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Five Takeaways: Jay Gruden At The Senior Bowl

Posted Jan 24, 2017

Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's media session with reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's media session with reporters on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.


1. Gruden “totally anticipates Kirk coming back” to the Redskins.

Obviously the biggest question of the Redskins’ offseason, now that both coordinator positions have been filled, turns to what the organization will do with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will become an unrestricted free agent for the second consecutive year.

The team has the option to sign him to a long-term contract or, like last year, place the franchise tag (and its many variations) on him. Gruden didn’t hint at what the team would likely offer, but seemed very confident that his starting quarterback will return to Washington.

“We totally anticipate Kirk coming back to the Washington Redskins,” Gruden said. “We are excited about parlaying two very good years as starting quarterback and the third year just continuing to watch him grow.”

Cousins was just added to the 2017 Pro Bowl in place of Aaron Rodgers, and will represent the Redskins along with Trent Williams in Orlando, Fla., later this week.

“I text him here and there he’s kind of Pro Bowling out in Orlando looking for a golf course to play at,” Gruden said.

By promoting Matt Cavanaugh from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, Gruden ensured a seamless transition of the offense and kept Cousins’ developmental mentor on the staff.

“[Cavanugh] helped a lot,” Gruden said. “I think he was a calming presence for Kirk, you know, you got this fiery personality, you got Sean [McVay], whose trying to oversee the whole thing and Matt can really break it down in detail as footwork, fundamentals, he’s done a really good job.”

2. Manusky impressed Gruden with his detail on fundamentals.

Among the many traits defensive coordinator Greg Manusky holds, it’s his boisterous nature that is often attributed to him the most. As the team’s outside linebackers coach in 2016, being loud and displaying his aggression was part of the job responsibility.

But when Manusky entered Gruden’s office to interview for the coordinator position, he showed the head coach more of his resume, focusing on the finer points of the game.

“I think when you see a guy who is an outside linebackers coach, you see him coach with the energy and passion that he does, you don’t really see him as a coordinator type guy,” Gruden said. “I know he came as a coordinator but until I interviewed, sat down with him, saw how well organized he was, how detailed he was with his fundamentals and his techniques, and he just sold me.”

Gruden believes Manusky, who will stick with the team's general 3-4 scheme, will be able to get the defense ready to play hard, mimicking Manusky’s own style as a former NFL player. Like Matt Cavanaugh’s experience as a quarterback, Manusky’s foundation as a linebacker should help lend him more credibility to the group.

“I think it’s good to know a guy’s been there and done that,” Gruden said. “It’s just another experienced guy, he’s been a coordinator I think six or seven years already, so he’s got that experience also. He’s been a position coach so he’s been through the ringer so to speak as far as the NFL. Been a player, a coach, assistant coach, coordinator, that wealth of experience with his energy and passion I think is a good fit.”

3. The Redskins are filling out their coaching staff, but are happy with their assistants so far.

Along with the additions to coordinator, the Redskins have also added Jim Tomsula to be defensive line coach and Kevin O’Connell as quarterbacks coach, along with promoting Chad Englehart to head strength and conditioning coach.

Gruden knows Tomsula can be an important guiding force for a defensive line that needs some major improvements and was very excited about O’Connell stepping into Cavanaugh’s old shoes. The former Browns quarterbacks coach played in the league for several seasons and has unique experience in a variety of offenses.

“For a young player, [and] ex-quarterback, he’s got loads of experience in my mind," Gruden said. "I’m excited about him. He’s going to do a great job with Kirk [Cousins], and Colt [McCoy] and obviously Nate [Sudfeld]. I think their personalities will match. He’s a very good guy and I think he’ll get a lot out of Kirk.”

Gruden also mentioned that he, along with Cavanaugh, Bill Callahan and O’Connell, will “spread around” play-calling duties, something he’s very excited about doing again.

As for the remaining vacancies on the coaching staff, Gruden said the team will be interviewing candidates this week for defensive backs and assistant defensive backs coaches, hinting that Aubrey Pleasant will likely not return to the staff.

4. Injured players are doing just fine.

Certainly of no lesser value is the health status of several Redskins players that exited the season still bruised and in need of repairs. Notably that includes last year’s first-round wide receiver Josh Doctson, who played in just two games before the team placed him on Injured Reserve with an Achilles injury that lingered with him throughout the entire year.

“I saw him running in the pool the other day, which was exciting,” Gruden said of Doctson. “We’re just going to take it slow with him. I think the month of February will be very important for his progress to see where he’s at.”

Aside from monitoring Doctson’s improving health, Gruden gave good progress reports on safety Su’a Cravens, who suffered an upper arm injury at the end of the season, and reported positive things on linebacker Ryan Kerrigan’s elbow procedure, which took place last week.

Gruden didn’t believe that tight end Jordan Reed (shoulder) nor right guard Brandon Scherff (ankle) would need to have any procedures done in the coming months.

5. The Senior Bowl is another opportunity to scout upgrades for the team.

While it doesn’t hold necessarily the same weight as the NFL Combine, the Senior Bowl is still a prime opportunity for plenty of college players to show off their skills in a competitive setting.

Some of the Redskins’ coaching staff, along with scouts and members of the front office, will be in attendance the entire week in Mobile, Ala., looking at the talent on display and receiving notes from their college coaches and personnel.

“You just like to see guys run around,” Gruden said.  “I don’t have a whole lot of information on these guys yet. I think once I see the practice, [and] see them live, and make a few notes here and there, you go back, and watch it again on tape, and then you watch all their games that they played in with the evaluation. This helps a little bit. It’s also good to see a lot of the coaches and pick their brain from time to time.”

As for any specific upgrades to the team, either through the draft or free agency, Gruden didn’t share any specifics, but praised the hard work his staff will be doing throughout the week.

“Well you’re always looking to upgrade everywhere,” Gruden said. “You know that’s the beauty of this thing, you come in with an open mind, you see these guys at practice, you do a lot of phone work after this, you see the combine you see the pro days and try to make the best decision you can. I know scouts up here working extremely hard to do the scouts and we’ll have a lot of guys who can help us.”

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