Redskins Coach Jay Gruden encouraged by progress as he and staff continue to lay groundwork

Jay Gruden said he and his staff are making strides in their planning efforts. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Jay Gruden said he and his staff are making strides in their planning efforts. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden addressed reporters today at the NFL scouting combine, with a nine-minute session at the podium and then in a smaller setting with local reporters on hand.

Gruden said the acclimation process remains ongoing, but that he feels encouraged by the strides that he and his new staff have made as they formulate their plan for their first season together, and as they begin evaluations of college and free agent talent.

Gruden touched on a wide range of topics, so here’s the rundown from the smaller interview session in bullet form. Then I’ll come back with a more traditional, fleshed-out story.

On the progress he has made in the last 43 days since his hiring:

“I still feel like I’m always going to be playing catch-up, but it’s going good. We’re working on the schedules for minicamps and phase one and two and three, and training camp and all that good stuff and evaluating the free agents and our guys and now obviously working on the draft. You feel like there’s so much work to do, but I feel like we’re taking care of the important issues.”

On his first priority:

Making sure we get the right staff. I know that no way can I do this on my own. I want to make sure I get the right people around me, and I feel like we do. Coach Haslett and Sean McVay and the rest of the staff.”

On the importance of having a quality draft despite not having a first-round pick:

You have to be right with your picks. There’s no doubt about it and there’s no exact science. Otherwise it’d be easy for everybody. But there is a lot of pressure on us to be right with the second-, third-, fourth-, fifth-, sixth-round picks. Everybody.”

On the challenge of evaluating talent beyond the 53 players on the roster who played often – the injured players that missed significant time as well:

That’s the tough part. I’ve gone back to training camp and I’ve watched all the practice tape, trying to watch some of the guys I haven’t seen in regular season games, trying to watch preseason games of guys I haven’t seen. Keeping coach Haslett and Sean, obviously, I value their opinion of how the guys work and how they played when they had a chance to play. The good thing about keeping the guys from the staff last year, is they still know the guys that are here.”

On his discussions with Robert Griffin III, because rules prevent them from talking X’s and O’s until April 7:

“House, furniture, the stars. Whatever. His Twitter account. All the fun stuff.”

Key areas for Griffin to improve upon:

“The position of quarterback, there’s so many things that you have to be great at. I think ball security, number one, take care of the ball. The first year he played, he didn’t throw a lot of interceptions and he hardly ever fumbled. The turnover ratio was unbelievable. That’s part of the reason they went to the playoffs. Last year, it took a little more of a dip. More interceptions, more fumbles. So ball security number one. And obviously, we just want to give him some chances to see the field a little bit more with some drop-back passes and see how he handles moving forward. I don’t think it was a total wash last year. He did some good things and the more you play, the better you’re going to get and learn from experience, both good and bad.”

On how much of a challenge Griffin faced in trying to start in Week 1 without an offseason or preseason:

I played quarterback and I can’t imagine missing all of the offseason, all of training camp and all of the preseason and then all of a sudden, ‘Okay, you’re playing.’ That’s hard. They put a lot of faith in him, as well they should because he’s their guy. But I think that set him back a little bit. It’s very difficult position to play, as well all  know, but when you miss that amount of time leading up to your first game, that’ll set you back a little bit. Now, a whole offseason of being healthy, that will help him out.”

On young pass-catchers on the roster:

[Jordan Reed is] a very natural tight end in finding holes and getting open. We just have to keep him healthy, and that’s a concern for us. We won’t know how his concussions are, but treat him right, keep him on the field for 16 weeks. Aldrick Robinson is exciting because he’s so fast. You can’t coach speed. A 4.3 40, he can blister down the field. He’s got to get a little more consistent with his hands and clean up some of those routes. Obviously, Josh Morgan and Santana are both free agents. [Dez] Briscoe, I’ve watched a little bit. He’s a big physical kid.”

On wide receiver being a position of need:

I think it’s something we have to look at very closely, both free agency and this draft.”

On the evaluation of the offensive line, which in the podium session he mentioned that the size of the linemen was a topic of discussion.

“That’s something we’re battling. Those are good players, but sometimes on third and eight, they get pushed back a little bit. They’ve done some great things in their career, obviously. But if you get the bigger guys that don’t move quite as well, then you lose Alfred Morris and his strength, and that’s the outside zone and the stretch and finding lanes and holes to cut through. So, it can come back and bight you if you want to go big, depending on what you’re doing. You have to get better. But I like the guys we have on our team and we can work with them.”

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