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5 Takeaways: Gruden's Week 1 OTAs Presser

Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's Week 1 OTA press conference earlier this week in Loudoun County, Va.

1. Gruden was waiting for OTAs to start for quite some time now, saying it's "good to get out there as a team."

Yes, the players were able to work with the coaches during their Phase 2 workouts in recent weeks, but OTAs provided the next step up, as they're able to work for longer periods of time and see how guys perform in 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills.

"You're so split up throughout the offseason. You don't get a lot of time with them," Gruden told reporters. "But anytime you get out there and do some team activities, it's fun. It's just a challenge to say, 'We're going full speed here but stay off the ground. There's no contact allowed.' It's tough, but these guys worked through it."

With a lot of new faces both on the players' and coaches' sides, the next few weeks of OTAs are especially important for the Redskins.

"Anytime you can go out there and you go 11-on-11 and study your defense, your calls, your terminology and your offense, seeing plays vs. certain defenses and coverages and fronts and blitzes, it's a great benefit to everybody, man," he said. "So we're getting a lot out of it. We need them. We need as many as we can get. We're going to use every one that we do get."

2. A second year under Gruden's system is key for quarterback Robert Griffin III as expectations are increased.

Perhaps no position benefits more from the start of OTAs than quarterback.

After throwing "routes versus air" during the Phase 2 workouts, the quarterbacks this week got their first look at drills that involved the involvement of defensive players.

For Griffin III, the team's No. 1 quarterback this offseason, Gruden said he needs to continue to build on performances in practice.

"Robert's got great work ethic, No. 1. That's never been a question, you know?," he said. "He works extremely hard. So I'm satisfied in that regard. He comes to work every day trying to get better. The rules allow us to do certain things and don't allow us to do certain things, but he does a lot on his own. He gets himself in physically good condition to get ready to go."

This time last year, the team was still adjusting to Gruden being the head coach. Fast forward to this week, and the offense has a full year under their belt to learn the coach's system.

Gruden believes that'll benefit everyone's poise.

"Playing in the same system for the second year, usually the second year you have a little bit more confidence, a little bit more of an air about you that you should show improvement, lots of improvement – hearing the concepts and seeing the plays over and over again and dealing with the pressure and all that good stuff," he said. "I think Robert's going to be fine, it's just we have high expectations for the quarterback position and Robert in general. We expect significant strides to take place from Year 1 to Year 2."

3. Safety is a position group the Redskins will continue to monitor closely as they look to stack up their depth chart in the coming months.

Since the last time the Redskins conducted a practice like those in OTAs, the safety position has changed drastically.

Gone are the retired Ryan Clark and free agent Brandon Meriweather, and in are two-time Pro Bowler Dashon Goldson and Jeron Johnson.

The team also will get their first full look at Duke Ihenacho, as the former Bronco was on the team for less than a month in 2014 before suffering a season-ending injury.

"We have a very good group of safeties right now," Gruden said. "We went from kind of a struggling point for us the last couple of years, I guess, to I think it's a strong point now with adding Dashon Goldson and [Jeron] Johnson from Seattle and obviously Duke coming back at full strength and Phillip Thomas with another year. Obviously, we have Akeem [Davis]. We have Trenton Robinson, who's got another year."

While Johnson was penciled in to start once acquired in free agency, he'll be locked into a competitive battle with Ihenacho for the starting gig alongside Goldson.

"I think our safety spot looks a lot brighter now than it did 11 months ago," Gruden said. "But, Duke has got a chance to challenge for that starting job. No question. "

4. Despite a slew of new players on the defense, Gruden sees the unit coming together quickly and being more aggressive this year under defensive coordinator Joe Barry.

Check out images from the Washington Redskins' OTA practice on Thursday, May 28, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

Defense, defense, defense.

That's what was important to the Redskins early during the free agency period this year and then once again in the draft.

The team, of course, added three defensive lineman during free agency – Ricky Jean Francois, Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton – along with cornerback Chris Culliver and Johnson.

They also acquired Goldson via trade before adding four defensive players during the draft.

Gruden said it will be a "great challenge" for everyone to come together quickly and learn Barry's system, but that they want to build their chemistry the right way.

"The big thing is I think the veterans that we did sign, they're all very smart football players," he said. "The safeties that we signed are very smart. The defensive linemen are very smart and they play extremely hard. I think those guys won't have any problem adjusting, it's just a matter of getting used to the way Coach [Joe] Barry calls things and the way he wants things as opposed to the way they did at Seattle or Tampa or Chicago or wherever they're from."

Gruden also believes the new players will help the defense be more aggressive from the get-go.

"I think we made the right strides to get an aggressive defensive line with the players," he said. "So we're excited about it, man. We want to let our defensive line go and let them get up the field – [Jason] Hatcher, you know – get the handcuffs off of them a little bit, let them get up the field."

5. For now, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy will split reps behind Griffin III.

Earlier this year when Gruden said Griffin III was the Redskins' "No. 1 guy" heading into the season, he reiterated that he wants all of the quarterbacks to continuing competing.

So far through the first few weeks of offseason workouts, the Redskins have seen just that, as Griffin III, Cousins and McCoy have all been at Redskins Park honing their skills in preparation for the season.

While Griffin III continues to take first-team reps, the reps between Cousins and McCoy have been evenly divided behind him.

"Right now we don't have a depth chart for the second and third teams," Gruden said. "We're going to let them split the reps up and go from there and then make a decision come game day. But I would like to see them push Robert and push themselves. I think being a quarterback in the National Football League, it's your job to not only get yourself better but push the people in front of you."

Both saw extensive time under center last season, so they know what it's like to lead the Redskins out of the huddle.

That's why Gruden doesn't foresee them to "lie down and just hand the job over."

"They're going to do everything in their power to prove that they are starting-caliber quarterbacks in the National Football League," he said. "Like I said before, they've all had a taste of being a starter in the National Football League and they all want it back real bad. So I expect all three of them to compete and make each other better."




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