Here are five big takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 37-34 division opener loss to the Philadelphia Eagles: [Read more...]
Dave Nichols and Andy Holmes from District Sports Page discuss the Washington Redskins 37-34 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Despite a career day by Kirk Cousins, including 437 yards and three touchdowns, the Washington Redskins breakdowns on special teams cost them, as they fell to the Philadelphia Eagles 37-34 on Sunday.
The Redskins had a kickoff returned against them for a touchdown and Kai Forbath — after hitting from 49- and 44-yards — missed a 33-yarder in the second half that turned out to be the margin of victory for Philly.
In addition to the loss in the standings, Washington also lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall to a possible Achilles tear. Veteran guard Shawn Lauvao and safety Duke Ihenacho were both injured and did not return. Also, NT Chris Baker was ejected for a late hit on quarterback Nick Foles, which led to a brawl along the Redskins sidelines. Eagles tackle Jason Peters was ejected as well.
Cousins was mostly terrific, completing 30 of 48 for 427 yards and three touchdowns, with one interception against. But on the last drive, trailing by three and time running out, he missed an open Pierre Garcon on fourth-and-10 that sealed the Eagles win.
Garcon had 11 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown and Desean Jackson, who was listed as questionable with the shoulder injury he sustained last week, caught five balls for 117 yards and an 81-yard scoring strike from Cousins.
The Redskins came out blazing. An 11-play, 82-yard opening drive ended in Darrel Young’s third touchdown of the season. Unfortunately, Chris Polk returned the ensuing kickoff 102 yards to tie.
Another long drive, 82 yards in 12 plays, resulted in Garcon’s 4-yard touchdown catch on the next possession.
Kai Forbath kicked field goals of 49-and 44-yard in the second quarter but the Eagles scored TDs instead, with Jordan Matthews catching a pair of 11-yard scores from Nick Foles, who finished the day 28 of 42 for 325 yards.
In the third, it was the Eagles that settled for field goals, with Cody Parker hitting from 38- and 33-yards while Jackson’s long bomb tied it at 27 at the end of the frame.
The fourth quarter was just as wild. Jeremy Maclin beat Brandon Meriweather clean for a 27-yard touchdown and Parkey made good from 51-yards after a Cousins interception, which looked to seal the win.
But the Redskins scored with 4:16 left, on a Roy Helu 1-yard carry, which was set up by a 55-yard screen pass-and-run by Helu down the left sidelines.
The Redskins held the Eagles to three-and-out and got the ball back, but a couple of short attempts fell incomplete and Cousins missed Garcon on the final play to end it.
Earlier in the fourth quarter, Baushaud Breeland appeared to have intercepted a Foles pass. He returned it and was tackled, but Baker leveled Foles right at the end of the play, starting a fracas. Eagles tackle Jason Peters defended his QB along the Redskins sidelines and both players were ejected for fighting.
DeSean Jackson injury update
Before DeSean Jackson’s highly anticipated return to Philadelphia, he is nursing a shoulder injury suffered in last week’s game against Jacksonville. Jackson updated his injury status, “My shoulder, you know, it’s the third day. The soreness went down a little bit, swelling went down as well too. Still in there [the training room] every day, trying to get it back to full strength and full motion.
It was just one of [those] situations where it was a fluke incident. I just kind of fell on my shoulder, just the impact of the ground and the guy falling on top of me was the biggest thing. Just irritating – to finish the game like that was just tough.”
Jackson fully expects to play on Sunday: “You know, I’m a very confidence person, regardless of an injury or not.
I pride myself on not missing any games and preparing myself any and every way I can to go out there and help my team. So, when it comes time for a game, I’m going to do everything I can to get myself prepared and ready.
Being able to get cleared through my trainers is more of what we’re waiting for to see if they’ll give me the OK, but I should be good to go come Sunday.”
On playing through the pain against the Eagles, Jackson said, “Honestly, I’m not jeopardizing or hurting my body more than it is. I wouldn’t be into doing that.
But at the same time, it’s not any broken bones, no torn ligaments or things like that, so at the end of the week we’ll see how it plays out. But, I don’t think an AC joint is jeopardizing my career in the long haul.
If it’s all on me, I’m playing. I don’t plan on missing this game.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed Jackson’s availability for Sunday: “I feel pretty good. A lot of these injuries I can be optimistic or not, it doesn’t really matter. It depends on how he feels, really, and whether or not he feels like he’s got full motion with the shoulder.
We’re not going to put him out there in any circumstance where he’s going to be playing in pain because that will take away from his style. He’s a reckless player, a fast player, and if he’s not 100 percent, he’s not worth being out there.
But he’s a tough kid and I think he’ll get right.”
Gruden elaborated further on Jackson’s preparation and treatment to get ready: “I think we’re just going to go day-to-day with it and see. I think tomorrow he’ll probably be limited, if anything.
The big thing is he’s getting his range of motion back and his strength.
We’ll see where he is, but I think Thursday I would be surprised if he practiced. Friday, I’m hoping he gets some reps and we’ll challenge him with some balls over his head, see if he can go up and get them, put the shoulder pads on him and see if he can bang around a little bit.
