While offseason practices are helping Redskins players adjust to their new team, they're also an important time for head coach Jay Gruden to adjust to calling plays again.
It's been a couple of years since head coach Jay Gruden last called plays for an NFL team, so excuse him if he's still catching up to the swing of things. That's what offseason practices are all about, anyways: re-acquainting with the playbook, receiving multiple repetitions and getting used to the players around you again.
Since Sean McVay left Washington to become the youngest head coach in NFL history with the Los Angeles Rams, Gruden has taken over play-calling duties for the first time since he relinquished them at the end of his first year as Redskins head coach in 2014. Gruden expressed some nerves and equal excitement about the switch back in March, citing the fact that it takes a little more work and time but can be more rewarding, too.
Gruden called plays in his three years as the Cininnati Bengals' offensive coordinator, too, and so the last few weeks have been just as fundamental for him as it has been for many new players.
"I feel confident in doing it," Gruden said. "I just need to get back into the flow of doing it, trying to do some unscripted work out there forces me to call plays on the fly in different situations – third down, red zone, all of that stuff, two-minute, just trying to get in the flow of it, trying to make sure I'm on the same page with Kirk [Cousins] and Kirk's on the same page with me, that's the big thing."
Under McVay the last two seasons, the Redskins put up some prolific offensive numbers with Cousins at quarterback, utilizing, and some might say mastering, the three tight end set featuring Jordan Reed. Along with promoted offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh, Gruden will aim to keep sprinting with the baton handed to him.
Gruden will also have to keep up verbally, and as he prepares for minicamp this week, you can be sure some two minute drills and hurry-up offense will be in the game plan, an opportunity for Gruden to keep up with the commotion and plan ahead in real time.
"It's just something that I need to work on more than Kirk," Gruden said. "Kirk gets the plays and executes them, it's just about me spitting them out quick enough because some of the terminology has changed over the years from when I called plays in Cincinnati and a little bit in my first year here. So it's just a matter of me getting back in the flow. It's been smooth so far. We've got a long way to go. Kirk is very good at two-minute drill, Colt's [McCoy] very good and they execute it well."
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Cavanaugh won't assist as much in that realm – he and assistant head coach Bill Callahan will offer advice when needed – but he will help in game planning throughout the week. The amount of work the entire offensive staff puts in, Cavanaugh said last week, should be good enough that anyone could call the game if absolutely necessary.
"I'm not discounting Jay's expertise in that field," Cavanaugh said. "But we're going to help game plan not only during the week but with in-game adjustments, things that myself or other coaches see, give him information and let him make the calls."
As for speaking into Cousins' headset and communicating effectively, Gruden doesn't see any issues evolving between them.
"He's got great command of the offense and he's getting better," Gruden said. "He's a young football player, so that's where we are. We've got him here for another year. I'm going to coach the heck out of him. Love coaching him, I think he likes playing here in this system for this football team and this franchise, so we'll see what happens."