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Need to Know: Redskins RBs are holding on to the ball

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Need to Know: Redskins RBs are holding on to the ball

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, August 3, eight days before the Washington Redskins open their preseason in Atlanta against the Falcons.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Walkthrough 10:30; Jay Gruden press conference 2:45; Practice (special teams only) 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 206 days ago. It will be 40 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 16; Final roster cut 31; Cowboys @ Redskins 46

Breaking down camp

I have a lot of fun doing the live practice blogs but I can’t always get into much analysis since there is always something going on. So I’m going to pull out a few observations from yesterday and go into some more depth.
The defenders are trying hard to rip the ball out of the hands of all of the running backs, not just Matt Jones. So far I have not yet seen them be successful.
I’m not going to say that the running backs have not yet fumbled because I haven’t seen every play. But through five sessions I haven’t seen a fumble by a running back and, again, it’s not because the defense hasn’t been trying. I think that Jones picked up some bad habits last year and the team put an emphasis on teaching proper technique to Jones and to the rookies and the other young running backs on the roster.
In 11 on 11 in the red zone, Cousins threw a little swing pass to Jackson, who scampered in for the score. Jackson did not score a touchdown from a play from the red zone last year.
Jackson caught a 13-yard touchdown pass from Robert Griffin III in 2013. Since he has been with the Redskins his shorted TD reception other than that was a 28-yard catch last year. I don’t think you want to make him a regular red zone target but I think you could sneak him out there every once in a while the defense is focused on Reed, Davis, Garçon, Doctson and company in the red zone.
Preston Smith is not just a pass rusher. He just got in the backfield and disrupted a play with Jones going up the middle before it ever got started.
Smith didn’t really struggle against the run last year but it wasn’t a strong point of his either. He’s going to play a lot more snaps this year and they will test him in the rushing game. If he can make a few big players against the run they might not test him as much.
There have been a lot of yellow flags on the field during this 11 on 11 session. They're getting a bit ragged it appears.
They had a partial crew of actual NFL officials who were in town to explain the new rule changes to the players and media. It seemed like every time you looked up there was a flag for holding or for a false start or offsides against the defense. I'm not sure if the Redskins were just having a bad day or if the officials were catching things that they have been doing all along. The Redskins averaged nearly 19 fewer penalty yards per game last year compared to 2014 so they need that trend to continue.

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Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Trent Murphy had offseason foot surgery to repair broken bone, per source

Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy underwent surgery this offseason to repair a broken bone in his foot, per a source with knowledge of the situation. Murphy has completely healed and is a full participant at training camp. 

The injury came late in the 2016 season and he played the Redskins final game of the season with the broken foot. He was listed on the injury report for that game as limited with a foot injury. He was not listed on the Week 16 injury report against the Bears.

Hit with a four-game suspension for performance enhancing drugs this offseason, Murphy won't suit up for the Redskins until Week 6. He will be forced to miss the first four games, and then the Redskins have a bye in Week 5. 

Murphy had a breakout season in 2016, finishing the year with nine sacks and 47 tackles. A second round pick in 2014, Murphy had a combined six sacks in the two seasons prior. Last offseason, Murphy was tasked with gaining weight for a position switch to defensive end. After he gained the weight, outside linebacker Junior Galette was lost for the season, and Murphy was moved back to outside linebacker. 

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Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

Redskins' Gruden will readjust to calling plays by going off script

RICHMOND—The Redskins offense is dealing with some challenges on the field. Their top two wide receivers from last year left as free agents and replacements Terrelle Pryor and Josh Doctson have little game experience with quarterback Kirk Cousins. Tight end Jordan Reed (toe) was a surprise entry on the PUP list. Running back Rob Kelley needs to prepare to get ready to carry the load for 16 games.

There is one other change the team must deal with. Sean McVay, the team’s offensive coordinator, left in January to become the head coach of the Los Angeles Rams. He had been calling the plays for the past two years. That duty will now fall on head coach Jay Gruden.

RELATED: Reed one of four to start camp on PUP

Play calling is not new to Gruden. He did it from 2011-2013 for the Bengals when he was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. Gruden also made the play calls in 2014, his first season as the Redskins head coach.

Still, he wants to make sure that he’s ready to retake the play caller’s headset. The method he will use is to throw away the script.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays,” he said. “So I think that’s the most important thing, the unscripted practice. Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

That certainly makes sense. Games are not scripted and the successful play callers who can adjust to the ebb and flow of the game. You can’t duplicate the dynamic but you can come close in 11 on 11 work on the practice field.

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Another key to making this work will be trusting his defensive and special teams coaches. If Gruden can’t delegate to them he will be getting pulled in too many directions on game days.

“How well I handle that will be how successful I will probably be as a coordinator calling plays and as a coach,” he said. “I feel good about the staff that I have around me. Coach [Greg] Manusky and Jim Tomsula and Torrian Gray on the defensive side of the ball, I don’t think I have to worry so much about that, Ben Kotwica, Bret Munsey on the special teams. The big thing is I have got to be involved in the football game, make sure I’m ready for the red flag tosses and all that good stuff, but for the most part I have confidence in the defense and special team coaches and players.”

We will see how well it works out. As a rookie coach he occasionally seemed to be overwhelmed by all that he had piled on his plate (the situation was complicated by his curious decision not to hire a quarterbacks coach). But now, with three years under his belt and an exponentially better understanding of what is involved in coaching an NFL game, there should be more confidence that he can handle it.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.