Redskins.com's Jake Kring-Schreifels and Stephen Czarda provide five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, who spoke with the media at the 2017 League Meetings in Phoenix.
1. It was a great honor for Gruden to sign a contract extension with the Redskins.
The Redskins provided some stability to the organization when they gave head coach Jay Gruden a multi-year contract extension during end of the NFL Combine.
Gruden is entering his fourth season as head coach of the Redskins in 2017 after joining the organization in 2014. After a four-win campaign in his debut season, Gruden and his staff helped engineer back-to-back winning seasons in 2015-16, the team's first such consecutive campaigns since 1996-97.
"It's significant, obviously," Gruden said. "It's a great honor to be coach of the Washington Redskins. And to have Dan [Snyder] and Bruce [Allen] have the faith that they want me to continue to be here is important. Hopefully I can make them right by the decision and do the best I can moving forward and continue to build this franchise the way it's supposed to be."
Gruden said that the Redskins contacted his agent initially and the head coach wasn't expecting that call to happen, considering he still had another year left on his contract.
"Obviously I'm grateful for it and signed it right away when I was offered," Gruden said. "There was no negotiating; it was, 'Give me the pen.'"
The extension also offers stability for players and the coaching staff, knowing that the leader in charge of the team has firm ground to walk on and will continue to institute the kind of culture that's been inside the locker room for the last couple of years.
"It's always good to have stability, especially with your assistant coaches too," Gruden said. "You know, they have families, too, and they want to feel secure in their spots. Coach [Bill] Callahan and now Greg Manusky and Jim Tomsula and all these guys and Ike Hilliard, it just makes for a better environment working without the stress of looking over your shoulder every five minutes."
2. Gruden has chatted briefly with Trent Williams, who is looking forward to the offseason program.
Redskins wide receiver Terrelle Pryor posted a photo on Tuesday of he and a few of his new teammates working out in Tampa, Fla., with quarterback Kirk Cousins, who head coach Jay Gruden said he's been texting with a little as the offseason program comes into view.
Take a look at the top photos of Kirk Cousins from the 2016 season.
"He is getting ready and he is excited about the season," Gruden said of Cousins. "We have been in contact about things he wants to work on and we've addressed that so when OTAs hit we can hit it hard. It's great to have a guy who has been in the system for a two years so you can just jump right into really hard core situational work. Just really fine tune some of the other things like cadence and the little things you want fine tune without starting from scratch. He can be a big part of the teaching process with the young players, receivers and the backs so I am excited about it."
Certainly the big question that remains with Cousins is whether he will sign a long-term contract before the July 15 deadline, or, like last year, play another season on the franchise tag. Gruden still feels optimistic that a deal can be worked out.
"The business side of it with the agent and our people is what it is and its that's way with a lot of guys," Gruden said. "We are going to have a number of guys with one year contracts and I fully expect them coming in and working their tails off and doing everything right to try and win a championship. That is what it's all about and at the end of the year we will come back to our negotiating table and try to get something done. Ideally you would like everyone to be on their long term contracts but that is obviously not possible."
3. The defensive line is in a state of change, but Gruden likes the two free agent additions that were brought in and thinks they'll mesh well with some of the young returners.
Washington signed four free agents within the first 24 hours of free agency, two of which were dedicated to a defensive line the team is hoping takes a step forward with in 2017.
The Redskins signed 27-year-old Stacy McGee after he spent his first four seasons in the NFL with the Oakland Raiders.
Gruden said he discussed McGee's potential with some of the Raiders' staff and even got a stamp of approval from one of his former teammates: Redskins Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams.
"I think he hasn't tapped on his potential yet," Gruden said. "He's strong, he's an ex-wrestler, obviously Trent knew him very well, had good things to say about him…from Oklahoma. I'm excited about him. Did a little bit of work on him, with people who coached him out there, and had a lot of good things to say about him."
As for McClain, he's seen a steady uptick in his performance ever since joining the Dallas Cowboys prior to the 2014 season. Last season, he recorded career highs in tackles (40) and sacks (2.5), bouncing back from a season-ending injury suffered in 2015 and coming on "like gangbusters."
"I think he was a leader amongst that defensive line room," Gruden said. "I know that if you come from Dallas and you play for Rod Marinelli, you're going to have what it takes to be a defensive lineman. You're going to play hard, you're going to do things the right way and then it will be an easy transition because we have a defensive line coach here who's going to expect the same things in a big way. He'll fit right in."
