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Redskins, rest of NFL putting up plenty of smokescreens in Arizona

Redskins, rest of NFL putting up plenty of smokescreens in Arizona

It’s getting very smoky in Phoenix this week as NFL teams try to send out sometimes-conflicting signals about their intentions in the draft, which starts five weeks from tomorrow.

Among the teams throwing out the most smokescreens is Washington. A few weeks ago we had John Clayton of ESPN reporting that the Redskins would draft the Heisman Trophy winner out of Oregon if he is there at No. 5. Then yesterday Tarik El-Bashir talked to Scot McCloughan, who did nothing to knock down Clayton’s report.

"It's a definite consideration, no doubt about it," McCloughan said when asked if the Redskins would draft Mariota. "It's the most important position on the field."

McCloughan’s statement has to be viewed in the context of what else we know about him, the draft, and the Redskins’ quarterback situation.

As far as the latter topic, we have Jay Gruden’s less than ringing endorsement of Robert Griffin III as the team’s quarterback.

“He’s got the starting job right now,” Gruden said on Monday. “Hopefully he takes it and runs with it.”

Gruden’s qualifiers like “right now” and “hopefully” along with the bumpy ride the coach and quarterback had in 2014 don’t exactly convey a lot of confidence in Griffin as the long-term solution at quarterback.

But Mariota might not be the answer either. The Oregon offense is similar to the one Griffin ran at Baylor. Gruden and McCloughan may not be interested in going through the same growing pains with uncertain results.

The popular consensus is that the Redskins are circulating the Mariota talk in order to drum up some trade interest in that No. 5 pick. McCloughan left the door wide open for that possibility as well.

“If it’s a win for us, and it’s going to make us stronger, no doubt about it,” McCloughan told El-Bashir yesterday. “I’ll take any phone calls.”

McCloughan may want to trade the pick but he could have to try to find a market for it if Mariota is off of the board. Ken Whisenhunt is the head coach of the Titans, who hold the second overall pick and he gave a very strong indication that he is interested in Mariota.

“If he comes to us at No. 2, he's definitely going to be the day 1 starter,” he said. “I'm very impressed by Marcus.”

Of course, Whisenhunt’s endorsement may be a smokescreen, a signal that a team that wants to move up to draft Mariota will need to place a call to Nashville, not Ashburn.

It’s lying season in the NFL and it is best to take whatever any NFL coach or general manager says over the next five weeks with a healthy amount of skepticism. We won’t really know what a team’s intentions with its pick are until Roger Goodell steps to the microphone on April 30.

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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.