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Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden on commanding respect, Paea, Lauvao

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden on commanding respect, Paea, Lauvao

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Friday, August 6, six days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Practice 1:00; Jay Gruden news conference and player availability after practice approx. 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 208 days ago. It will be 38 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 14; Final roster cut 29; Cowboys @ Redskins 44

—Second-year Redskins linebacker Martrell Spaight was born on this date in 1993.

Read and react: Jay Gruden

Here are some excerpts from Jay Gruden’s press conference on Thursday followed by my reaction to them.

On DL Stephen Paea
“Stephen’s showed up a lot lately, the last couple days. He’s showing his strength. He’s a very, very strong human and he’s showing that power once we put the pads on . . . So he feels good. I know he’s looking good, and we’re hoping he has a good year.”
I assume that “showed up” means that he looked good on film. I mean, as far as I know every player has reported to the facility for every practice. Even at that, this doesn’t sound like a very enthusiastic endorsement of Paea, who is entering the second season of a four-year, $21 million free agent contract. Difficulty adjusting to a new defense and an injury derailed his first season in Washington. It looks like he is going to get a second year but if he is going to get a third he needs to do more than show up.

On G Shawn Lauvao
“Shawn is doing good. He had his first couple days here and it looked like he never left, really. As far as how he’s feeling, I think he’s still a little rusty a little bit, I think you can tell. He’s got to gain full confidence back in his strength on both feet. Once he does that, he’ll be fine.”
Lauvao was not worked back into the lineup gradually; he was taking snaps with the first team as soon as he was off of the PUP list. I now have to make him the favorite over Spencer Long, who has been sharing snaps with the ones, to be the starting left guard against the Steelers on Sept. 12. That’s a long road back from eight months ago when he needed a scooter to get around Redskins Park.

On his coaching style
“That’s the most important part is commanding the respect and getting the most out of them. That’s my whole goal is to get the most out of each individual player. That’s the only thing I really care about. Obviously you want their respect, but my ultimate job is to get the most out of each guy and win as many games as possible.”
The thing is that it’s hard to gain the respect of players by just yelling at them all the time. There are other issue such as trust and fairness that come into the picture. It doesn’t mean that Gruden can’t have some fun with the players but he can’t be buddies with them. I think that Gruden has done a pretty good job of gaining the respect of the players while remaining approachable.

On emergency quarterbacks
“We are talking about that right now. We will put a package together for somebody. It’s either going to be Jordan Reed or [Jamison] Crowder, most likely.”
This is the scenario where both of the active quarterbacks are knocked out of the game and somebody has to take the snaps. It is the football equivalent of the Secretary of Commerce coming up in the line of succession after a disaster. Although, the last time the Redskins had to use an emergency QB in the infamous Body Bag game in 1990 Brian Mitchell went 3 for 6 for 40 yards and ran it in to cap a touchdown drive. That is a big legacy that either Reed or Crowder would have to live up to should the emergency arise.

Tandler on Twitter

In case you missed it 

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True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on the roster

True or false: The Redskins will carry four tight ends on their roster this year.

Rich Tandler: True

The Redskins added a tight end to a roster that had four experienced players at the position already on it. But, make no mistake, fifth-round selection Jeremy Sprinkle was not a “luxury” pick.

Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are both stone cold locks to make the roster. They are the pass catchers who are expected to combine for perhaps 1,500 yards and at least a dozen touchdowns.

The third tight end could be Niles Paul, a veteran who has battled injuries the last two years. He appears to be healthy and if he stays that way he can play tight end, be the fullback on the six or eight snaps per game the Redskins use one, and be a strong contributor on special teams.

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Sprinkle can fill a role that those three can’t—blocking tight end. Jay Gruden had to put tackle Ty Nsekhe on the field when they needed a three-tight end set. That made the job of the defense easier with essentially four eligible receivers to deal with.

With a well-defined role for each player, it would make perfect sense for the Redskins to carry four tight ends on the 53-man roster rather than the customary three. Of course, if they carry four at tight end they have to go with one fewer player elsewhere. They will find a spot.

Running back seems to be the logical place to go for that spot. If they keep, say, Mack Brown as the fourth running back, you then have a player without a defined role. He’s the backup to the backup to the backup. Sure, he can do special teams, but not as well as Paul.

Perhaps if you want to keep Brown you let go of Paul with his recent injury history and his $2.2 million cap number in mind. Or you can let Sprinkle get some seasoning on the practice squad.

But I think that the Redskins drafted Sprinkle with the plan to keep four tight ends. If they are going to go with their best, most versatile 53 that is what they will do.

JP Finlay: False

Man, this is tough. If you asked me this in May, I thought Niles Paul would be caught in a roster crunch. After watching the guys on the field through OTAs and minicamp, this decision becomes much harder. 