I’m hoping Friday, if he practices, then he’d be good to go, but we’ll see.”
Former Eagles teammate LeSean McCoy is expecting Jackson to play. “Oh man, I don’t need the coaches to tell me he’s going to play. I know him. I know what this game means to him, coming back here. I know what type of player he is. He’s always trying to make plays and be there for his teammates. So, I’m sure he’ll play this game. We’re scouting for him.”
DeSean Jackson impact
One of the reasons DeSean Jackson’s return to Philadelphia is so highly anticipated is that Jackson was the Eagles’ top playmaker at wide receiver.
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said, “DeSean had a very productive year for us last year, obviously led the team in receptions. I think he’s obviously a very fast receiver, he’s got great ball skills, great hand-eye coordination, very, very productive player for us last year. We were just going in a different direction at the wide receiver position here and that’s what we decided to do.”
The Redskins signed Jackson envisioning him as a downfield weapon for quarterback Robert Griffin III to deploy alongside Pierre Garcon, Andre Roberts and Jordan Reed. But with Griffin’s dislocated ankle injury suffered last week against Jacksonville, Jackson will have to quickly establish a rapport with new starter Kirk Cousins.
Cousins said, “I haven’t done a lot of work with him because when DeSean’s on the field, Robert has been on the field.
That will be an emphasis in practice this week to make sure I get a good feel for ‘How fast is this guy really?’ But, in watching and seeing all the reps and the work I have done with him in individual, it is hard to overthrow him. And as a result, you want to make sure you get the ball up and down and let him go get it.
Guys like that, you just want to give them a chance to make plays and go do what they’re paid to do. You don’t want to be a deterrent or slow them down from being able to make our offenses as explosive as I think it’s capable of being.”
Cousins said, “He’s a talented player. I mean, one of the best receivers in the league and we’d be foolish not to try to get him the ball and give him an opportunity to make plays.
As a quarterback, when you stand in the huddle, when you break the huddle and go to the line of scrimmage, there are certain guys that just make you feel better in tough situations and DeSean is certainly one of those guys. “
Redskins head coach Jay Gruden spoke about Jackson’s role in the offense: “He can run really fast [laughter]. He’s really fast and he’s really good after the catch, you know what I mean? He can catch and he’s not afraid of traffic whatsoever. So he can catch a short pass, turn them into big gains, and obviously he takes the top off a defense.
Even if he’s not catching the ball he’s opening it up for somebody else underneath.
Unfortunately against Houston, we weren’t able to use a lot of that stuff and then he got hurt against Jacksonville, so hopefully the next 13 games you’ll see a lot more of DeSean.”
Andy Dalton comparisons
The first comparison that is made with Kirk Cousins is to Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton as a pocket passer developed under the tutelage of Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. Gruden was the Bengals offensive coordinator before taking the head coaching job in Washington.
Cousins spoke of his relationship with his coach: “Jay, first of all, having played the quarterback position and done it at the professional level, you trust him because he’s been there and he has been in your shoes. He has a lot for experience.
I watched him have a lot of success with Andy Dalton the last three seasons and I believe that if I just do what he tells me to do and stay patient, trust the process, keep working, good things are going to happen because he knows what he’s talking about and he has a proven track record.
So I fully trust him and really just want to do what he tells me and work really hard to make sure the development comes quickly.”
Gruden discussed his offensive philosophy and how it relates to Cousins: “It’s what I know. It’s where I come from. It’s the football that I’ve learned coming through the ranks, studying other teams from my brother and all that stuff. So the system hasn’t changed really from Robert Griffin to Kirk Cousins to Andy Dalton. We’re running a structured amount of plays and concepts that I like and know and we try to be different and have some variety but nothing’s really changing.
But he is a very similar guy to Andy. They both wear rubber rings on their ring finger, you know, but they’re quarterbacks. They’re drop-back quarterbacks and they’re both very good, competitive, smart players.
But Andy’s done it. Andy’s proven it. He’s won. He’s been the past three years in the row and played a lot of football. Kirk hasn’t had the reps that Andy’s had. Andy from Day 1 of training camp, he got every first-team rep. That’s not the case with Kirk.
So, he’s got to now take all these reps and fast forward to a game on Sunday and that’s easier said than done a lot.”
Cousins also emphasized the importance of Gruden’s retention of Sean McVay, the tight ends coach under former coach Mike Shanahan. McVay was promoted to offensive coordinator, even though Gruden has playcalling duties. “Yeah, I was thrilled to hear that Jay was hired and that Sean McVay was going to be the offensive coordinator. I felt like all things considered, it was probably the best possible scenario – selfishly – for me to have a coach who has proven success with a guy in Andy Dalton, who I would say is a similar player to me,” said Cousins.
Cousins continued, “The system didn’t have a whole lot of turnover from the previous systems, so we were able to keep some things the same.
And then the fact that Sean was able to be kept from the old staff, gave us a good communication in installing the offense to be able to say, ‘Here’s what we did last year and here’s what we’re doing now.’
I think it was a really good situation for me to come into. In this league, you’re only as good as the guys around you and that includes the head coach and the offensive coordinator and the guys calling plays.
