and that back [running back] is either going to have to protect or get open on the linebackers and all three of those guys have shown they can do that.”
A comment from 2 August - “I feel good about all of them at this point right now but eventually we’re going to have to settle in on one, one and a half guys, or two guys. You know somebody is gonna get the bulk of the carries, and I think the pre-season games will tell a lot of that, just a consistent approach to the game. But, you know Samaje [Perine], Rob [Kelley], obviously Derrius — they’ve all proven they’re worthy of getting the ball. Now it’s just a matter of trying to find the one that’s most [worthy] - and that could change week to week.
Who knows? It’s not a bad thing to have multiple guys get the ball; you keep these guys fresh and healthy. You know — pound Guice up there a few times, then you give Rob the ball and then here comes Chris Thompson or Byron Marshall. I mean obviously you only dress three probably on game day, but to get all these guys a lot of work is not a bad thing.”
BiB’s takeaway: I’m now firmly of the opinion that the Redskins will keep 4 RBs this season: Guice & Thompson, plus a backup to Guice, and a backup 3rd down back.
I notice that at 27 July, Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall were getting pretty equal billing, but by 2 August, Bibbs isn’t mentioned, but Marshall is. Unless Bibbs shows up huge in the preseason, I believe from these comments that Marshall will be the backup to Chris Thompson.
Personally, I think that when you look at all of the comments from Training Camp, it appears that CT may not be ready (mentally or physically) to play at the start of the season. I think there’s a possibility that Marshall could play early in the season, and that Thompson could be inactive on game days for a while (see comments about CT’s return from injury below).
That leaves Perine and Kelley battling each other for a roster spot. Personally, I think the team should try to trade one of them before the preseason ends.
One reporter asked about the possibility of Bibbs, Marshall or “possibly Rob Kelley” making the team, which drew an immediate reaction from Gruden who said, “Possibly Kelley?! Kelley has had a great camp. I don’t know if anybody has been out there, but he looks very good.”
Clearly, Jay sees Fat Rob as being right in the middle of the camp battle.
Jay made it sound like it was Guice, Perine and Kelley all battling for the roster, but realistically, there’s no way Guice is cut, so it’s between Samaje and Fat Rob. Jay told us exactly how that camp battle will be decided: “it’s going to be about the guy who protects the football, the guy who can protect the quarterback and makes the tough runs, runs after contact.”
And he told us when the battle will be decided: “after the second preseason game quite frankly, leading up to the third preseason game.”
So, dig in, because this battle is going to be entertaining, and will probably divide the fan base all through the month, and potentially for much longer.
Discussing the Fullback position
Wellman’s done a good job. You know, I’d like to run some fullback runs for our defense, so they’ll get used to seeing some of that stuff. So they can get themselves ready because we do play a lot of teams that have a fullback. And then, we have a lot of those regular runs, that we call regular, with the fullback that are very good. The play actions off of them are very good. So, like I said before, it’s just going to be a matter of how good he does on special teams and whether or not we want to carry that package on game day and if we do. But he’s done a great job. You know, he had a great insertion yesterday and shows great strength and power to hold, which is important. And he can catch. As far as Rob [Kelley] and Samaje [Perine], you know, that’s just kind of a maybe thing. You know, we’ll have to wait and see on that. I haven’t even told them yet, so don’t tell them yet.”
BiB’s takeaway: The only reason Jay Gruden brings a fullback to camp is to allow the defense to practice against one. Wellman’s got no future with the Redskins beyond preseason. While Kelley or Perine might get lined up at FB in some exotic plays, typically, on the few plays that the Skins use a fullback, the most likely players to line up there are Sprinkle or Ryan Anderson (who lined up at FB at least twice in 2017).
I love the last line in the comment from Jay — he’s a funny guy.
Jay talked about his confidence that Chris Thompson has fully recovered from injury
“One hundred percent, yes I am, actually. The way he runs, he looks faster right now just watching him on tape. His burst looks like it’s 100 percent back. You know, only he knows how he feels as far as being 100 percent and, you know, quite frankly, football players — not all of them are 100 percent anyway. You know, if you get to 90 percent, you should be pretty good. But, he looks great right now. He’s still going to go through a lot for work as far as getting himself ready to play, so I anticipate he’ll be ready. Now, we can also control the amount we give him on his plate, you know, early in the season also. That’s a good thing. We’re working, you know, Kapri [Bibbs] and Byron Marshall’s in some of that role also. They’re doing a great job, so we have some other options there.”
