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Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden adjusting his priorities in Year 2

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden adjusting his priorities in Year 2

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, July 31, 13 days before Washington Redskins open their preseason against the Browns.

Getting their priorities straight

RICHMOND—A year ago, on the eve of his first training camp as an NFL head coach, Jay Gruden was asked what would make a successful Redskins training camp.

“I want to make sure we make the right decisions on players, No. 1,” he said during a press conference in July of 2014. “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 is all well and good but Gruden seemed to have his priorities off a bit. Certainly finding the best 53 players is important. But games are not won or lost with the last dozen or so players on the roster. The focus of any training camp should be to prepare the team for the upcoming season.

And Gruden would be hard pressed to say that the Redskins were properly prepared for the 2014 seasons. A record of 4-12 is all you really need to know.

The good news for the Redskins is that it appears that Gruden learned from his mistake. When asked a similar question during his pre-camp press conference on Wednesday, he changed his top priority.

“We’re trying to improve as a football team, number one,” he said. “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.”

It is smart to worry more about getting ready to play than giving everyone a fair shot. Your season is going to succeed or fail based on your top 35 to 40 players. If you get to the point where you’re relying on the bottom dozen or so guys on your roster to win games, well, you’re probably not going to win a whole lot. You need to get your front-line players ready to play and not worry as much about the final roster spots, your sixth cornerback and eighth offensive lineman.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins walkthrough, 10:35 a.m.; Jay Gruden news conference approx. 2:45; Redskins practice, 3 p.m.

—It’s been 215 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 44 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Preseason opener @ Browns 13; final cuts 36

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Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins Playbook: Niles Paul forcing a fourth tight end roster spot?

Redskins coaches appreciate Niles Paul. Not just for the immense physical skills, a 6-foot-1, 225 lb. college receiver turned NFL tight end and fullback. He works hard every day at practice, and demands the same from his teammates. 

Last season, Paul landed on the injured reserve after an injury in London during a Week 8 tie against the Bengals. Because of that, some speculation emerged that Paul could be the odd man out in the Redskins tight end group, behind Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis and fighting with 2017 draft pick Jeremy Sprinkle, not to mention veteran Derek Carrier. 

RELATED: COULD REDSKINS MAKE RUN AT NICK MANGOLD?

After two preseason games, it's clear Paul is ready to fight for that spot. Against Green Bay on Saturday night, Paul logged a touchdown catch and a fumble recovery on special teams, showing the versatility that makes him so valuable to Washington. 

For Paul, he's just happy to be back on the field. 

"I got my season cut in half last year. I just want to be back on the field by any means necessary. I've just been missing it. I've been missing football in my life," Paul said after the game (full video above).

Paul's acrobatic TD grab showed that he still has the explosiveness to help the offense, but his special teams play is what will keep him on the roster. It also helps that head coach Jay Gruden complimented Paul for an outstanding camp and work ethic. 

"His speed looks where it was before the injuries. I mean, I think he's had an outstanding training camp so far. He's done so many different things. And that's one of the toughest positions," Gruden said of Paul. 

The Redskins offense hasn't hit full cylinder yet, but Paul thinks the return of Jordan Reed will help. 

"We're missing a major piece and that's Jordan Reed," he said. "We got some fine tuning to do."

Considering Reed's injury history, and backup tight end Vernon Davis starting the season at 33, a healthy Paul is a luxury for the Redskins. He stands to make nearly $2.5 million this season, but he also brings versatility. Paul is happy to play fullback, a role that seems to be growing, as well as all over the field on special teams. 

Washington will absolutely keep Reed and Davis. With his play this preseason, Paul seems a sure thing too. And if the squad wants to keep their draft pick in Sprinkle, who has tremendous size and has shown promise, four tight ends on the 53-man roster looks like the future. 

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

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With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

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USA Today Sports

With Spencer Long on the shelf, could Redskins make a run at Nick Mangold?

News broke late Monday night that Redskins' center Spencer Long underwent a minor knee scope and is expected to miss two weeks. That timetable spells good news for Washington, as that would bring Long back to the team before the first regular season game against the Eagles on September 10th. 

In the meantime, expect rookie Chase Roullier to take over at center for the Redskins. A 6th round draft pick, Bruce Allen and the Washington brass moved up to select Roullier, and the young player out of Wyoming had a strong training camp. 

RELATED: NILES PAUL FORCING HIS WAY TO A ROSTER SPOT?

"He’s done a great job, he really has. For a rookie to come in here and handle all the things he has to handle, it’s been very impressive," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of Roullier in early August. 

Still, Jay Gruden has been very clear about the need for a backup center on the roster. Last season the team brought in veteran John Sullivan during the year to provide depth at the position after Kory Lichtensteiger went down with injury.  Sullivan ended up starting one game for Washington, and is now playing with the Rams. 

With Long on the mend, the only other center on the Redskins roster is Roullier. Ronald Patrick is listed with the more generic OL designation though he has played center too.

It seems likely the team will move quickly to add another center, and one name that will get suggested is Nick Mangold. An 11-year veteran that played his entire career with the Jets, Mangold has more experience than Long, Roullier and Patrick combined.

He's also played the position at a very high level. Twice named to the NFL's All Pro team, Mangold has made seven Pro Bowls, most recently in 2015.

It's not entirely clear why Mangold isn't on an NFL roster already. He worked out for the Ravens this offseason, though some reports suggested Mangold wanted more guaranteed money than was discussed. 

A quick look at his Twitter feed does not suggest a guy missing the NFL life. A big soccer fan, Mangold seems very dialed in to London's Tottenham Hotspur and the New York City Football Club. (Check his Twitter out here)

If the team truly believes Long should not miss any regular season action, Mangold is probably not a fit. At 33-years-old with an impressive resume, Mangold likely doesn't want to come back just to be a backup, and Gruden has repeatedly talked about Long's ability and potential in the middle of the line. Should Long suffer a setback, the equation could change. 

Other names are likely to pop up for tryouts, as the 'Skins must consider more interior line depth. Making a run at Mangold might be something fans want to do, though it might not make sense at this point.

<<CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS FROM REDSKINS TRAINING CAMP>>

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayCSN for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcasts, here for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!