So I feel very fortunate to have the receivers I have, the tight ends, the running backs and the offensive line, but then obviously also the coaches and the play callers. It makes a big difference as a quarterback.”
First week with Kirk Cousins as starter
Kirk Cousins is getting used to being the starter for the first time under Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden.
Cousins said, “I think it’s getting very comfortable with the game plan. The installs, the protections, any new concepts we’ve put in. You get introduced to them last night, this morning and it’s important to get as familiar as possible with them come Sunday morning.”
Cousins described the difference in the distribution of first team reps: “Well, when I’m the backup, I get many of the scout teams reps and I get none of the offensive reps.
Now, as a starter coming in, I will get all of the starter reps and I’ll get none of the scout team reps. So basically, it’ll go, when the defense is on the field getting their reps, Colt [McCoy] is the quarterback.
When the offense is on the field getting their reps, I’m the quarterback. So, a little bit of night and day. You completely leave the scout team and you completely move to the offense and that will certainly help come Sunday.”
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson talked about the adjustment from Robert Griffin III to Cousins: “I mean, the biggest thing is going out there and practicing. You have to go out there and get reps.
He has to see it, you have to go back into the film room and just make a judgment. It’s an overall judgment when you play this game. You have to see it. Football is a game where everything happens in front of your eyes. If you’re not able to see and not able to judge and just have that feeling of how things are going to turn out, this game is one of them games where it would be hard to be successful at.
He’s been playing the game for a long time. I’ve been playing the game for a long time, but we have a great feeling for going out there and adjusting on the run.
So the more and more we practice, the more and more reps we have to go out there and play preseason games, the beginning of the season, it got better.
Unfortunate he’s going to be down for a couple of weeks, but I feel comfortable in Kirk Cousins to come in and do a great job, as everybody saw he did on Sunday and just help this team win games. As long as the quarterback in huddle is being in control and making good reads and getting the ball out of his hands, it makes it that much harder on the defense and the defensive coordinator. We all feel Kirk can get the job done.”
Kirk Cousins expectations
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is trying to manage the expectations surrounding Kirk Cousins’s first start about Robert Griffin III’s dislocated ankle sidelined him indefinitely.
Gruden said, “We don’t expect him to go out and win the MVP next week or win a Super Bowl to prove he’s an upper-echelon quarterback right away. We do expect him to produce and play within the offense and not make mistakes and do what he’s supposed to do – handle the protections and play the position – because we feel like he’s good enough to play the position at a very high level.
Expectations? We expect him to be effective. He doesn’t have to throw for 450 yards and six touchdowns to be effective. He can manage the game, manage third downs, not turn the ball over, keep us in good field position and play the position. Good quarterbacks can play differently. It’s not all about stats all the time, so we feel good about where Kirk is, but we’ll see.”
Cousins was asked to compare this starting opportunity to finishing last season by starting the last three games for Mike Shanahan, who was on his way out of Washington. “Yeah, if we’re comparing last season the last three games to right now, certainly it’s different,” Cousins said.
“Much earlier in the season with a lot more to play for and I think that creates a heightened sense of urgency and anytime you play, you want to play well but certainly there is a lot of football to go and with a divisional opponent on the road, we really need to have good attention to detail and good focus this week in our preparation,” Cousins continued.
Cousins was asked what he gained from those three games last year: “I think first of all I gained a lot of confidence. I think when you start three games in a row that’s an experience. That’s something that helped me have confidence now when I’m asked to go in against Jacksonville on Sunday.
So, you gain that confidence, that ‘been there, done that’ kind of feeling, and whether it was the close games we had against Atlanta or Dallas or the tough game in the rain against the Giants, you go through experiences that help you to say, ‘I’ve been there and I’ve done that.’
It’s hard to pinpoint any specific change or development. I think it’s just a gradual ability to continue to make better and better decisions and to continue to manage the game at a higher level that the longer I’m out there on the field, the better I’m going to get.”
Cousins was asked how this opportunity ranks given when it occurred in his NFL career: “It’s hard to rank them. I think every opportunity in the NFL is big. You’re being evaluated by so many people – your own team, your own coaches, your own front office, other teams, the media, friends and family back home are evaluating you.
So, every opportunity you get, you’re under a microscope, and it’s just important that you’re well-prepared each time you go out there and you know what you’re going to do and you don’t lay an egg. Rather than compare them, I just say each opportunity is very, very big.”
Gruden outlined the situation Cousins was working with: “I don’t know how the opportunity was last year. I’d like to think that this year I tried to lay it out very clear for Kirk coming in here that Robert was the starter and he was going to get all the starter reps and it was his job, and it was his job to be the No. 2 guy and take advantage of his reps when he got them in the preseason and in practice and he’s done that.
Now that Robert’s had the injury, it’s his job and we’ll cater to what he does, but he’s been nothing but a pro with the whole process of this ordeal and I think he’ll be ready. Time will tell.
He got some good looks, the running game was very effective against Jacksonville. We’ll see how he does in some key third down situations when the game’s tight or if we’re trailing. There’s a lot of circumstances in a football game that can really determine how a quarterback will be with the pressure. We’ll see, but we have obviously high hopes for Kirk and I know the team does.”
