Redskins break camp amid optimism
The Sports Xchange
NFL Team Report - Washington Redskins - INSIDE SLANT
Jay Gruden kept it positive, with one wink-grin suggestion for the locals.
"There's not one complaint other than the roads were a little bumpy on the way over here. We got to fix the roads in Richmond, holy cow," Gruden said. "I got a stiff neck riding in the car. Other than that, man, it was an awesome experience and something these guys really did (enjoy)."
Gruden and team president and general manager Bruce Allen pointed to improved team chemistry as one accomplished mission.
"I never want a media circus or anything like that," Gruden said. "I don't know what happened last year, I wasn't here. I think it was pretty smooth. I think everybody's on the same page as far as what we're talking about, what we're doing on the field. There's no hidden agendas I don't think. Hopefully that remains consistent throughout the season, not just in training camp. So moving forward, hopefully we can stay in that train of thought and mentality."
Allen said Gruden brought the energy and "focus on today" mantra that made for a smoother ride in camp. Last year, head coach Mike Shanahan spent much of his time with the media discussing Robert Griffin III's recovery from knee surgery and the handling of his January 2013 injury in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
This summer, Gruden was able to maximize the novelty of a new regime.
"I think Jay did an excellent job -- him and his staff -- of building that camaraderie," Allen said. "We had spirited practices. There's good competition on this football team right now and the work with the Patriots and the work that we got against ourselves hopefully is going to propel us this season. I don't think there's any doubt that we got better at camp. The key is to make sure we keep getting better when we get back up to Redskins Park."
Up next for Gruden's charges is a Monday night date with the Cleveland Browns.
"We haven't looked at Cleveland yet. But, it'll be an exciting event, Monday Night Football here," Gruden said. "Of course my brother (ESPN announcer Jon Gruden) is coming so that'll be fun, and Johnny Football. But really I want to make it more about our guys -- how we perform, how we come out under the lights and the excitement, and show them what we can do."
Gruden said among changes for the team this week will be eliminating nighttime meetings, sessions Allen described as "intense" given the position group powwows are a staple of Gruden's daily improvement plan.
--Having had among the most productive first two seasons ever by an NFL running back, Alfred Morris is entrenched as the Redskins' starter. So it was no surprise that Morris jump-started the Redskins' 23-6 preseason-opening victory over New England on Aug. 7 by carrying five times for 27 yards on the initial drive that ended with a field goal.
But what was more gratifying for new coach Jay Gruden and Co. was that the six backs competing for playing time behind Morris combined to rush for 140 yards on 37 carries.
"Our offensive line did a good job blocking, obviously," said former Cincinnati offensive coordinator Gruden, who has retained the zone running game that he inherited from predecessor Mike Shanahan. "Both our fullbacks in the game did a nice job. (So did) the receivers blocking downfield. Instead of those three-yard gains, you're getting four or five yards. It was good to see some cutback runs. It opened up some play-action. Overall, it was a good performance by everybody."
Roy Helu, the third-down back in 2013, gained 37 yards on seven touches -- including 16-yard catch-and-run -- before suffering a mild sprained knee which could keep him out of the Aug. 18 game with Cleveland. Fellow fourth-year back Evan Royster contributed 29 yards on eight touches. Chris Thompson, who didn't play on offense during his injury-curtailed rookie season of 2013, produced 17 yards on six touches before exiting after twisting his ankle, which could prevent him from playing against the Browns.
"Roy had some good runs and a good catch, and some runs after his catches," Gruden said. "He's done some good things."
But it was rookies Lache Seastrunk, a sixth-round pick, and Silas Redd, who went undrafted, who made the biggest impressions. The swift Seastrunk ran 12 times for 63 yards including a 21-yard burst. The more physical Redd produced the same yardage on 11 touches, running nine times for 45 yards and adding 18 yards on two catches.
"I was impressed with both of them," said Gruden, while expressing concern that Seastrunk's high pad level causes him to take too many big hits. "Redd's a good power runner. He's got great vision. He's shown (that) in practice so far and we want to see him carry it over into the game and it did. Lache is obviously known for his big play ability. (He) had a couple splash runs, which was good to see."
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