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5 Takeaways: Dec. 23 Jay Gruden Presser

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Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.:

1. Despite several injuries to all three levels of the defense, Gruden has been impressed with the way some of both the younger players and recently signed players have performed.

While the defense has had its up and downs this season, their performances despite serious injuries sustained by multiple veteran playmakers is something that Gruden has taken note on. At defensive line, nose tackle Barry Cofield missed a significant amount of time after suffering a high ankle sprain in the season opener.

The linebacking corps had to adjust to the absence of Brian Orakpo after he suffered torn a pectoral, and a plethora of talented, but very young cornerbacks have been required to play more with DeAngelo Hall recovering from a season-ending torn Achilles suffered Week 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Calling it a "tough thing to go through," Gruden does give credit to defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and the rest of the unit for stepping up in the wake of so many injuries.

"I think Coach Haslett and the defensive coaches have done a good job of working with what they have and the players have done a good job of trying to come in here and learn as fast as they can and be ready when their number is called," he said. "Continuity is a big thing on defense and repetition, so when you have a new guy at Mike linebacker every other day or a new guy at left corner every day and you move a guy from safety to other safety and a guy from nickel to corner or corner to nickel, it takes its toll."

Gruden did, however, shine a positive light on the fact some of these younger players are getting extensive time as a result, and that should help the team's depth both now and down the road.

"Moving forward next year, the good thing is that we got a lot of young guys some reps," he said. "So we also got a look at some key young players moving forward too, so there has been some good to come out of it."

2. Speaking of defensive injuries, linebacker Trent Murphy was placed on IR Tuesday with a broken hand. They'll lean on Jackson Jeffcoat and hopefully Gabe Miller as well in his absence.

Perhaps no position is more symbolic of the Redskins' constant change on defense than outside linebacker.

Orakpo, of course, was a mainstay in the starting lineup before being lost for the season. Taking his place was Murphy, a rookie out of Stanford.

Since making his first-career start against Dallas in Week 8, Murphy has slowly came into his own, recording 23 tackles and 2.5 sacks in the last seven games.

But with Murphy now out with a broken hand, they'll look to Jeffcoat and Miller to fill in.

While Miller was inactive vs. Philadelphia as he continued to battle an ankle injury, Jeffcoat got his first-career sack.

"Jeffcoat will get to play and of course we will get Gabe Miller, hopefully, back this week," he said. "We've got some guys over there that are picking up the slack and taking advantage of some repetitions and some reps and it's good to see Jeffcoat get a sack."

And while Gruden's hoping to see more sacks from Jeffcoat, possibly as early as this Sunday, he joked that he wants him to come up with something different in celebration.  

"He's got to work on his sack dance," Gruden said with a smile. "But it was good to see him get a sack."

3. Sweeping Dallas would be huge.

For the second time in three years, the Redskins head into a Week 17 matchup with the Cowboys with the chance to hand them a second loss in one season.

In 2012, the Redskins, of course, would send the Cowboys back to Dallas without a playoff appearance, while Washington was getting ready to host a playoff game as NFC East champions.

While such a scenario won't happen this time, that doesn't mean the Redskins aren't perking up this week.

This is Dallas after all.

"It would be a great deal," Gruden responded Wednesday when asked about sweeping Dallas. "This is a very good football team that we are playing. Obviously they played Indianapolis last week and they were almost perfect both offensively and defensively and they are playing at a very high level."

And regardless of records, these rivalry games always have meaning.

"I know we are 4-11, not a whole lot of excitement after this game happening, but still to beat Dallas, to play Dallas, is a great opportunity for a lot of guys to get more work and go against a heck of a football team," he said.

4. Whenever Robert Griffin III is manning the offense, Gruden wants to tinker the offense to his skillset. That means more play action when situations allow it.

While opposing defenses know that Griffin III is effective whenever he's getting mobile, and they gameplan for a rolling pocket, Gruden still wants to make sure he's utilizing the offense to the quarterback's tendencies.

Gruden said that while they "try to utilize play action quite a bit," especially early in games, if they are down, they need to adjust.

"Sometimes play-action goes out the window when you're down 12, 13, 14, 20 points," he said. "And unfortunately he [Griffin III] has been the quarterback, you know like against Tampa Bay we got down early in the third quarter, had to catch up and when you have a whole half of a football game where play actions and the boots and all that are out because you have got to drop back and throw it all the time, it skews the numbers."

Whenever the Redskins are in a closely contested games, however, Gruden believes all three quarterbacks can generate yardage through play action.

"No question, Kirk [Cousins], Colt [McCoy], all of them are much better when on first down and second down we can utilize the play-action and the boots and that's when we are at our best," he said.

5. Trent Williams' status for Sunday still isn't known, and probably won't be until the weekend.

Toughing out a series of minor injuries throughout the season, Williams has gained a lot of respect for his will to play.

Last Saturday against the Eagles, Williams played the majority of the snaps despite clearly being in pain.

As for this Sunday's game, Gruden said his status remains unclear.

"It's early and he's just got to get his necessary treatment," Gruden said. "I imagine it will come down to the last minute like it did last week."

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