The Redskins also return a few inexperienced, yet high-ceiling players like the undrafted Anthony Lanier II.
While Lanier started the year inactive and ended on Injured Reserve, Gruden likes Lanier's physical makeup.
"We do 1-on-1s almost every day, and it's the one drill that I watch diligently every day," Gruden said. "1-on-1 pass rush – because I've got to see how our offensive line is doing. That's where games are won in my opinion. And he was a guy that was one of the most difficult for our guys to block. He was not a very natural rusher either. He was doing it on pure power, length. And I think the more he works coming out of his stance, getting off on the snap count, hand usage, all the things [defensive line] Coach [Jim] Tomsula worked with him, I think he's got a chance to be really, really good."
4. While the Redskins lost one of the league's top playmakers and a steady veteran presence opposite him, Gruden is eager to see what a new set of wide receivers will accomplish.
The wide receiving corps will look drastically different for the 2017 season, as both Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson have left Washington, but the Redskins gained 6-foot-4 wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr. and 6-foot-3 Brian Quick in free agency.
And, of course, Josh Doctson is looking to get back on track after missing the final 14 games of his rookie season.
Gruden believes the new set of wide receivers will cause issues for opposing defenses, particularly smaller defensive backs.
"I like big receivers personally, but I also like little ones like Jamison [Crowder], but I think it's a great advantage to have," Gruden said. "When you have 6-foot-5, 6-foot-3 with a guy that has a 40-inch vertical then you throw Crowder in there with a great change of direction. I like Maurice Harris and I like Ryan Grant who is not real big but has decent size. Having the luxury of having some big guys, some quick guys and some great guys who run routes like Maurice and Ryan Grant, I think we have great options. Now we add Quick who is another big guy so the options are there for him."
Pryor really stood out to Gruden last season in a breakout year for the former Cleveland Brown. In fact, in the Redskins' Week 4 victory over the Browns, Pryor scored a touchdown over double coverage. Plays like that show that the 27-year-old could be a special player for years to come.
"You just watch him running around, and you're like, 'Golly, who's that guy?'" Gruden said. "He's a good looking guy in a uniform that's for sure. Tall, long-legged guy. You can tell he's a great competitor. He was at Ohio State, and will continue to be."
Opposite of Pryor will likely be Doctson, who Gruden remains optimistic will be a big-time contributor in a potent offense. Earlier in the day, Doctson tweeted "100%," indicating a return to full-health is close.
"That's a big thing with him," Gruden said. "We took it really slow. I think Larry Hess and the training room did a great job with him. We sent him to a lot of doctors to try and figure out what was wrong with him. We took it slow and I think he's in a good place mentally and that's half the battle. We'll continue to gradually build him through OTAs and the mandatory camp so hopefully we'll get him to full speed in training camp and go from there. I'm excited as heck to watch him play."
5. Gruden will remain a vital part of the Redskins draft process, just as he always has been.
The head coach didn't give away any secrets regarding the Redskins' plans for the upcoming draft, but he did acknowledge that, as has been the case for the last three years, he will continue to play an important part in the team's draft process and personnel decisons.
"I've always been active," Gruden said. "I watch them [college players] all and our input as a coaching staff has always been used, so we have the scout's grade, we have the coach's grade, I have my input, and we go from there and make our decision. So I will be very much active, always have been, always will be. Doesn't change at all."
Check out these photos of Head Coach Jay Gruden from 2016.
Gruden admitted that he doesn't believe the Redskins will have to panic and focus on any specific needs in the draft, saying that the team is in a "pretty good place in a lot of spots," and that they might lean a little towards a couple positions if everything were equal.
Later in his conversation with reporters, Gruden got a little more detailed in his response about the draft process and how grades change throughout the course of the offseason.
"Our scouts are involved, our area scouts are the ones really that get all the information on players at the schools," Gruden said. "Then they bring it all back and start the process of 'OK, let's go over defensive tackles, the first of defensive tackles; here's a cat from Alabama. Let's go over him, watch his plays and let's rank him and then that's how it initially gets started. Coaches come in with their grades and the board changes and then after the combine the board may change depending how they work out. After you meet them, it could change again. The process is started like it always has been and it will continue to evolve depending what we see at pro days, combine and meeting them. The more tape you watch the more opinions you get."