Paul played well in those sessions, showed no rust from the injuries and impressed regardless what quarterback he was paired up with. Sprinkle looked like a rookie with a lot to learn, and while he's really big, he still seemed like his upper body could fill out in the NFL. 

In a vacuum it's easy to say the Redskins should keep four tight ends. Like Tandler laid out above, Reed and Davis are roster locks. Paul can help in a ton of spots, and Sprinkle should evolve into the blocking tight end for the jumbo set. 

But NFL rosters aren't made in vacuums. To keep a fourth tight end, the Redskins will have to make a cut, and Tandler suggested Mack Brown could be the guy. I don't see that happening. Jay Gruden and Randy Jordan speak glowingly about Brown. 

This will be a fun roster spot to watch, but in June, before any injuries or the competition of training camp, I think the Redskins keep Reed, Davis and Paul. Then they really, really hope they can sneak the rookie Sprinkle to their practice squad.

Washington has not kept three healthy tight ends on their roster in the last few seasons, and if that trend continues, Sprinkle would make the NFL roster before the end of the year. Keeping four tight ends just isn't a luxury the Redskins have, especially keeping three quarterbacks like they're expected to do. 

Tandler-Finlay True or False series: Leading rusher | Leading receiver

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Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Standouts and scrubs: Looking at Bruce Allen's track record with quarterbacks

Much can be learned looking to the past, at least that's what thousands of college students hear every fall when they sit down for History 101. Assuming the premise is true, perhaps something can be learned from looking back at Bruce Allen's tenure across the NFL and the quarterbacks that started for those teams. 

A refresher: Allen worked with the Raiders and Bucs before coming to the Redskins. Allen started with the Raiders in 1995, and worked his way up through the front office, earning the NFL's Executive of the Year award in 2002. He left the Raiders to work with Jon Gruden in Tampa in 2004, after the pair experienced much success together with the Raiders. Tampa fired Allen in 2008, and he came to work with the Redskins in 2010. 

His tenure with the Raiders showcased the best QB find in his file: Rich Gannon. Before coming to Oakland, Gannon earned the journeyman title, starting 58 games over 11 seasons for the Chiefs, Vikings and, yes, the Redskins.

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Once Gannon and Gruden worked together, everything clicked. The Raiders started winning games and Gannon started to pile up impressive offensive stats. He was the quarterback when Oakland lost the infamous 'Tuck Rule' playoff game against New England, and won an NFL MVP award in 2002 while guiding the Raiders to the Super Bowl (which they lost to a Jon Gruden coached Tampa team). 

Gannon was a find, undoubtedly. Beyond that, Allen's resume on quarterbacks gets pretty ugly.

In fact, Kirk Cousins would probably rank as the second best QB of all Bruce Allen teams. In Tampa, the quarterback position was a revolving door, and included luminaries (sarcasm font) like Chris Simms, Brian Griese and Bruce Gradkowski. The Bucs added Jeff Garcia in 2007, and he had some success, but was 37 years old at that point. 

Once he got to Washington, the Redskins trotted out a collection of subpar passers like a past-his-prime Donovan McNabb, a-never-actually-good John Beck and Rex Grossman. Rex needs no introduction. 

In 2012, the Redskins quarterback fortunes changed. The team made a very aggressive trade to draft Robert Griffin III. RG3 was supposed to be the franchise savior, and for much of his rookie season, that plan seemed to be working. 

Injuries and infighting ruined Griffin's time with the Redskins, and opened the door for 2012 fourth-round pick Kirk Cousins to emerge. 

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Now, in 2017, Cousins has twice broken the Redskins single season passing yards record and cemented himself as a quality NFL starter. His long-term future with the organization remains uncertain, as Cousins will play this season on a one-year contract and the prospect of a multi-year contract seems slim. 

It's hard to draw too many conclusions looking the quarterbacks throughout Allen's tenure. Before Gannon in Oakland, the Raiders tried a variety of other journeyman QBs (Jeff Hostetler, Jeff George). One could argue they got lucky with Gannon, or that the organization brought out his best tools. Either way it's a positive grade.

In Tampa, the results look much worse. On paper, it seemed the Bucs tried to get cheap, available quarterbacks and make them work, believing strongly in their offensive system. It didn't work. 

In Washington, particularly during the Grossman/Beck season, it seemed the Redskins tried a similar approach. That ended in 2012 with the trade for RG3. The Redskins paid up big time, in the form of draft picks. 

Now it's arguable that a deal with Cousins can even be reached, but if that does happen, it will be because the Redskins pay up. Recent history doesn't suggest it, but this situation has never presented itself either. Cousins is a fourth-round pick that emerged after a few volatile seasons to establish himself as a Top 15 NFL starter.

There's no lesson for that in the history books. 

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