The Washington Redskins play their second preseason game of the offseason this Monday Night, August 18th versus the Cleveland Browns. Game time is at 8:00 pm and will be played on the Redskins’ home turf, FedEx field. The first preseason game for the Redskins came with a 23-6 victory over the New England Patriots on August 7th, but head coach Jay Gruden is already looking towards Monday night and the matchup with Cleveland.
Gruden took the podium Friday and spoke to the swarm of media around him. The first series of questions were in regards to how long his starting players will play on Monday night, as well as which athletes would sit out. Gruden told the press that he is “shooting for at least a quarter” and will see how it goes with his starters. When asked if any players have been ruled out, Gruden had this to say:
“Maybe [Brandon] Meriweather. I think he took the day off today. He just got his toe drained a little bit, but he’s got a chance to play. We’ll wait and see.”
With the news of newly acquired defensive end Jason Hatcher removed from the physically unable to perform list after he passed a physical, Gruden was asked if Hatcher would be able to play. Gruden answered with a definitive “Hatcher’s out”. Hatcher had been working on the side fields during training camp while recovering from arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in mid-June. Gruden said his goal is for Hatcher to play in the third preseason game against Baltimore, giving him one outing with the rest of the defensive starters.
Gruden also spoke about his backup quarterbacks, praising Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy on how they have handled their roles on the roster:
“He’s done great. You know, Kirk’s handled it like a pro. He understands the situation here. He understands it’s Robert’s job to lose right now but he’s still coming in here, competing and battling every day. And, that’s what a quarterback does. Whether you’re the starter or not, you have to take advantage of the reps you get and they are few and far between sometimes, but I think he’s done an excellent job. Him and Colt [McCoy] both have been great in the quarterback room. There’s been no controversy whatsoever. It’s just been business as usual and they’re all trying to get better and master this system and he’ll be ready when his time comes. “
When discussing the Browns’ style of play, Gruden is very familiar with Cleveland, as he was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals for three years and faced the Browns twice a year in the AFC North. When asked about if the Browns’ pass rush will be a good test for starting quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins offense, Gruden said it will be an ideal situation:
“I’m familiar with Cleveland’s personnel on defense, coming from Cincinnati, and then next week we get to play Baltimore who I’m familiar with, so it’s going to be two great tests for us from an offensive standpoint. Obviously defensively there’s some elements that we also have to work out and be ready for which is a good test for them too. Every team in the NFL gives you different problems, but Cleveland’s defensive personnel is obviously very good with Joe Haden, Buster Skrine and all those guys and then Baltimore the following week. So we’ll get a good taste the next two weeks, see where we are and how far we have to go. “
According to the press, the “big story” will be rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel, and Gruden was asked about what he thought after seeing him on film:
“I haven’t watched him yet. I’m going to start that today, tomorrow we’re going to start really trying to game plan. I know Coach [Jim] Haslett’s watched him. I’ve been studying the other side of the ball a little bit more. So I’ll check him out today, but I saw him on television and obviously studying him coming out and know he’s a very talented kid, lot of mobility – no question about it – and very exciting player.”
One of the biggest concerns of the Redskins is their offensive line. Gruden spoke about the depth of their new corps of players:
“We feel good about the depth. We have got a lot of players to choose from, which is good. Now, the starters, we’ve got to go out and perform. That was one of the Achilles heels so to speak last year from what I heard about coming in from what you see on tape. You see some pressure, but I think Coach [Chris] Foerster has done a great job with them and they’ve done a pretty good job. They’ve given up some pressure every now and then. We’ve got some good pass rushers on the other side. We don’t expect a clean pocket on every time we throw, but we do expect them to do a good job. We’ve got good veteran leadership up there with Tyler [Polumbus] and Chris [Chester], and obviously Trent Williams is a Pro Bowl left tackle, and Kory [Lichtensteiger] has done a good job moving into center, so I feel good about where they are.”
Gruden was also asked about running back Chris Thompson’s ankle sprain and how it will affect the other running backs on the roster. He said that it “gives them opportunity and opens up a window for other guys to perform”, after expressing his feelings for Thompson as “it’s unfortunate for him because he was doing a great job.”
When asked about how Gruden’s second string, third string, and rookies have responded to practice this week, he replied:
“I have been very pleased. The tempo has been outstanding and their attention to detail has been very good. Like I said, very few mental mistakes. It looks sharp out there – the weather has something to do with it too, but overall I’m very happy with where we’re going, both offensively and defensively, and then obviously the special teams are doing an excellent job, but we have to sort some things out there. But it’s all about installing your offense and defense and special teams and also finding ways to evaluate the people that you have and right now all the players are making it very difficult on us because they’re all performing pretty well. The competition has been excellent.”
Jay Gruden is ESPN analyst Jon Gruden’s brother, the very man who is the Monday Night Football announcer. Coach Gruden was asked if Jon Gruden would take it easy on him during Monday Night’s game, as well as if Jon would meet with him the way other analysts do. Coach Gruden chuckled at the questions, but answered them with his usual professionalism:
“He called a couple of my games last year in Cincy. Jon is Jon. He’s going to be positive if he can but if I do something that’s out-of-line ignorant, I’m sure he’ll call me on it. I think he’s coming in Saturday. He’ll be out here for practice Saturday and we’ll be able to hopefully go out to dinner maybe Saturday night, or I might be tied up, but I’ll be able to see him Saturday. Jon is obviously very good at what he does and he won’t jeopardize what he does for my feelings. That’s for sure. He never has.”
Many fans and teams have criticized the officiating already during this preseason. Gruden was asked about the NFL’s new rules and how they affected the Redskins’ first preseason game against the Patriots:
“We had a couple called against us – I think we had three called against us – one was a PI [pass interference], and I think one was illegal contact from [Will] Compton, and those are great to show. Obviously the emphasis of the illegal contact and we just have to continue to preach it out here and we try to show our guys in practice when it happens and just to be aware. They’ve been so engraved in their minds to try to jostle guys off and move receivers off their line and try to get them off their spot that we have to be careful. It’s something we have to continue to coach and watch, because I know the NFL is watching, the referees are watching, and there are a ton of penalties I noticed in Week 1 of the preseason games – not in our game, but the other games – so you’ve just got to watch it.”
The Washington Redskins take on the Cleveland Browns this Monday Night at 8:00 pm on ESPN.