Kirk Cousins playing style
With the injury to Robert Griffin III, the Washington Redskins turn to a more traditional, dropback passer in Kirk Cousins.
Cousins described the adjustments Gruden made with RG3 out injured: “You know, I think if anything, we thought the zone read was going to be really good. With Robert going out, we didn’t execute quite as often or at all against Jacksonville. So if there was any change, it was probably for the worst that we didn’t have that at our disposal as much when I was in.
Other than that, the playbook stayed entirely the same and felt like the full menu of plays that would be there for Robert were there for me. It’s just a matter of executing.”
Cousins talked about the rapport he was building with his receivers: “You’re certainly going to develop greater chemistry, greater rapport the more you play with them, the more reps you get with them. So, if I were to play for four, five or six weeks, you know, Week 6 we’re going to be on a much better level than we are Week 1.
But that being said, I do feel comfortable. I feel like this is a system that mirrors a lot of what I’ve done in the past. Like I said, I trust Coach Gruden. I understand where he’s coming from and we have a lot of talented playmakers on the field. You saw a lot of guys catch the football last Sunday. It’s just a matter of me managing the game and getting the football in the right guy’s hands to let them go make plays.”
Eagles head coach Chip Kelly talked about game planning for Cousins: “I don’t think when you look at what Jay [Gruden] is doing offensively that they change very much when Kirk came in. I think he’s got a great command of Jay’s West Coast system. Obviously [he] did an outstanding job in the game against the Jaguars, so I think it didn’t seem like they missed a beat very much in terms of what they were trying to do in that last game.”
Kelly discussed Cousins’s status as the Redskins starter: “I don’t think you have backup quarterbacks in this league anymore with the amount that the No. 1 guys get banged up.
Kirk’s got a lot of snaps. I don’t know the exact number that he’s started. I know he started the last part of the season last year there.
He was a pretty high draft pick anyway at the quarterback spot. I think it was pretty smart of what they did in the past to make sure they get them both in the same class because they’re both outstanding quarterbacks.
Last year we had Mike Vick and Nick Foles and we had to play them both. We actually played three quarterbacks last season here in Mike and Nick and then Matt Barkley played against the Giants and against the Cowboys.
I think you need – and I said it all along – you need to have at least two quarterbacks in this league just because of how tough it is to play that position.
So we don’t look at Cousins as a backup quarterback. We look at him as the starting quarterback, and I think Jay will probably tell you the same thing – fortunately for them they have two really good ones in RGIII and Cousins.”
Cousins described his best attributes as a quarterback: “For me, it’s always going to come down to decision making. If I’m not making good decisions and knowing where to go with the football, I’m not going to play in this league very long.
Just avoiding negative plays – sacks, interceptions. I have to keep us ahead of the chains, keep us out of third-and-longs. If you’re consistently in third-and-long and consistently punting the football, you’re putting your defense in a tough spot and you’re not giving yourself a chance on offense to get your whole playbook going.
So, it’s a matter of staying positive on first and second down, staying out of long-yardage situations, and when you do that, you find yourself always in the fourth quarter having a chance to come down and win it.”
Cousins emphasizes minimizing turnovers: “Protection of the football is one of those areas that is just critical to winning and critical to having a successful team over the long run. As a quarterback, the ball is in your hand almost every play, if not every play. So, taking care of the football will be an emphasis of Coach Gruden to all the quarterbacks for as long as he’s here and as long as I’m playing I’ll always try to protect it.
That being said, you’re going to have turnovers. The best quarterbacks in the league are going to average an interception a game. If you finish the year with 16 picks, you’re probably going to lead the league in terms of fewest interceptions thrown. It’s part of playing the position. If you’re going to make some great throws and hit some big time third down completions, you’re going to have to at the same time throw some picks too.
So, you take the good with the bad, but certainly if we protect the football with the defense we have, we’re always going to have a good chance at the end of the game to win.”
Cousins described his huddle demeanor: “Without going into too much detail, I just say that I have a laser focus, I’m an intense guy, and sometimes I like to make fun of myself too and kind of play jokes on that as well about how intense I am.
It’s always a balance of making sure you’re locked in and focused, but also that you’re not putting too much pressure on yourself or forgetting to be light-hearted and have fun at the same time because it is a game.”
Cousins discussed his experience in pressure situations: “Well, I think in that sense just the pressure, the expectations, whatever you want to call it, it’s nothing new. We’ve played college football on a big stage and started NFL games and been a part of NFL teams in big games.
All that being said, this isn’t something brand new that we need to make a big deal of. We’re going on the road, we’re playing a great football team, a team that 2-0, leading our division, and we need to have a great week of practice to be ready to play them.”
Informed of Kelly’s comments about him as a quarterback, Cousins said, “Yeah, I think I’m always going to try make sure my command of this offense is as strong as it can be. You know, I’m not 6-5. I don’t run a 4.3. I don’t have an arm that can throw at 90 yards.
So, if I don’t have good command and if I’m not making good decisions and if I’m not doing a great job of managing the game, then I’m not going to be playing in this league very long. So, the focus for me has to be having a good command, making great decisions, knowing where to go with the football. Sometimes that’s taking a sack, sometimes that’s throwing it out of bounds, but always giving us a chance to win the game at the end.”
Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly discussed the design of his offense: “Well, our offense no matter wherever I’ve been has always been personnel-driven.
So it’s finding out the strengths and weaknesses of the individual players that you have, not only at quarterback, but at every other position. I don’t think you can just fit it around one person because there is 11 guys playing. I think every coach goes through that whole deal of, ‘What is this guy’s strengths? What are the weaknesses and how do we put them into positions where they can make plays?’”
Kelly elaborated on how well the Eagles have grasped his offense: “I think everybody has a lot of offense or defense or whatever.
You just specifically tailor it to each game that you’re going to play. So, over the course of time what happens in the third game of the season may be different than what happens in the eighth game of the season. But I don’t think it’s in terms of opening up your playbook, it’s just you’re facing a different defense, you’re facing a different set of personnel over there and you’re trying to pick plays out of your system that fit in terms of what you’re trying to do.
I think our game last year when we played them, I think they played us two different ways, definitely in the first game than they did in the second game. You just have got to be prepared for it that whatever they throw at you defensively that you have enough on the offensive end to handle it.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed the time it takes to prepare for the Eagles: “Yeah, we take quite a bit. We really study our division opponents very much and we always study trends around the league and obviously the no-huddle is a trend that a lot of people are going to. Not just Philadelphia, but there’s a lot of teams running no-huddle and you study how you communicate the process for your defense and try not to be so vanilla all the time.
But, I think today was a great day, a firsthand look at the tempo. It’s hard to mirror that tempo in a game situation – the fast pace – but today was a start. Tomorrow we’ll get more of it, but we have studied Philadelphia quite a lot.”
Gruden expounded on the difficulty of replicating the Eagles offense in practice: “It’s hard, it’s very hard because you have to show the cards to the scout team and you try to have a couple different sets of cards going and all that good stuff and you try to tell the defense, ‘Hey don’t give the signal until the very last second so you’ve got to communicate it.’
So, there’s a couple different ways to do it and you only have so many guys that can run scout team cards, too. It’s not like we NCAA football roster limits. You know, we have 53 guys here practicing here, really about 45 guys practicing here so it’s hard to get the subs in and out of there.
I think we have a couple good periods we really do the up-tempo and try to get a good look. Practicing the up-tempo and tackling [Darren] Sproles and [LeSean] Shady McCoy are two different things.”
Redskins wide receiver (and former Eagle) DeSean Jackson was asked if he could offer any insights into the Eagles offense: “Yeah, I’m very familiar with their offense. They do some great things – high speed, high tempo.
The biggest thing I can tell these guys is keying in on certain plays – what their characteristics are, what they like to do. Everything they do over there, I know. As far as what I can tell my guys here to help them out, I’ll do the best I can.
At the same time, they’ve still got to go out there and stop it. So, no matter how much advice I give them, no matter how much I prepare them, they’re still going to have to go out there and stop it.
It’ll be an interesting thing to see. I think our defense is great. They’ve been flying around, doing some great things this year. It’s going to be a high-powered game, and we feel very confident on our side that we’ll be able to go out there and get it done.”
Kelly offers his comments on the Redskins defense: “We’ve played them before and just have great respect for them.
It starts with the two outside linebackers – [Ryan] Kerrigan and [Brian] Orakpo. Just really, really good football players.
You add Jason Hatcher, who I think played outstanding against us in the two games he had when he was with the Cowboys last year. I think he’s one of the top defensive ends in this league. And then you’ve got size in [Chris] Baker and [Jarvis] Jenkins inside. You’ve also got Clifton [Geathers] there, who played for us last year who is another big, large body. They’ve got a lot of size on the defensive line.
It’s going to be a real challenge for us. Those outside linebackers and that defensive line is going to be a real challenge for our offensive line.”
Gruden mentioned the defensive line rotation in facing the Chip Kelly offense. “No question, there is a major concern there. It’s been a concern for the first two opponents that they [Philadelphia] played because Jacksonville wore down and so did Indianapolis – it looked like on tape. I’m not going to speak on their behalf.
When you’re up 17-0 in the third quarter and you give up 34 and a couple of those big plays, it could be not so much the defensive line but maybe the safeties, the communication gets out of whack.
Big plays happen, so it’s very important for us to figure out a way to stay fresh and try to use the best rotation we can possible whether it’s nickel, whether it’s base, whatever it might be, but we have to stay fresh somehow.
For them to stay fresh, we’ve got to do a great job defensively on third down and offensively on third down to keep drives alive and keep them off the field. That’ll be the key to the game.”
Gruden welcomes the return of Brandon Meriweather from his two-game suspension. “It’s another guy to communicate, another guy to help handle the defense.
Ryan Clark has done a great job of holding the fort down. Now you throw another guy out there who knows the defense inside and out and can communicate with the linebackers and the defensive line and they really play well together. You can see that all through training camp. When Ryan and Meriweather are out there together, they really do a great job at communicating and working well.
He’s another physical presence to our defense. You throw Ryan Clark out there and Brandon Meriweather out there, two guys that’ll bring the funk so to speak, tackling-wise, it makes a big deal when receivers go across the middle.”
