Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's Sept. 22 press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.*
1. Rookie Martrell Spaight has been placed on season-ending injured reserve with a concussion.
Gruden said Tuesday that Spaight, who reported concussion-like symptoms to the team's medical staff after the Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, will sit out the rest of the year to fully recover from the injury.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 3 match up against the New York Giants Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
"We're disappointed but we mainly want to make sure he gets healthy," Gruden said. "He plays a very tough position – linebacker, obviously – and we want to make sure he is fully recovered."
Spaight's loss means the team has three healthy inside linebackers heading into Thursday night's game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium: Keenan Robinson, Will Compton and Terrance Plummer.
Starter Perry Riley Jr., meanwhile, is still recovering from a calf injury suffered last Sunday against the St. Louis Rams, and his status for the Giants game is up in the air.
"It's going to be a grind for those guys. I think they can do it and I think they can handle it," Gruden said of Robinson, Compton and Plummer. "I feel good about those three guys. Those three guys have had excellent camps and [are] playing very well. Hopefully we've got to hold the fort down."
2. Matt Jones is a big running back, but he has some major speed, too.
After looking at the film from Jones' 19-carry, 123-yard, two-touchdown performance last Sunday against the Rams, Gruden wasn't among those taken by surprise at the burst of speed displayed by the rookie Jones throughout the game.
Yes, Jones is a big back – he's listed at 6-foot-2, 231 pounds – but he's got some giddy up, too.
"He showed that when he burst out in the open field," Gruden said. "We brought him in for a visit before the draft and talked to him and showed a couple of his long runs. He did show that burst."
Gruden said "big, strong, fast men like that are hard to find."
"That's why we're very lucky to get him when we got him," Gruden said of Jones, a third-round pick this year out of Florida. "He does have a rare combination of size and speed and he's got good vision right now. We've just got to keep him going, keep him fresh."
3. Gruden is pleased with the team's tackling on defense so far.
Tackling was a major concern and point of emphasis for the Redskins' coaching staff throughout the preseason, but the defense has responded well through its first two games.
Gruden attributes that improvement to a number of factors, but, overall, says his guys are "playing with great vision."
"When you're playing with vision on the ball, I think guys are able to react and we're bringing more people to the tackles, not just one guy," he said. "A lot of times if you, a lot of people play man coverage and their backs are turned to the ball, one guy misses, it's a big play. But right now, if one guy misses, there's usually a couple guys right there in position to clean it up and they work extremely hard at that in the offseason."
League rules don't really allow for much contact at all during offseason workouts – and, for that matter, during in-season practices – so it's important to harp on tackling drills whenever possible.
"We preached tackling and fundamentals and we do that every day in practice," Gruden said. "Coach [Perry] Fewell and Coach [Robb] Akey and Coach [Kirk] Olivadotti do an excellent job preaching the fundamentals of tackling so, right now, it's paying off obviously."
4. Gruden has seen much growth from quarterback Kirk Cousins since his four-interception game against the Giants last season.
What a difference a year can make.
After throwing four picks against the Giants a year ago, Cousins is back under center as the Redskins' starting quarterback. This time around, he has much more confidence in himself and in the system, Gruden said.
"Hopefully it continues to grow," Gruden said. "I don't think he's even near his potential yet."
In some situations last season, Cousins would feel "like the world's about to end after an interception." Now, if he does make a mistake, he has the ability "to bounce back and get ready for the next drive."
"He's ready to bounce back and do right by his team," Gruden said. "So, he's got to understand those things are going to happen. I think he's grown through all that. Every rep that a quarterback gets in the NFL is a learning experience and he's continuing to learn and grow."
5. There's a growing level of comfort with the team's secondary finally all together.
Week 1 against the Dolphins, Bashaud Breeland was suspended. Week 2 against the Rams, Chris Culliver was suspended. But on Thursday against the Giants, all of the members of the Redskins' secondary will be together for the first time.
With recent addition Will Blackmon now in the mix, the unit has looked good in practices – now it's time to carry it over to a game.
Their first task together: stopping Odell Beckham Jr.
"Those guys are starting to mesh and starting to gel," Gruden said. "It's early yet. We still have a long way to go. We're going to face obviously different challenges every week. This one will be a great challenge with obviously the receivers that the Giants have and the quarterback that they have so they'll get a stern test this week and we'll see how they respond."
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