BiB’s takeaway: I love this answer from Gruden. He starts out expressing 100% confidence in CT’s health; then it occurs to him that he may be overstating the case, so he hedges a little bit by saying that ‘only CT knows how good he really feels’. You can then hear the ‘beep beep’ sound as Jay continues to back up by adding that “football players — not all of them are 100 percent anyway. You know, if you get to 90 percent, you should be pretty good.”
Finally, he says what he probably should have started out saying — that the coaches are in a position to limit CT’s early season work, and that the team has other options (in Kapri Bibbs and Byron Marshall) if CT isn’t physically or mentally fully ready to play at the start of the season.
Jordan Reed is in and out of his cuts like he hasn’t lost anything. I think it’s just a matter of maintaining his strength and getting stronger and stronger where he feels absolutely 100 percent sure he can make cuts to his left, cuts to his right effortlessly without having to worry or think about it. I think he is well on his way. I think we could probably practice him now full go if we wanted to, but we just want to try to gradually build him up to where we’re for sure he’s ready to roll.”
“I think statistically you have to look at the games that he’s in there compared to when he’s not - I think it’s probably different. But, he is a difference maker without a doubt to our football team. Tight ends and running backs are critical in the passing game if you want to have success. You can double receivers all you want too but it’s very hard to double tight ends and hard to double backs and still have a run fit mentality and stopping the run. Jordan Reed is a dynamic player. He can run any route from anywhere, in the slot, in the corner, outside, split outside, creates matchup problems, gives us man-zone tips, and he can beat corners, he can beat linebackers, and he can beat safeties. So, it’s hard not to throw him the ball when he’s in there. That’s how good he is.”
He’s one of our best, most explosive players on offense and it’s hard to find a guy like that, that can really stretch the field work in a slot, work the option routes and still be a factor in the running game. I think he’s one of the top tight ends in the National Football League when healthy. Last year, he tried to fight through a couple of those injuries in the off season - he got them fixed, so hopefully we’ll put an end to all those foot and toe injury things, and ankle. So, Jordan feels extremely - he feels great right now, very optimistic about the way his body feels and now it’s our job to make sure we just progress him along at a good rate and hopefully get him in there in a preseason game or two and get him ready for the Cardinals.”
BiB’s takeaway: There’s nothing surprising here: Jordan Reed is critical to the Redskin offensive success; he’s feeling better this year than last year; the team wants to treat him carefully given his injury history, and we probably won’t see much of him in preseason games to limit the possibility of injury. Jay does a good job of explaining why Reed has so much success in the Redskin offense.
“I’m very impressed with Morgan [Moses]. He came out there and did a couple things, ran out there on a screen pass and had great movement. He looks in good shape. You know, I think, he feels good with his weight. He might be a few pounds [heavy], but I think he’ll lose that the more he practices. But he looks great to me.
BiB’s takeaway: Great news. No surprises.
“Yeah, Brandon [Scherff], he is great. You know, he is – there is nothing bad to say about the guy, he is a fun guy to be around.
He is a very focused guy on his craft, you know what I mean? He works extremely hard. When he is here he is all in on football, you know, every drill, every period, it’s all about football, every meeting, there’s no nonsense about him. Off the field, after that, he’ll have his fun, he likes to hunt and all that stuff, but as far as being a football player, you know the term ‘football player,’ Brandon Scherff is definitely a ‘football player.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay almost stopped his remarks at the end of the first two sentences, but rallied and added some platitudes and channeled his inner Scot McCoughan. If he were talking about a rookie, I might’ve interpreted his difficulty in finding things to praise to be an indication that the rookie was in trouble. We all know that Brandon Scherff is a highly prized and valuable member of the Redskins Offensive Line. He’s one of the best guards in the game today. Jay was just having an off day. Brandon Scherff is a beast.
“I was impressed with Chase [Roullier] last year. You know, you’re not sure what you’re going to get from a sixth-round draft pick, you know, from Wyoming. When Spencer [Long] went down, I think Chase had to fill that void, and he did a great job. You know, he broke his hand there for a little while missed some time too. You know, the center position is one of my biggest issues on this football [team] - I can never have too many centers. You know, because you can’t function without one. Chase came in here and was a very important player for us, and he’s learning. Coach [Bill] Callahan (Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line) has done a great job with him, and he’s just going to continue to get better. You know, he’s only in his second year, very limited playing time. I think with all these reps he’s getting out here leading up to game day, I think he’ll be a solid player for us.”
