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Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?

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Need to Know: Will Redskins' Gruden really take chances on kickoffs?

RICHMOND—Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, August 4, seven 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 3:00

—The Redskins last played a game 207 days ago. It will be 39 days until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Preseason vs. Jets @FedEx Field 15; Final roster cut 30; Cowboys @ Redskins 45

—Redskins Hall of Fame running back John Riggins was born on this date in 1949.

Breaking down camp

You shouldn’t believe everything that an NFL coach says.

Jay Gruden said this yesterday when asked about the possibility of trying to game the new rule that puts touchbacks after kickoff on the 25 yard line.
“We’re going to experiment, You know, we’ll see what Dustin [Hopkins] is good at. You know, we’re going to try some of the pooch stuff and try to pin them back. You know, we don’t want to just succumb to the 25-yard line.”
I might believe Gruden and the other coaches who talk of pooch kicking the ball if it wasn’t such a risky play. NFL coaches have a strong tendency to analyze things on a worst-case basis. What is the worst that can happen if your kicker pounds the ball through the end zone? They get the ball at the 25, five yards closer than they did before. Yes, there is a slightly better chance of scoring points on a possession that starts at the 25 compared to one that starts at the 20. But only slightly.

And while it's true that your kicker won't always be able to pound the ball and force a touchback Hopkins was able to do it 65 percent of the time last year. Those are pretty good odds.

What is the worst that can happen if you pooch kick it and try to pin them back? The other team could return it for a touchdown, or to deep in your territory where scoring points is virtually certain. One blown assignment or one missed tackle and you plan to try to gain five yards of field position is up in smoke.

Gruden and his NFL brethren are hesitant to go for it on fourth and one at midfield even though there is plenty of research to indicate that they should. Why? Because they would rather take heat for being overly cautious than get ripped for a failed fourth-down attempt that gave their opponent a short field to work with.

When it comes down to it, NFL coaches don’t like to gamble. Just like going for it on fourth down is gambling, pooching the ball on a kickoff when you have a kicker like Hopkins who is capable of kicking touchbacks.

Perhaps Gruden will occasionally have Hopkins boom it high and hope his coverage is solid just to make other teams think that he might. He also occasionally goes for it on fourth down in non-desperation situations. But I can almost guarantee that his default strategy on kickoffs will be to have Hopkins kick it as deep as he can. That also will be the standard procedure for nearly every other NFL head coach.

There is just no reason to believe otherwise.

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

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.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

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.

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