Redskins coach Jay Gruden finally gets a first look at his new team. No more just watching them on videotape. Here are the real people he has studied since he was hired to replace coach Mike Shanahan three months ago. Hopefully, seeing these guys in person is a good thing.
The offseason ended Monday when “voluntary” workouts began at Redskins Park. Coaches can talk football with players for two weeks before they head to the field. Organized team activities follow next month with minicamps afterward. Basically, there’ll be something happening through mid-June, when the team breaks one month before the start of training camp in late July.
Gruden is hoping the horror films known as the 2013 game tapes were misleading. He hopes the 3-13 team he inherited needs reviving more than rebuilding after last year’s suffocating finish under Shanahan.
The Redskins did well in free agency. Snagging receiver DeSean Jackson from Philadelphia was a steal that might restore balance in the NFC East. Regaining Ryan Clark at safety remedies one of the biggest mistakes of the Dan Snyder era, when Washington let Clark go in 2006 to instead sign Adam Archuleta. Clark fills a secondary void, though Washington still may need more help at safety.
Mostly, Gruden can get a feel on the new lineup before the NFL draft starts May 8. The Redskins need to know where to spend their second-round choice. Is it a right tackle that could fit on a revamped line with newly acquired left guard Shawn Lauvao and Kory Lichtensteiger moving to center? Do they need another safety or inside linebacker instead?
But like everything else at Redskins Park, it’s really about watching quarterback Robert Griffin III. The brace is off, and the knee is healed. He’ll have a full offseason of workouts after spending last year rehabbing. The next two months are critical in his push to return to 2012-rookie-of-the-year form.
The Redskins are going nowhere without a productive Griffin. How quickly Gruden and Griffin mesh under this offensive system is critical. Gruden must learn what to keep and what to toss from the playbook over the next two months. After all his dueling with Shanahan, Griffin will unquestionably say how much he loves the new system and coach, but he has to mean it. Griffin must be honest with himself and Gruden about his real strengths and weaknesses.
With the addition of Jackson, Washington looks like an 8-8 team. Who knows, maybe they can steal another game and make the playoffs? They could also finish 6-10.
Gruden needs to spot weaknesses in the coming weeks and address them with the draft. The time to build a winner is now.