“[Chase is] doing good, you know, it’s a great test early on; especially with [Daron] Payne and Jonathan [Allen] in there, and Matt [Ioannidis] and Ziggy [Hood] and all those guys you know, different guy on him every time. But, he’s done a good job. He’s just going to continue to get better. The more he sees the more he is going to be confident and the more he can make the calls like that and then adjust to them on the fly. So, he’s the quarterback of that offensive line and he’s going to need to see all the looks, so on game day, under, over, front, jam front, whatever it is he can spit out the calls effortlessly and be able to execute a lot smoother because of that. He’s got a great body for center and I think he’s steadily improving to be a good starting center for this organization for a long time.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay’s comments tell me that Roullier is doing ‘well enough’, but he’s still young and still developing. His comments also tell me that the Redskins see Roullier as a long-term starter in the interior of the offensive line.
Backup Centers -
Tony Bergstrom is a veteran guy that’s played center and guard, and you know I think that back-up center has gotta be able to play multiple spot - center and both guards, you know. Because, if you dress seven on game day, that guy gotta be - obviously play both spots. Tony is a great guy to have because he can do that.
[Casey] Dunn’s undrafted free agent we talked about yesterday, he’s one of those guys that showing up and done some good things.
[Demetrius] Rhaney he can play center we’re trying to school him to guard. I know he feels like he’s a true center, but it’s important for those guys to play both guard spots.
So, we’re working through it, and that’s a very important position. [The backup center] is gonna play a lot [positions] as we learned last year.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay says that the flexibility to play both Center & Guard is very very high on his priority list. He then throws shade on Rhaney, who doesn’t seem interested in playing guard. He describes Dunn as “good”; he describes Bergstrom as “great”.
Great > good - I project Bergstrom to be the backup Center Week 1 while Dunn goes the Practice Squad.
Trent Williams - “That was a bad injury [last season], it was, and hats off to him for fighting through it because he saw what kind of injuries we had on the line and if we took him off the line for some of those games I don’t know who would have played quite frankly. So, really just shows what kind of leader and what kind of toughness he has and still playing with that one leg, basically, he was still probably as effective or more effective than any tackle in the league. So, to get that thing fixed and to watch him rehab and get himself ready to play is just a testament to why he is the best tackle in the NFL.”
BiB’s takeaway: The last 8 words say it all about Jay’s opinion of TW: “He is the best tackle in the NFL.”
Asked if Ty Nsekhe would play guard early in training camp - “Not yet. We’ve got to get him on the field first. He’s going to have to do individual and all that stuff. But right now, we are going to leave him at tackle. As many tackles as we went through last year, I think you can never have too many of those big boys—big men.”
Shawn Lauvao - I think injuries have affected us more than him. You know, every time he goes down we have to replace him. But, I think he’s in a good spot, you know he’s a guy that you obviously have some concerns about because of his injury history. You know and sometimes that comes back to bite you but we are not gonna worry about that so much. I think he’s put himself in a position where he’s in good shape, you know and hopefully his ankles and feet and shoulders and the things he’s had have healed and he’s ready to go. We can’t anticipate another injury but - we can do a good job of taking some reps off him throughout the week and letting him rest a little bit.”
Competition among backup OL
“Well that’s what we’re trying to figure out, you know. [Tyler] Catalina, [Kyle] Kalis, [Demetrius] Rhaney, obviously [Tony] Bergstrom, we’re moving those guys around quite a bit. So we’re trying to find the right grouping and it’s a wide open battle. So, time will tell on that but they’re all doing a pretty good job. We’ve just got to get them in pads and more and more and more and more team run reps, more pass protection, more blitzes, all that stuff, and get our evaluations going.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay feels like the team hasn’t done enough for the offensive line. He’s clearly frustrated and concerned by Lauvao’s health issues. Jay has PTSD from last year’s experience with OL injuries, so he’s hesitant to move Nsekhe around — at least this early in camp — though there were reports that Nsekhe got some work at guard just recently.
Jay sounds very concerned about OL depth. I anticipate that the Redskins may make a late-August trade for a veteran lineman, or may actively look for some veteran OL depth following cutdowns to 53 players on 31 August.
Alex Smith - I think people just gravitate towards him; he’s a natural leader. I don’t think that’s ever going to be an issue with him, it never has been. Just [look at the] body of work that he has put in the NFL. What people have said about him is all true as far as what I’ve seen so far.
“I think [Alex is] everything is that we thought, you know he’s a great leader, he’s receptive to any type of coaching you want positive, negative. He just goes with flow and does what he’s asked to do. He’s very good at what he does, very accurate with the football and makes good, sound decisions. He’s just getting to know the offense, the terminology and getting to know the players around him right now. But, he’s fun to work with, he and Colt [McCoy] are doing a great job, and Kevin [Hogan]. So, it’s a great quarterback room, we’re excited to have him and that position we know that is very, very important to the success of a football team and obviously over the last five years nobody has won more games than Alex other than [Tom] Brady, I think. So, it’s a treat to have him.”