The Redskins released Baccari Rambo to make room on the roster for Meriweather. Gruden said, “Well, when Brandon came back, we had to release somebody and I think Trenton Robinson has done such a great job on special teams, same with Akeem Davis, that they were going to stick. Then, we got Duke [Ihenacho] just now. We had to release a safety and that’s what we chose.”
DeSean Jackson return to Philadelphia
Anticipation is building for Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s return to Philadelphia as an opposing player after six seasons with the Eagles. Jackson remarked, “As far as the emotions on the game, obviously being in Philadelphia my first six years and playing there and accomplishing some of the things I accomplished to start my career was obviously a huge time in my life, a huge part of the beginning of my NFL career. So obliviously it’s going to be a huge game for myself and something I always looked forward to ever since everything went down the way it went down.”
Asked about the reception he may get in Philadelphia, Jackson said, “That’s something I’m going to have to wait to see. I’ve never had to experience that. So going out there and playing on Sunday will be a reaction that I’m yet to see how they treat me. I felt I put it on the line for them when I played there and [know] what I’ve done to help that organization win games. As far as if they congratulate me or boo me or whatever the case may be, I’m ready for whatever it is.”
Jackson was asked about the friends he still has on the Eagles: “Honestly, man, I have friends on the team, but my focus is more here in this locker room, doing what we need to do win a football game.
Obviously, it’s an NFC East game, and I’m very familiar with NFC East games and I’m not here to be buddy-buddy, you know? I want to win football games for this team here. Once game time comes, I could care less about anything else.
Burgundy and gold are my colors now and that’s all I’m going to focus on, that’s all I’m going to worry about.
Buddy-buddy, there is no time for that once game time starts. So, you’ve kind of got to put all that aside and go out there and battle, play football and try to do our best to win a football game.”
Eagles running back LeSean McCoy was asked about his friendship with Jackson: “That’s my guy. We still talk and we still text. We have a good time. I was worried about him after the last game so I texted him to see how he was doing. He says he’s fine.”
Asked about his recent communication with Jackson, McCoy said, “We actually just were texting yesterday. I knew he’s banged up so I didn’t want to talk no trash to him until he’s fully healthy. And he said he was good. We just talked about our families. We really didn’t get too much into it – about just the game.”
McCoy spoke about seeing Jackson in an opposing jersey: “You know what’s got me the most worried about it is seeing him in an 11 jersey in person. I’m so used to seeing that 10 running past defenders, making plays in that green.
It’s going to be a little different. It is a business. He’s looking to come out here and put a show on. So, we’ve got to do the same thing on the other side.”
As far as the controversial decision to release Jackson, Eagles head coach Chip Kelly said, “Yeah, just trying to build the overall team in terms of what we we’re looking for offensively and how we wanted to get bigger at the wideout spot and that’s what we did.” Kelly said it had nothing to do with Jackson’s character off the field.
Kelly said there was no consideration about Jackson potentially going to an NFC East rival: “No, whenever you release a player they have an opportunity to go play for anybody in the league, so we understood the ramifications of the decision that we made.”
Jackson says he has moved on from the Eagles. “Honestly, that’s their decision. They made the decision. They moved on. I moved on.
I’m just blessed, like I said, to have a second opportunity to play here in Washington, and, you know, it’s not about them anymore. It’s about what we’re doing over here – what I need to do to better my career and what I need to do to help my organization win games.
So, this week we have a great opportunity to go play the team that has a lot of pub and everybody’s been congratulating them on the things they’ve done good. Hopefully, we can go out there and exploit them and win the football game.”
As far as acclimating to his new team, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said, “He’s been great. I like DeSean a lot. He hasn’t been any issue, hasn’t had a problem as far as being late, as far as any personal problems. He comes out to practice, works hard. I don’t have any problem with him. I don’t know what the issue was beforehand, I can’t speak on Philly, but ever since he’s walked in these doors he’s been fine with the players and with me.”
Gruden was asked if the Redskins had any concerns about Jackson’s reputation in leaving Philadelphia: “Not really. We did our due diligence on him. I’ve known some people that worked with him and I feel pretty good about when you bring a football player in, you coach them to play football and you have a set of rules and you have some good players that have a great sense of accountability.
[Linebacker] Brian Orakpo, you bring in [defensive end] Jason Hatcher, you have Ryan Clark, you have guys like that that hold the players accountable. The more players like that you have, you worry less about somebody like DeSean who has a bad reputation, but none of that bad reputation thing has followed him.
If he had one or not, I don’t know. He’s been fine with us, like I said – on time, worked hard, prepared hard. Actually, I really like him. He’s a fun guy to be around… every now and then [laughter].”
Jackson was asked if he thinks twice before he acts given the reputation he had in his last days as an Eagle: “I think that speaks for itself, honestly. As far as anything you do in life, being in the NFL and being in the position that I’m at in my career, regardless of what it is, you kind of have to over-analyze anything you do. Being in the NFL, it’s like you’re under a microscope and everything you do is being looked at.
So being able to come here to Washington and play for the Redskins, since Day 1, since I stepped in here with this organization, I was just myself. I didn’t really change. They accepted me for who I was. I didn’t really have to prove anything to them because they knew what type of player and person I was. That was the best thing and the best reason why I chose to come here to play in Washington.
