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5 Takeaways: Oct. 5 Jay Gruden Presser


Here's five takeaways from Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's press conference Oct. 1, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

1. In the wake of DeSean Jackson's hamstring injury and Andre Roberts being inactive for the first time in his Redskins career, the team has been pleased with what the younger wide receivers have shown.

Second-year draft pick Ryan Grant and rookie Jamison Crowder took the places of Jackson and Roberts in the lineup during Sunday's 23-20 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, combining to record 12 receptions for 110 yards.

While Grant has been in Jackson's spot since the moment he went down with a hamstring injury Week 1, Crowder officially supplanted Roberts in the slot receiver role.

"Yeah, [Crowder's] definitely our slot receiver right now, and Andre is a pro," Gruden said. "And he can step in and play X and Z and Zebra, our three-receiver positions. He's going to be a valuable player for us as the season goes on. Obviously, with the injuries that take place, he's going to be needed again."

Beyond those two, the team also got a 43-yard reception from Rashad Ross one week after he recorded a kickoff return for touchdown.

"They were bump and run both times that we took shots with him," Gruden said. "One was in the slot. It was a little slot combination. So, I think people are going to play the way they play. It's the same thing with DeSean. You like to think people are going to back way off DeSean when he's in there, but they don't. They [base] their defenses whether it's single-high or two-high. Whatever their defensive scheme is, they play it. So, we just have to make sure we get him more and more involved and he will be as the season goes on."

2. Both Trent Murphy and Preston Smith will be needed in certain situations, sometimes together, but for now they'll continue to alternate reps.

The second-year linebacker Murphy, who has started all four games this season, and the rookie Smith each recorded sacks on Sunday against the Eagles. Murphy also picked up a fumble recovery when he grabbed a field-wide lateral attempt on the last play of the game.

At times, the two are on the field together in certain packages. For others, they're exchanging duties, a method the team likes for now.

"I think they're going to sub… they're just going to sub equally, probably 50-50, right around there," Gruden said. "But Murphy's our starter and he's playing well. He's a very good first and second down run player. He showed the ability to pass rush yesterday so we like both of them and they're in the developmental stages of their career. They're both getting stronger every day in the weight room. They're both learning from the experience that they have on game day. The more experience they get, the better they're both going to be."

The two helped power a pass rush that recorded a season-best five sacks on Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.

"They have to keep rushing and flying around to the football," Gruden said of the pass rush. "There were some times where you were a little frustrated because it felt Bradford had all day and he diced us a couple times. But I like their effort, that's number one, and for four quarters to be able to come like that – that hard, that often – I think was a great testament for their character and how hard they're working."

3. Despite a knee injury that kept him out of two practices last week and limited him in a third, Chris Culliver was able to tough it out on Sunday.

No, Culliver wasn't 100 percent against the Eagles, but he refused to sit out a divisional battle that could mean a lot down the road with the NFC East currently seeing a three-way tie at the top.

The South Carolina product tested out his knee during pregame warmups and felt good enough to give it a go against an Eagles offense that can strike quickly.

While the Eagles targeted him on a few occasions, especially as the game wore on, Gruden liked the way Culliver competed even if he was part of a defense that surrendered three second half touchdowns.

"He's a great competitor and played well," Gruden said. "One, he was in a three-deep zone and really we should have had safety help and Trenton [Robinson] didn't get back far enough. I think it was a great throw, great route, good catch. The other one was a quarters-type coverage and he was right there – bang-bang, great catch by [Nelson] Agholor, a one-handed catch by Agholor. Those things are going to happen from time to time.

Gruden also said he's happy Culliver "came out of this game healthy, and I'm glad he played."

"He fought through some pain," Gruden said. "He wasn't 100 percent, no doubt. But I never questioned his ability at all, even though he looked like he got beat but he didn't."

4. Its early, but Gruden is pleased with the way the team's rookies have performed to date.

Sometimes rookies contribute immediately and sometimes they are long-term projects.

So far a majority of the Redskins' 2015 draft class have played well against veterans with years of experience over them.

Brandon Scherff has started all four games for an offensive line that's exceeded expectations, Matt Jones recorded a 100-yard game against the Rams, Preston Smith has two sacks, Jamison Crowder is now the team's slot receiver and punt returner and Kyshoen Jarrett has shown the ability to play both corner and safety.

"You draft them for a reason," Gruden said of the rookies. "You hope that they can come in here and not only pick up the system, but match their talents with the other professional football players in the league. They have obviously done that."

Jarrett in particular, a sixth-round pick out of Virginia Tech, has impressed Gruden.

"Kyshoen, really, is a surprise to me because he's not doing it at safety," Gruden said. "He's doing it at nickel. We had no idea that that would be the case. We had him penciled as competing for safety, being a special team player year one but he came in here and really surprised us with his versatility – being able to play nickel, being able to play safety, the smart football player that's very tough."

5. Through a quarter of the season the Redskins are tied for first place in the NFC East, but there's still a long ways to go.

While there are no undefeated teams in the division through the first four weeks of the season, the NFC East could ultimately be the most competitive division in the NFL with all four times in the thick of it come December.

Gruden is happy the team is competing, but there are some things the team needs to work on moving forward if they want to be a contender for the full 16-game slate.

"Obviously the penalties are an issue," Gruden said. "Still the turnover margin is minus-four. We've got to try to fix that. But there's a lot of progress I think being made. You look back at the games you lost and you try to [say], 'Dang it, if we would have done this or this or this, there's a chance to be 4-0. If you look at the games we won, if a couple things could have happened, we could be 0-4.' That's the way pro football is right now. But I like the fact that we're competing. I like the fact that our guys are giving great effort, and I think the way they're preparing – the coaches are preparing – is going to pay dividends for us in the long run."




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