Whether it’s a check down to the back or a tight end on the seam or whatever it is or an outside receiver, I don’t think he’s going to discriminate the type of throw because of who’s running the route. I think he will let the play develop and then get it to the open guy which he’s done throughout his career.”
A 15-year vet like Alex knows how to prepare himself day in and day out to make sure when he steps on the field he knows exactly what the play is, what the protection and possessions calls are, where to go with the football and this coverage against that coverage. That’s what being a quarterback is all about and there is nobody better at that then Alex in the last five years.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay Gruden is Alex Smith’s biggest fan, and Jay is relieved to have moved on from the uncertainty with Cousins to a more stable QB situation.
Colt McCoy - “Colt’s a great player to have here. He’s a great back-up quarterback, he’s a great quarterback in general and if something happens to Alex - knock on wood - that I know that our team is in good hands and that position you don’t want to mess around with.”
You have to have a good [backup QB] for a number of reasons. One, he’s got to support the starter; two, he’s got to be ready at all times; and, three, he’s got to be good for your football team and handle scout team and all that stuff for the defense. So, Colt [McCoy] is magnificent at all that so, we feel good about having Colt here and it’s a very important position as the [Philadelphia] Eagles found out and a number of other Super Bowl teams have found out. I think the [New England] Patriots found out with [Tom] Brady, I believe.”
BiB’s takeaway: Jay Gruden is Colt McCoy’s biggest fan. Jay believes that he needs a competent and proven backup QB, and that Colt fits the bill.
“Kevin [Hogan]’s been great. You know it’s another one like Martez. Some of these down the line guys don’t get many reps in practice. You know, Alex needs as many as he can get and then the ones that are left, Colt [McCoy] is a ball hog he’s gonna take the rest of them so we have to tell Colt to get out of there and get Kevin in there. But, Kevin’s done a good job. Kevin has always been a smart quarterback without a doubt, University of Stanford, it’s well documented of what’s he’s done and his production there. In Cleveland [Browns] he did some good things when he did start. Very mobile, you know a very similar skill set to Alex in the fact that he can run and throw and do some good things, he just hasn’t had quite the reps to where we’ve had a great chance to look at him. But, when you’re third string quarterback you better be smart and when you do get your reps you better know where to go with the ball and Kevin’s done a good job of that.”
BiB’s takeaway: Being compared to Martez Carter is probably the last thing a Redskin player would want to hear right now. The Redskins may want to carry an extra player at some position groups; potentially S, CB, OLB, or RB. The ‘Skins will not be carrying 3 QBs on the regular season roster in 2018. Hogan might have a shot at the practice squad, but — absent an injury to Alex or Colt — Hogan hasn’t got a prayer of making the 53.
The final word from Jay
I think every NFL team should be optimistic right now, I mean what the heck. I feel good about our quarterbacks, our running back room has a lot of depth, there’s a lot of talent, our receivers. We [have] a lot of different type of guys there, quick, fast, big, physical. Tight end group is exciting, we got Vernon [Davis] still, [Jeremy] Sprinkle is emerging as a very good blocking tight end. [Matt] Flanagan is doing a lot of good things, obviously Manasseh’s [Garner] here, Jordan Reed when he gets back. Offensive line, once we our guys back, it’s a lot of good players there. A lot of good depth, defensive line we’re excited about without a doubt. Outside backers what can you say about [Ryan] Kerrigan, Preston [Smith], Petey [Pete Robertson] and Ryan Anderson, and the rest of the group. Inside linebackers, so there’s – we have a good group of players here. Defensive backs, don’t want to leave them out, otherwise Josh [Norman] will tweet about me. He’s doing good. But yeah, there’s a lot to be optimistic about. Now, it’s just a matter of getting everything put together. And every team in the NFL has a lot of talent, as we do. Now it’s a matter of getting it all together and protecting the football and doing what we have to do to win games.”
BiB’s takeaway: The Redskins have the best and deepest roster that they’ve had in many years. There have been no changes to the coaching staff this offseason. There’s a ‘make-or-break’ feel to the season for Jay and his coaching staff.
The preseason starts on Thursday for the Redskins, and camp with the NY Jets offers some opportunities to test players’ skills against an opposing ball club. The preseason should offer some interesting looks at Redskins players, and the 2018 regular season should be an exciting and rewarding one for Redskins players, coaches and fans. I can hardly wait!