My teammates are a good group of guys that go out there and work hard. We compete versus each other and vice versa. Our coaches challenge us to go out there and put the best on film and do the best we can to help win games. That’s the biggest thing we can say.
The first game didn’t go the way we wanted it to go, last week we [were] able to come out versus a team that we felt we should have won. Regardless of that, it’s the NFL and any given Sunday, you’ve got to go out there and prepare, have got to play, so that’s what we look forward to this Sunday coming up. It’s just another football game for us.”
Eagles running game
A key part of the high-powered Philadelphia Eagles offense is their two fast running backs, LeSean McCoy and Darren Sproles.
McCoy was asked about how he practiced his open field running given the lack of contact in head coach Chip Kelly’s practices: “It’s more through the week, I just focus on my alignment, studying the defense and running hard just to get my conditioning up. I don’t really practice that much as far as practicing moves and trying to make guys miss. I just practice hard and fast. I think some things are just natural. It just happens.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden spoke of the Eagles’ new offseason acquisition Sproles: “He’s a great player. Anytime you have a chance to get after a player like that who’s been that dominant in the passing game – a third-down type player, ball in space – you’d like a crack at him.
It didn’t work out for us, and when you find out it’s not going to work out with us, you dang sure want him to go to the AFC somewhere, but unfortunately he went to Philly.
He’s a great player. You can tell he works hard. He understands his role. He relishes it. He dominates his role. When his number is called, he produces consistently, year after year after year. He’s a great pick up for them.”
Kelly discussed Sproles’s various roles in the Eagles offense: “He’s just really a very talented player in all aspects – as a running back, as a receiver coming out of the backfield and then also as a return guy.
I think the ability to get one guy that can do all three was a huge bonus, especially when you only have 46 guys active on game day. He really is fulfilling three different roles, but you’ve got them rolled up in one guy.
So we obviously have what we think is the top back in the league in LeSean, but we don’t feel like there’s a dropoff when we go from the No. 1 back to the No. 1A back in terms of when Darren comes in the game. That’s a credit to those two guys and how talented they are.”
McCoy spoke about Sproles’s role thus far this season in the Eagles’ 2-0 start: “Man, that’s kind of why we brought him here. Without Sproles, we’ll be in some trouble, especially the way we started off these first two games.
He’s very explosive. I think we use him well. He’s great on special teams and the option on offense.
He’s needed to give us the spark we needed on offense these last couple games, and obviously the last game, he really took over for us.
What’s just cool about him is we’re going to have so many different packages with him, using him and putting him the game where teams will start to be fooled and have to scout for him and know where he’s at. So he can be used as a playmaker and a decoy which will obviously help us out on offense.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden spoke about the team’s excellent defensive performance last Sunday against Jacksonville. “You know, my first year coaching with my brother in 2002, the Buccaneers had a pretty good defense with [Warren] Sapp and Simeon [Rice] and all those guys, so we saw a few of those. Firsthand, I mean, 10 sacks and just the whole defense in general flying around to the football, the energy that they played with, I haven’t seen it in a long time.
So, [I’m] just impressed with the whole energy in general and people talk about the sacks, but the coverage was outstanding by the defensive backs and the linebackers – Keenan [Robinson] and Perry [Riley, Jr.] – they were flying all over the joint, and they don’t get any credit as far as the stat people are concerned, but they had a lot to do with the success of the defense also. So very impressed with the whole unit. Coach [Jim] Haslett called a great game, obviously, and the defensive coaches had those guys ready to play and it showed.”
Asked about Chris Baker’s performance at nose tackle, Gruden said, “Chris Baker had an outstanding game, also, and Jarvis [Jenkins] did good, too. And Perry [Riley, Jr.] did well. But, like I said, the key was stopping them on first down. I don’t know what the average per carry or play was on first down but they were in a lot of second-and-longs and then third-and-longs, which really let us get going.
We stopped the run extremely well. I think [Toby] Gerhart had seven or eight carries for nine yards or something like that, and he’s a darn good running back, so it’s very impressive that our front not only rushed the passer extremely well, but we stopped the run.
When you do both, it means good days for your defense and I think we have the front that can do both, which is exciting. We’ve got the athleticism, we’ve got the size to stop the run, we’ve got the athleticism to rush the passer. That’s why I feel like our future is so bright here this year because I think defensively we can play with anybody.”
Gruden was pleased with Jason Hatcher’s contributions as delivering exactly what he wanted. “That’s why he was one of our focal points as far as signing a pass rusher. He was one of the guys we wanted and targeted and we are lucky to have him. He is a great guy, not only on the field with his production but off the field he is a great motivator, keeps the guys up on the sidelines and keeps everybody accountable to playing hard and you can feel everybody feeding off of it.
When you get the push up the middle, it opens it up for everybody else and you saw [Ryan] Kerrigan get four and [Brian] Orakpo had one and a half or two and it gets everybody involved. The key is to obviously get teams in third down and long which we did yesterday and then let him go after it. He has been everything we hoped for and more, so far.”
