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5 Takeaways: Gruden's Rookie Minicamp Presser

Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's 2015 rookie minicamp press conference Saturday in Loudoun County, Va.

1. Overall, the 65 players participating in this year's rookie minicamp have "made good impressions" on the coaching staff.

Of those 65 players, 10 are 2015 draft picks, 12 are college free agents signed by the team, eight are first-year veterans and 35 have been invited on a tryout basis.

Gruden said all of the players are tasked with coming in and processing as much information as they can and seeing how it translates to the football field.

"I think part of the plan is to throw them some information and see how they can retain it, and then see how they can translate the information they receive on the field," Gruden said. "I think, overall, they made good impressions on us, a lot of them did. It's exciting to see."

A possible roster spot could be on the line for those who come in and show that the moment isn't too big for them.

"They've worked extremely hard," Gruden said. "They've studied, and they go out there and practice with great urgency and tempo. So, I was impressed with a lot of them."

2. Gruden has enjoyed watching the team's top two 2015 draft picks – Brandon Scherff and Preston Smith – go after each other in practice.

The Redskins took Scherff, an Iowa product, with their No. 5-overall pick to shore up their offensive line, and Smith – a standout Mississippi State pass rusher – with the 38th-overall pick in the second round.

It didn't take long for Scherff and Smith to be matched up against each other in both individual and team drills.

"I think for the first three practices, throwing at them what we've thrown at them, I think they've done good," Gruden said of the pair.

Gruden says Scherff is a gamer who would rather participate in fully-padded practices rather than the T-shirt, shorts and a helmet the players are required to wear in rookie minicamp.

Scherff – who is making the transition over to right tackle and is expected to be in the mix to immediately start there for the Redskins – is a "very focused individual," Gruden said.

"He studies very hard, he takes coaching extremely well and he's got the best coach to coach him up," Gruden said of offensive line coach Bill Callahan. "But I think you see the progress from yesterday morning to yesterday afternoon to today, it's a significant change for him already. And I think he's going to continue to get better."

In Smith, meanwhile, Gruden said "you've got a tall, young kid with huge upside."

"And it's our job as coaches to get that upside out of him and get him to work," Gruden said. "I talked to him today about trying to get a little bit more suddenness to him, and he's just saying, 'I'm getting my bearings straight. I'm getting my plays down.' You'll see it once camp continues to hit and he gets more comfortable with the terminology, but I've been impressed with him."

3. The Redskins have a possible opening for their fourth quarterback after the sudden departure of college free agent Connor Halliday.

Halliday was signed by the Redskins May 7 after going undrafted out of Washington State, but Gruden said he "just chose to jump on a plane and head to the house" at some point this week.

The Washington Redskins held their third rookie minicamp practice of 2015 the morning of May 16, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

"I haven't had a chance to talk with him yet," Gruden said. "He just left me a voice message, but I'm sure he had personal reasons behind it."

As it stands now, the Redskins officially have three veteran quarterbacks on their roster in starter Robert Griffin III and backups Colt McCoy and Kirk Cousins.

"We have three guys who are going to really fight for every rep as it is, so in a way it's not bad to have three," Gruden said.

Washington also brought in two unsigned college free agent quarterbacks on a tryout basis – Hutson Mason and Anthony Neyer – to compete for a possible roster spot.

Mason was the starter at Georgia last season, setting a school record for completion percentage (67.9 percent).

Neyer, meanwhile, was a walk-on at USC in 2014 and appeared in one game with no passing attempts.

"We're looking at another two guys out here today, and one more practice today, and then we'll make a decision about whether or not we bring four to camp," Gruden said.

  1. Bill Callahan is a "grinder" who should make vast improvements to the Redskins' offensive line.

Callahan – hired in January after turning the Dallas Cowboys' line into one of the top units in the NFL – is a very experienced coach who gets the most out of his players, Gruden said.

"They're going to work their butts off, not only on the practice field, but in the classroom," Gruden said. "And every drill, every waking moment they're awake and they're in this building and out on this practice field, he's going to be in their ear, working them. And they're going to get better as a result."

Gruden said "so far, every lineman that we've had in here for Phase 2, Phase 1 (of offseason workouts), the veteran guys, along with the rookie guys have bought" into Callahan's approach.

"(They) have worked extremely hard with the fundamentals that he's teaching, the techniques, the scheme," Gruden said. "All of that I think will pay huge dividends down the road."

5. Third-round pick Matt Jones is already showing signs that he could compete for reps at the running back position.

Jones – a power runner who stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 231 pounds – is a larger running back that has drawn comparisons to Seahawks Pro Bowler Marshawn Lynch.

Already featuring a two-time Pro Bowler in Alfred Morris, however, Gruden said the Redskins appear set at the top of their depth chart at the running back position, but added Jones has already "done some things out in space that have been very, very impressive."

The second-year head coach said they'll let training camp and preseason games hash out the whole depth chart, where Jones will likely compete with returners Silas Redd Jr., Chris Thompson and others.

"Alfred is a darn good halfback, so in order to take carries off of him, you've got to show a lot," Gruden said. "So far, Matt has taken the right steps to take a little bit of the load off of Alfred. But like I said before, Alfred is our feature back, obviously, but in the NFL nowadays it's important to have two, three guys that can carry the ball. If you want to commit to running the football, you've got to have a couple guys that can tote it, so Matt will just add to the number."


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