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Gruden Sees Added Depth On Defense

Posted Jun 11, 2014

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said depth on defense – particularly at safety and along the defensive line – was a key area of focus during the team’s OTA practices.

With just one more OTA practice to go until the Redskins begin minicamp, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said his team’s identity for the 2014 season is slowly, but surely, taking shape.

Gruden on Wednesday spoke to the media after the team’s ninth day of OTA practices, and said the team’s depth is beginning to stand out on both sides of the ball – particularly on defense, where the linemen and safeties in particular are impressing the first-year head coach.

“Everybody down there, from all those defensive tackles (and) linemen are doing a good job,” Gruden said. “They’re still maintaining their run gaps and playing good run defensive also at their pad level, but transitioning from a run-style stance to a pass rush isn’t easy for a lot of people, but our guys are doing a good job.

“The more the merrier as far as guys rushing, because you want to keep those guys fresh with the no-huddle attacks. The way they are, you’re going to have to have different defensive linemen in there rotating, you know, playing at a high level, and all those guys can contribute.”

At safety, Gruden said he likes seeing the leadership of veterans Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark, who are leading a relatively young – but talented – group in practices and in the meeting room.

“I’ve been impressed with our safety position,” Gruden said. “We have some safeties out here that can compete, but to have veterans like Meriweather and Clark out there leading the way, it’s good for these young guys to see and then when they are in there, they can progress and learn from them.”

Hall ‘dinged up’
One veteran leader not on the practice field Wednesday was cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

Gruden said Hall’s chin was “dinged up a little bit” in Tuesday’s indoor practice, “but he’ll be okay.”

“He just went back to Atlanta for the night,” Gruden said. “You know, he’s a cagey veteran. He felt he wanted to be with his family today, so I let him off.”

Cofield progresses
Defensive tackle Barry Cofield on Wednesday continued to get more involved in practice as he continues to recover from a recent hernia procedure.

Although not practicing fully just yet, Gruden said Cofield is recovering faster than he first anticipated.

“We’re still going to obviously modify what he’s doing and make sure he is full-go before he’s ready,” he said.

Gruden said Cofield is “champing at the bit” to get more involved at practice, but thinks he’ll be 100 percent by training camp in July.

Jackson ‘looked good’
A week after suffering a minor hamstring pull, wide receiver DeSean Jackson on Wednesday was showing flashes of his elite breakaway speed and elusiveness.

On one play in particular, Jackson evaded rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland to make a long, difficult touchdown catch from quarterback Robert Griffin III.

It was one of several Griffin III-to-Jackson passes on the day.

Gruden said Jackson’s still probably not at 100 percent, but was glad to see him running again.

“He feels good running straight, it’s just sometimes coming out of cuts a little bit he’s still a little bit tentative, and we’re just watching him,” Gruden said. “But he looked good obviously.”

Patriots practices
Gruden also discussed the upcoming training camp practices with the New England Patriots in Richmond, Va., Aug. 4-6.

As offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals the past three seasons – who practiced with the Atlanta Falcons at times – Gruden said joint practices can provide a lot of information about your team.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to see how our players both offensive line, how we pick up different stunts and different fronts and defensive line, different blocking schemes, obviously route combinations against different coverages and different type meets in the secondary,” Gruden said. “And how people adjust and how our quarterback adjusts and how they see things, so it’s good for everybody.”

Gruden said training camp practices can often get monotonous, but playing in front of a good crowd against some new bodies can be very beneficial.

“One of the major issues in football is how players adjust and if they can’t adjust to different looks, then they’re not going to be very effective,” he said. “You know, a lot of times you script these plays and you kind of know where the defense is, you know what players are going to get, but these are unscripted plays and you’re able to see how players react to different types of things.”

Robinson not about the talk
Middle linebacker Keenan Robinson has been practicing with the No. 1 team in practices, giving the Redskins coaching staff a good look at legendary Redskins linebacker London Fletcher’s possible replacement.

Robinson and Fletcher, however, have one distinct difference: Fletcher was known for his vocal leadership; Robinson, meanwhile, tries to let his play do his talking.

Gruden is a fan of both approaches.

“I think as long as he’s communicating the calls, that’s important, and as long as he’s playing hard and doing the right thing, that’s leadership enough in a lot of cases,” he said. “You don’t have to be a Ray Lewis-type of leader to play middle linebacker and be successful. There’s been linebackers who aren’t quite that vocal that have been very successful.”

Gruden said at its core, successful players know their assignments and can communicate well with others – two traits with which Robinson has no problem.

“As long as everybody knows what to do, let’s go out and play hard,” Gruden said. “And the leaders will emerge eventually.”

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