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5 Takeaways: Oct. 7 Jay Gruden Presser


Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's Oct. 7, 2015, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.

1. Thursday and Friday will be huge in determining whether DeSean Jackson and/or Perry Riley Jr. can return to game action Sunday vs. the Atlanta Falcons.

Jackson, who injured his hamstring early in the team's Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins, participated in practice, albeit in a limited fashion, on Wednesday, a promising sign nonetheless.

Without the Cal product, the team has been without the league's top deep threat, and has been trying to figure out ways to insert others into that role.

"We know how much he means to our offense. It would definitely help, but it's also something that we have to see," Gruden said when asked about his level of optimism for Jackson's chances to play Sunday. "You know, it's something that we can't rush him back because we don't want this thing to be a reoccurring, reoccurring incident. He got a little bit of work today. He's in the weight room right now working and we'll just have to see tomorrow what he can do."

Riley Jr., meanwhile, left the team's Week 2 victory over the St. Louis Rams with a calf injury. He was able to practice in a limited fashion last week, but was inactive vs. the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gruden hopes to see Riley Jr. feel even better Thursday and Friday so that he can play on Sunday.

"I think he's going to get a couple good days at practice then we'll gauge it from there," Gruden said. "ut I think that today, he looked good [in] the limited work that he did. Tomorrow, he'll get more reps, and then of course Friday and then we'll make a decision. But I think he felt pretty good on it so we're very optimistic with Perry."

2. Gruden is very encouraged with his team's improvement on third downs so far this season.

Last season, in Gruden's first year as the Redskins' head coach, the Redskins struggled mightily on third downs, as their 31.47 percent conversion rate ranked 30th in the league, ahead of only Tennessee and Cleveland.

But this year? A complete turnaround. Washington has a 46.77 percent conversion rate on third downs through four games, ranking fourth in the NFL, and behind only New England (60 percent), Atlanta (54.1 percent) and New Orleans (47.37 percent).

Gruden attributes the improvement to two primary areas: better protection up front and staying in generally manageable situations.

"We finally converted two third-and-longs last week, but we've been very effective on third-and-mediums, and that's good route distribution, good protection and obviously good throws," he said.

The Redskins' defense has been just as impressive on third downs, too. Their 31.25 percent conversion rate allowed on third downs is third in the league, and down almost 12 percent from last year's 43 percent conversion rate allowed, which ranked tied for 24th.

"Defensively, I think it's same thing. I think it's a combination of pass rush and coverage," Gruden said. "It's not really one thing when you're talking about a conversion on offense or a conversion on defense. It's 11 guys doing what they're supposed to do and being where they're supposed to be."

3. The Redskins' hands "are really tied" when it comes to tight end Jordan Reed's concussion.

Reed suffered the concussion during last Sunday's victory over the Eagles, and is currently in the league's concussion protocol.

Because no one concussion is the same, Gruden knows it would be premature to guess when Reed could possibly come back to practice.

"The concussion thing and the protocol, our hands are really tied on that," Gruden said. "That's going to be totally up to the independent doctors, our doctors, Jordan, how he's feeling."

Gruden said, "Each day, you just have to gauge and find out what type of symptoms he has."

"Obviously, it's safety first with the player," he continued. "We want to make sure he's right and go from there."

Reed also suffered a sprained knee and ankle against the Eagles, but returned to the game.

4. Gruden can't pinpoint exactly why the team has won just one road game in the past two seasons.

Last season, the Redskins earned a hard-fought overtime victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football as their only road win of the season. This year, the team lost Week 3 to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium in their only road contest to date.

On Sunday, the team heads to Atlanta to play the 4-0 Falcons, and hopes to reverse its fortunes on the road.

"We just have to come out of the tunnel and start fast and try to get some momentum on our side and take the crowd out of it," Gruden said. "A lot of times, we go on the road, like the Giants game for instance, we weren't able to maintain the momentum and quiet the crowd."

The second-year head coach said forcing turnovers, protecting the football and making plays on special teams will play a huge part in any road win, especially against a hot Falcons squad.

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5. With several former Redskins on the Falcons' roster and coaching staff, Gruden said he's not worried about this factoring into Sunday's game plan.

On offense, the Falcons have the likes of Leonard Hankerson and Chris Chester. Their coaching staff features offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, among many others.

With "Redskins South" in full effect at the Georgia Dome, Gruden admitted there's "some carryover" from when those players and coaches were in Washington, but not enough to change what he wants to do from a strategic standpoint.

"As far as knowing when they're going to call it and how they're going to call it is two different things," Gruden said. "Kyle [Shanahan] does an excellent job of mixing it up with the run and the pass and taking shots. But, other than the fact that we're a little bit similar in how we approach things offensively, it stops there really."

Other former Redskins on the Falcons include wide receiver/returner Nick Williams, assistant head coach/defensive passing game coordinator Raheem Morris, running backs coach Bobby Turner, offensive line coach Chris Morgan, quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and offensive assistant Mike McDaniel.

READ MORE: 5 Takeaways: Oct. 7 Presser




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