February 25, 2020

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden comments on Brandon Meriweather’s suspension

The Washington Redskins have their final preseason game of 2014 on Thursday at Raymond James Stadium against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Redskins are coming off of a 23-17 road loss to the Baltimore Ravens last Saturday. Washington is 2-1 this preseason and the Buccaneers are 1-2 after beating the Buffalo Bills 27-14 on the road on Saturday.

Washington head coach Jay Gruden spoke to the media on Tuesday at Redskins Park ahead of Thursday’s game on several topics, including Monday’s suspension of strong safety Brandon Meriweather for the first two games of the regular season. Gruden said:

We don’t have a lot of say in it as coaches. It goes to the board up there and they make their decision and unfortunately for Brandon he’s got a history of these types of events. Whether or not it was significant enough to warrant a suspension is what they decided. Now, we have to go through the appeals process and all that and do the due diligence and do whatever steps we need to do necessary to get that thing reduced or dropped. So, it doesn’t really matter what I think, unfortunately.

I know Brandon’s been working very hard at lowering his target. He’s done very well since his last suspension. He hadn’t had any issues. This is the first one that’s come up and it was an unfortunate incident. He tried to lower his target, I thought. I thought it was a legitimate football play but the NFL didn’t see it that way. We’ll just have to fight it the best way we can to get that thing dropped or reduced.

The rookie head coach does have a contingency in place if Meriweather’s suspension is upheld upon appeal:

[Bacarri] Rambo also could slide in there. We’ve got [E.J.] Biggers. So, we have some options in there. Obviously, it’s a loss for us because he’s been playing extremely well, but we have to step up and Rambo probably right now would be the first option.

He also talked about communicating the specifics of the strike zone to players:

Yeah, it’s hard. It’s not just Brandon. It’s other players around the league and it’s the flags that really hurt the team, also. You’re taking about a third down and five and a punt, possible punt to first down and a 15-yard penalty, so it’s a very, very tough call, not only hits the pocketbook and possible suspensions but the 15-yard penalty is rough also. But it’s very hard. I showed about 20 clips today on tape of those plays that were called and we’re continuing to talk about them and just continue to preach the fact that the target has got to be lowered and do the best you can and try to avoid it at all cost. Ryan Clark who’s a veteran safety has got a great approach to it and he’s going to share his thoughts with the guys and we’ve just got to try to continue to coach it.

It’s very difficult though because a lot of them are bang-bang plays and sometimes the receiver lowers his target right as the defensive backs has already got his target lowered and they collide, which is kind of what happened with Torrey Smith and Brandon. Torrey lowered and Brandon was already lowered and Torrey lowered and they collided. So, just a very difficult situation to be put in as a defensive back nowadays with these rules, but they are there to protect the players and we just have to adhere by them

Gruden does not intend to play the first team against Tampa Bay, preferring to give the backups more experience:

It’s my intent now for after a couple good days of practice to let the other guys play, let the backups play. So, we can solidify those roles, very important. I think we have our starters. In general, we feel pretty good about who they are and now we need to find the key backups and who they are and make sure they get the ample reps to make the football team and show what they can do on the field.

Gruden went on to discuss the running back competition, one that will be ramped up on Thursday to determine the final spots at that position:

Yeah, Alfred [Morris] and Darrel [Young] are pretty much locks, and Roy Helu has done some good things. After that, we have got a logjam, and you don’t like logjams because for a back it’s hard to get them all the ample carries and touches out of the backfield, the catches to prove their worth. They have to do it out here. Some of them have missed some time, which has hurt their chances. Some of them have missed protections, which have hurt their chances. We just have got to try to do the best we can Thursday night to try to get some guys in question some touches and see what they can do – make sure the ball security is on point, see if they can play through some injuries, see how durable they are obviously and see what they can do in protection and out of the backfield.

It’s going to be hard, you know? A lot of it is going to come down to the total picture as far as what they’ve done since OTAs and training camp and the other preseason games. But, that right there is probably one of the tougher positions because we have so many, like you said … As far as Chris Thompson’s concerned, like I said earlier, one of the top traits a running back has to have – my dad told me a long time ago – is durability, and he’s got to prove to us that he can stay healthy. He might have to play through some pain – nicks and knacks – for us to count on him on a Sunday afternoon. So, this is a big game for Chris.

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page. Eric is a freelancer covering high school sports for his hometown newspaper, InsideNova.com. He previously attended Longwood University, serving as sports editor of The Rotunda for two years and hosted his own radio show for three years on the campus radio station, while calling basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

About Eric Hobeck

Eric Hobeck is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Capitals. Eric contributes to high school sports coverage at InsideNova.com. He served as sports editor of The Rotunda at Longwood University for two years, where he was also the men’s basketball beat writer. He hosted a campus radio show for three years and called basketball and baseball games for the station’s award-winning sports team. You can follow Eric on Twitter @eric_hobeck.

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