Asked about safety Trenton Robinson’s game on Sunday, Gruden said, “Trenton has had a couple good weeks of practice. He’s been a special team demon for us, and after the play at the end of the half, we thought we needed a look at Trenton, give him a chance, see what he could do. And he didn’t disappoint. He got an interception and was in on a few tackles and did some good things. He was part of the big play we gave up in the second half, but overall, I thought Trenton did a nice job.”
Gruden is anticipating Brandon Meriweather’s return from suspension at safety.
“He’s back, he’s ready to go and he’s excited. I saw him today, he’s bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and fired up to get back on the field. It was an unfortunate incident what happened to him, missing two games, but he’s raring to go. He’s champing at the bit and we’ll have to make a decision tomorrow on what we do with the roster spot.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked if the team’s game plan will change with Kirk Cousins behind center instead of Robert Griffin III, out indefinitely with a dislocated ankle.
“No, no. Our game plan will be our game plan,” Gruden said. “Nothing is going to change really whatsoever. If we see that we can run the ball, you’re going to try to run the ball every week, no question about it. There’s nothing that’ll change with Kirk at quarterback and these guys have practiced all our plays from Day 1 like I said when I first got here. They’ve both handled it very well – Colt [McCoy] included – all three of them. There’s not going to be a lot of change moving forward with Kirk.”
Gruden spoke about what the team needs to do around Cousins, “Yeah, we’ve got to help him. People around him have got to step up, not just Kirk. Our running game has got to step up, our linemen have got to do a better job in pass protection and opening up holes for our backs. Our receivers have got to do great things after the catch. And then of course, our defense needs to continue to play well and get the ball for us in good field position.
If we think we’re going to play from behind, it’s going to be hard on any quarterback, but I think we all realized what a team game this is yesterday. Our special teams was pretty good, our defense was outstanding and our offense was good in the running and the passing game. We put those three phases together, we’re going to be a tough team to beat. As we learned in Houston, when we don’t do that, it’s very tough to win whoever the quarterback is.
I think it’s just important moving forward that we try not to make this about Robert when Robert was the quarterback. We’re going to try not to make this about Kirk now that Kirk is the quarterback. We’ve got to make it about the Redskins moving forward, and everybody needs to get involved and help us through this.”
Gruden spoke of Cousins’s assets as a quarterback. “Well, he’s a smart quarterback, and I think he can make every throw,” Gruden started. “He’s got a very strong arm, he can throw the deep balls as we saw yesterday, and he’s got good medium accuracy and touch and obviously he has got short accuracy and touch. The big thing for him is playing – handling the pass rush, handling the blitzes and the protections, which he hasn’t had a whole lot of reps at. And that will be the difference in him being a very, very effective quarterback in the coming week.
So, we’ve got to just get him ready from a mental standpoint, but from a physical standpoint, he’s got the tools to make all the throws. I know the team has confidence in all our quarterbacks and moving forward and he’s got a chance to be very successful.”
Gruden rated Cousins’s performance on Sunday: “Very impressed, I thought he had an outstanding game. He worked the tight ends, he got the receivers involved, he got the backs involved, made good sound decisions with the football, quick decisions and kept us in positive down and distances and moving the ball. Our running game was outstanding, also. I think we had 190 yards rushing which also helps.
Then of course the field position the defense got us and special teams was also outstanding. So we were able to keep Jacksonville on their heels with the run, the play pass and the drop-back pass. It was a great day and both quarterbacks did well when they were in there.”
On whether the Redskins will bring in a new third-string quarterback, Gruden said, “We may. We haven’t decided that yet. And, you know, Colt is a very capable backup, as we know. He started some in the NFL, so we’ll address that at a later time, whether or not we bring a third guy in for practice squad.”
Asked what would have happened if Cousins also got injured Sunday with McCoy designated as inactive, Gruden answered, “Andre Roberts was going to go back there in the shotgun and hand it off or run it.”
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden briefed reporters Monday about the severity of quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injury.
“Robert has a dislocated ankle. It is not a fracture. We’ll know in a few more weeks as far as how long he’ll be out. We’re going to send his results of the MRI to Dr. [Robert] Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist and get it casted up and we’ll just go from there.”
There was no ligament damage to Griffin’s ankle, and the injury will not require surgery. There was no consideration to putting Griffin on season-ending IR. [Read more...]
The Washington Redskins offense thoroughly dominated the Jacksonville Jaguars Sunday en route to the team’s first victory since Nov. 3 of last year. The 41 points scored by the offense was their highest output since their 45-point showing against the Bears in late October last season.
However, in spite of their success, the story of this game will be the ankle injury quarterback Robert Griffin III suffered while making a throw on the run early in the first quarter. Griffin said Monday that the MRI showed no ankle fracture but the timetable for his return is still inconclusive, and he very well could miss a significant amount of time if not the rest of the season.
The injury could not only have a huge impact on the Redskins this season but may even alter the entire future of the franchise for years to come. The biggest question for this season now becomes how well can backup and fellow 2012 draft pick, Kirk Cousins, play as the starter in Griffin’s absence.
If RG3 doesn’t return this year, and Cousins is able to lead the team to a successful winning season, there’ll be a lot of tough questions for the front office in the offseason. The offense under Cousins got off to a good start Sunday. [Read more...]