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Need to Know: What is the biggest challenge for Redskins' Gruden in 2015?

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Need to Know: What is the biggest challenge for Redskins' Gruden in 2015?

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, April 8, 22 days before the Washington Redskins go on the clock at the NFL draft.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today's question comes from Twitter:

One thing before I answer your question. I’m not so sure you can confidently say that the Redskins have a core of young players just yet. Yes, most of those added in free agency are on the youthful side and some holdover young players will play key roles. But lot of the 26-and-under crowd on the team is unproven and I’m not sure you can say it constitutes a “corps” just yet. Maybe after a successful draft or two the “corps of young players” will be a more apt description of the team.

Gruden’s biggest obstacle outside of the quarterback position is the fact that what should have been a one-year changeover ended up stretching out over two years. They now have an organization that seems to be on the same page from the GM through the head coach down through the assistant coaching staff. But what they should have done is cleaned house in January of 2014.

After Mike Shanahan, who was in charge of all football matters, was fired the right move to make would have been to get rid of everyone, all of the coaches and start from scratch. Instead of Bruce Allen taking over football personnel decisions for a year they should have found the best personnel man available. Instead of keeping around Jim Haslett and Chris Foerster and Raheem Morris, they should have let everyone go and found a solid group of replacements right away.

Those coaches are now gone and their replacements are in place. But rather than having a new staff going into its second year, it’s a mixed bag with Gruden and Sean McVay settled in but Joe Barry, Bill Callahan, and Perry Fewell needing players to wear “Hello, my name is ___________” tags around Redskins Park while they learn everybody’s name. And instead of building on his 2014 draft, the general manager (Scot McCloughan may or may not have been available in January of 2014 but other very competent personnel men were) is just starting to build the team the way he thinks it should be built.

Add in the that the final 53-man roster is likely to have about 20 players who were not with the organization in 2014 and you have another year of transition. All NFL coaches have to deal with change from year to year but Gruden’s biggest challenge will be dealing with major upheaval for a second year in a row.

Timeline

—It’s been 101 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 158 days until they play another one.

Days until: Redskins offseason workouts start 12; 2015 NFL Draft 22; Redskins training camp starts 113

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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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.