RICHMOND—Redskins training camp gets underway tomorrow here at the Bon Secours Training Center.
The team has high expectations after winning the NFC East last year. The priorities have shifted since Jay Gruden took over as the head coach in 2014.
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“I want to make sure we make the right decisions on players, No. 1,” he said during a press conference during his first training camp.
“We have to make sure we get a good look at all the young guys, all the free agents, all the undrafted free agents, the draft picks, the veteran free agents, and make sure when we make our final cut-down we make the right choices and hopefully these players will make it very difficult on us in making those decisions.”
That all sounds great but what about winning games? Where was that in the pecking order or priorities? The young guys and undrafted free agents can help you out here and there. But if you miss on a couple of them it’s not going to kill you. Failure to make preparing to win games during the coming season the top priority will kill you. The Redskins went 4-12.
Gruden was singing a different tune when he was asked what the priorities were as the team started camp a year ago.
“We’re trying to improve as a football team, number one,” he said near the start of training camp in 2015. “That’s all we’re trying to do every day is improve a certain area of our game. Then, we’re also trying to critique our players and find out who our best 53 are.”
So the emphasis on improving the team seemed to work as the Redskins went 9-7 and were surprise NFC East winners.
Sure, there’s an element of coach speak in all of this. But don’t underestimate the importance of what the head coach is focused on. If the coaches spend an inordinate amount of time in meetings trying to sort out the last half dozen players on the roster there is less time to prepare the starters for Week 1 and beyond.
I expect Gruden to order his priorities the same way this year. Focusing on the play at the top of the roster will bear more fruit that worrying about which fifth cornerback or tenth offensive lineman to keep.
The Wizards annouced officially re-signing Bradley Beal will appropriate fanfare.
The team rolled out the whole gang, including owner Ted Leonsis, general manager Ernie Grunfeld and new coach Scott Brooks.
After Beal's media availability, Leonsis tweeted that the shooting guard had grown nearly an inch. He also shared a selfie with Grunfeld and the man of the hour.
Bradley grew almost an inch this season. pic.twitter.com/qifwyTT7Td— Ted Leonsis (@TedLeonsis) July 27, 2016
It's unclear the time period in question, whether Leonsis means since last season ended or perhaps over the past year.
Fans might expect a 23-year-old had stopped growing, but while it's not the norm, continuing to grow into the early 20s certainly happens.
Some examples? Paul George started his rookie year with the Pacers at 6-8. He returned for his sophomore season 1.5 inches taller. And while the team still lists his height at 6-9, outside reports peg him closer to 6-10 or 6-11.
Bulls great Scottie Pippen and Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo are other notable examples.
So back to Beal. He was listed as 6-5 last season. It will be interesting to see whether his official height is updated to 6-6 this year.
When asked about his growth spurt during his press conference, Beal estimated he's gained "about an inch."
"One is better than none," he said smiling.
In his first time speaking out since officially being franchise tagged on July 15, Kirk Cousins confirmed what most who followed his negotiations thought to be true: He and the Redskins weren't exactly on the same page.
"I don't think we really did," the quarterback said on 106.7 The Fan's Grant & Danny show Wednesday when asked if the two sides ever got close to a deal. As he talked more about his contract situation, however, he made it clear that he's harboring no hard feelings against his team despite the fact he didn't receive a new extension.
"I always said going back to the end of last season that I wanted to play where I’m wanted," Cousins explained. "The franchise tag showed that I am wanted. Now, maybe not beyond this year, but I am wanted."
That relaxed outlook is something the 27-year-old has maintained all offseason. He pointed out that a few other players around the league were tagged as well, and thinks it's something that can easily be handled in the future. But don't let Cousins' steady demeanor totally fool you.
He's still going to do whatever he can to show his doubters that he's deserving of a long-term deal — and the massive dollar amount that'll come with it.
"I feel good about having this one season to prove myself and see what I can do," he said. "I think I do relish the opportunity to prove to people I’m capable of playing well and being here for a long time."
The end of that quote makes it sound like Cousins does still envision a future in Washington. His performance in 2016 will go a long way in determining whether that feeling is mutual.