The Redskins, like every other NFL team, had an extra two weeks to prepare for the draft, which was held for the first time in May this year.
Being a new coaching staff working together with Bruce Allen for the first time, Jay Gruden and company were glad to have the extra time to evaluate how the draft prospects would fit in to the team’s schemes. But now they are paying for that extra evaluation time.
The rookie minicamp that concluded yesterday at Redskins Park usually takes place on the first weekend in May. So the camp moved back two weeks but the rest of the schedule remained the same. Training camp still will start the last week in July. The season opens the week after Labor Day weekend. That gives rookies two fewer weeks to get up to speed.
“Yeah, that is an issue and that’s a negative of moving [the draft] back,” said Gruden on Saturday. “There’s no doubt about it.”
Some teams like the Giants and Bengals decided to do away with rookie camp altogether. They will bring their draft picks and undrafted free agents right into their offseason programs OTAs with the veterans over the next few weeks. The Redskins considered that approach to deal with the shortened post-draft schedule but decided against it.
“We wanted to have a rookie camp so we could see our draft picks and we could bring in some undrafted guys and let them compete and hopefully find a sleeper or two that we didn’t know about to come in and compete for the roster,” said Gruden.
The decision was to deal with the schedule in a couple of different ways. One was to target players they believe can get up to speed in a hurry.
“We drafted smart guys,” said Gruden. “We try to draft smart guys that are football smart and played in good systems and hopefully they’ll be able to learn fast.”
The organization also tried to take some of the pressure off of the rookies by making sure that they had veterans capable of starting this season in place.
“What we did in free agency, we’re not necessarily having to draft guys that come in and play 70 snaps a game right away,” Gruden said. “They can come in and be a backup and play situationally and then learn and learn and develop, and that’s the beauty of what we did in the free agent market this year.”
“So they’re going to come in and compete, and how much they can handle will be determined after training camp and preseason.”
Of course, every team wants to draft smart players and it’s always good to have veteran players who are capable of starting at every position, especially when you don’t have a first-round draft pick. So the organization’s plan isn’t rocket science. Still, it seems to be a conscious plan to deal with the shortened time frame. We will see if they can take advantage of it and get their rookie class contributing during games sooner rather than later.