Gruden: Patriots practice reveals areas of weakness


Wide receiver Andre Roberts catches a pass during Monday’s practice with the New England Patriots. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND – After seeing his team in action against the New England Patriots on Monday, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden was encouraged regarding the direction in which his team is headed. But the coach has several items on the “needs improvement” list. Overall, however, Gruden felt good about the first day’s work against an unfamiliar opponent, and he said that the first session served its purpose. Listing a couple of points of emphasis that he planned to stress to his players, Gruden said:

● Wide receivers need to do a better job of beating press coverage. The Patriots’ physical cornerbacks did a good job of disrupting pass routes and thus hindering Washington’s passing attack. Receivers had argued today that the defensive backs would’ve drawn flags for illegal contact had officials worked today’s practice. But Gruden said the receivers need to get better.

● Quarterback decision-making needs to improve as well. Gruden said Robert Griffin III will have obvious growing pains as a third-year quarterback in a new system. But he needs to improve.

● Defensive conditioning must improve as well. The coach said the quick tempo of New England’s no-huddle offense exposed the conditioning deficiencies. Gruden said his defensive linemen weren’t firing off the ball late in practice, and they were hitting opponents high (no leverage when you go high), and lacked effectiveness.

Assessing the play of the offense against the Patriots, Gruden said, “I think our running game is pretty good, pretty solid. Every play there was something different that maybe we could get better at. Maybe it’s release off the jam. We need to do a much better job of getting off the bump-and-run. They do a nice job defensively of really slamming our receivers from time to time, so we need to work on our releases, give our quarterback some better plays maybe. Overall, I just think it’s about going out there, running our base offense and seeing how they react to different looks. The one thing that I think we have to improve mostly on is getting off the jam, our decision-making at quarterback, and obviously, we always have to work on our protection, but I felt good about where our running game was.”

Gruden said more focus on technique should help the receivers do a better job of beating press coverage. However, more playing time is the best way for Griffin to make strides.

“Robert’s only in his third year and this is his first year in this system, so there will be some growing pains,” Gruden said. “But ideally, I want him to have just total understanding of every possible play and every coverage scenario and where to go with the football. And it’ll come for him. It’ll take some time for him, but it’ll come.”

Gruden classified the defensive outing and struggles as a learning experience as well. But he also said he has a remedy for the stamina issues. “I noticed that on the fourth and fifth play of a couple of those drives, some of our guys were coming off real high and they weren’t coming off the ball, and it’s something we have to address, as far as making sure our guys are in shape,” the coach said. “And we have to get in extra running in after practice, we’ll have to do that. I think that was probably the most disappointing thing in it, some of the guys, defensive line-wise, getting off and continuing to rush, and you know they get tired. Overall the communication I thought was good. I think our secondary was where they needed to be at all times. We didn’t give up any big plays, but I think just from a stamina standpoint, we have to get better and better, and we have five or six weeks to do that before Houston.”

Have a Redskins question? Send an e-mail to mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question,” and it might be answered on Tuesday in The Mailbag.

What’s ahead:

The Redskins’ second joint practice with the New England Patriots on Monday began at 4:10 p.m. Here’s our camp guide, if you’re planning to attend.

Also from The Post:

Redskins release first depth chart

Training camp observations from Day 12

Brady exposes weaknesses in Redskins’ defense

Reid: Redskins could learn at lot from New England

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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