Last night, I (along with a number of other season ticket holders) had a chance to attend a tour of Redskins Park, followed by a Q&A session where we were able to ask a multitude of questions to Coach Gruden. I wanted to share an overview of that discussion here, as Jay was extremely candid, and addressed many of the issues which we are currently debating here.
I'll just bullet point the summary below, but I want to preface that by sharing how impressed I was by Coach Gruden's participation in the event. To the degree that discretion allowed, he was open, honest, accessible, and exuded a narrowly focused passion to build upon the foundation of the past two years, as well as a confidence in their approach/system to do so. Jay had already won me over prior to last night, despite my initial misgivings about his hiring. However, last night's exchange only made me feel even more comfortable with him at the helm. So, onto the points of interest which he discussed...
• He plans to do 100% of the offensive play calling, while relying heavily upon Coach Cav (as well as Bill, Randy, Ike, Wes for the weekly game planning).
• I asked him about the potential advantages of the size and skill sets of Pryor and Doctson to his offensive sets, given the departures of Desean and Pierre. He praised his departed players, but said he anticipated improved run blocking on the perimeter sans DJax, and a greater ability to prolong drives and convert in the red zone with the improved size on the outside. Also said he anticipated much more diverse use of Crowder, on the outside as well as the slot. He said it 'killed him' not to have Crowder on the field last year when in 2WR sets.
• When asked what to expect for the remainder of free agency, he said mostly 'depth signings' unless something fell in their lap, and even mentioned adding a vet WR for depth (which already has happened today). Got the impression that they have no plans to add any impact DL/ILB unless something unforeseen happens.
• My other question to him was how they anticipated improving Run D issues, and getting off the field on 3rd Downs, given that there hasn't been a quantifiable upgrade to the DL/LB corp this offseason. He agreed that both were major issues, going so far as to say that the very first thing they plan to address when the team hits the practice fields this spring is the 3rd down defense.
He candidly said that there were major schematic defects in last year's coordination. He said that there were unacceptable lapses in communication, alluding to former DC and DB coach in particular (and Jay is not one to throw a coach under the bus lightly). He said this was bad to the point that they weren't even getting defensive signals in on time with great frequency. He thinks that Manusky will fix the schematic, execution and energy flaws, while playing a much more aggressive style in coverage and blitz packages.
On the personnel side he indicated that some DL were low in giving consistent energy, and inconsistent in their assignments. He likes McClain's motor and penetration skills and think McGee will help bolster against the run, while giving some push from DE spot. Hopes to see promise from a return to health for Phil Taylor, and a step forward by AJ Francis. Over the moon high on Lanier's development and potential. Otherwise, noted it's a great draft for D help at DL and ILB early and among DBs throughout.
• He was asked numerous questions about the draft which he obviously couldn't answer. The interesting aspects which he did address, in addition to the D focus were as follows...
- Asked about taking an RB early: He loves Fat Rob and would only consider taking an early RB that is a big game changer. Doesn't expect Fournette to fall to their spot.
- When asked about OL, said he liked their unit as much as any in the NFL, only saw a need for depth.
- When asked about areas of need to be addressed early in the draft, he mentioned every unit except TE/OL. Thought it an interesting omission for those who love the idea of Howard or Lamp.
• Lastly, as for the Front Office. Declined to speak poorly of anyone on either side of Scot's departure. Said that since he has been here, every draft and roster construction move has been a group collaboration. Implied that with very few exceptions there has been no such thing as a purely Scot pick/Jay pick/Campbell pick etc... extremely confident that the people who have built the current foundation are still in place to do just that.
Just wanted to share this info with the forum, for whatever it's worth. I was very pleased with his areas of focus and with his approach. I miss Scot, but have hope with Jay at the coaching helm. My only concern, aside from my disagreement with ideas like we don't need FA help at DT/ILB - we do - is the increased frequency with which Coach alluded to the numerous roles and involvment of Bruce Allen in the personnel side.
Otherwise a great message and a great time.
If I recollect any more details, I'll post them later.