New defensive backs coach Torrian Gray has been with the team for three months now. Here's a look at everything he's done to prepare for his first season back in the NFL.
Since joining the Redskins in early February, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray has had a full plate a work transitioning from the college ranks to his first professional football job since his two years with the Bears in 2004-2005.
The former defensive backs coach for the University of Florida and Virginia Tech has worked with and molded numerous college players, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers in the NFL. The Redskins have already seen the fruits of his labor – drafting Virginia Tech products Kyshoen Jarrett and Kendall Fuller in consecutive drafts – and will rely on his eye for talent much more directly now.
His first few months have "been awesome," Gray said, using them to catch up to speed with how a professional operation runs and familiarizing himself with defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's defensive game plan. But how have all those weeks been broken down? What's his strategy with meeting new players? And what does he have in store for the rookies this weekend?
First weeks on the job
Once he took care of finding a house or apartment to rent in the area, Gray jumped right into the free agency process. Position coaches are asked to evaluate and grade free agent players to help the front office, so Gray began scouting eligible players in the secondary.
He also had to start learning the defense and getting acclimated with Manusky's schemes and philosophy.
"I'm kind of reading up myself," Gray said. "As far as us initially meeting as a staff doing that, we were trying to get caught up on the other things. We were still hiring [defensive quality control coach] James Rowe as a defensive assistant and things of that nature. Whenever we had time we would meet and talk about the defense a little bit. But for the most part, it's looking at [the playbook] in my room and getting an idea of what we're going to be doing."
Gray's attention had to shift to college players, too, as the NFL Combine approached. He poured over game film, interviews and, later, combine and pro day results, to provide grades for the draft.
"I had a pretty good idea on a lot of the guys that were coming out because I've been in the college game basically my whole career," Gray said.
"When I evaluate the pro guys as free agents, the only difference is those guys are professionals. You're going to give a grade to those guys -- our grading scale's the same, it's just the college guys are trying to become the pro guys. So it's not much different as far as evaluating. Who can change directions? Who can tackle?
Meeting returning players
The middle of April means meeting and greeting the players returning to the team. Once coach and player have gone through basic introductions during Phase 1 workouts, Gray leads meetings with the secondary regarding installations of the playbook and looking at film from the day's practice.
The key for Gray is to show off his personality and make sure that his players are understanding and trusting everything he's explaining.
"I'm kind of no-nonsense," Gray said. "I'm going to come with a lot of passion and energy though, and try to give those guys a 'why.' A 'why' I can help them or 'why' I think I can help them be successful or more successful than what they've done…Am I getting across to them what I need to get across? Am I too fast, am I too slow? So it's just me feeling them out and how that process goes. I think we're hitting pretty good right now."
Working on the field
So far, Gray says both D.J. Swearinger and Josh Norman have been natural leaders of the group, helping everyone along thus far.
As they've been practicing outside with footballs during Phase 2, Gray knows that even with some players at the top of their games, technique and fundamentals are still important facets to teach and refine.
"I was always told, if those guys feel you can help them achieve better, they'll buy into you and they'll listen to you, and I think that's what I can bring to the table," Gray said. "Those guys want to be better, and that's kind of how I think I fit in. You're always teaching technique and fundamentals, and for the most part, I think the big thing is just giving them the 'Whys.' Why do you want to do things a certain way? Why do you want their eyes here? Why do you want them to see things a certain way? Just giving them those details."
As the rookies make their way into the building this week and prepare for rookie mini-camp this weekend, Gray will look at various aspects of each player's game and assess their readiness for the professional ranks.
Check out images from the Washington Redskins' offense during their fifth day of Phase 2 offseason workouts at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
"A lot of these rookies are trying to get established," Gray said. "So [I'll] just probably [look for] what's their learning curve athletically. A lot of times, you've either got the tools or you don't have it from an athletic standpoint. But mentally, just try to bring those guys along and let them maximize their physical skills."
The process can be challenging at first because Gray is still learning everyone's personality and how they handle criticism and coaching. What helps is having a trusted group of NFL veterans with him who know when to speak to their teammates and facilitate Gray's lessons.
"You can feel comfortable because those guys are professionals, and if they know their craft and they're at the top of their craft, they can help the younger guys," gray said. "These guys understand how you're trying to do certain things, so that can help out."