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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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While clock ticks with Kirk Cousins, multiple mock drafts connect Redskins with Baker Mayfield

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USA TODAY Sports

While clock ticks with Kirk Cousins, multiple mock drafts connect Redskins with Baker Mayfield

NFL mock drafts are wildly unreliable, and of the good ones, the full picture doesn't start to become clear until much closer to draft night. 

Think about it: The NFL playoffs aren't even over yet. Most teams are in self-evaluation mode, readying decisions for free agency. Once NFL teams get to the NFL Combine in late February, that's when draft boards start to come to shape. And those draft boards aren't finalized for at least another month after a slew of college pro days. 

Still, mock drafts are fun to look at and discuss, and draft experts like ESPN's Mel Kiper and Bleacher Report's Matt Miller are well plugged in.

So when both of them have the Redskins drafting Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield with the 13th overall pick, the interest level spikes. 

From Miller

Washington would be a great fit for Mayfield. He doesn't go to a city with an intense media market (New York) or a city with a long history of losing and a ton of pressure on a rookie quarterback (Cleveland). And with Jay Gruden as the head coach, Mayfield lands in a place where he'll be coached up and a scheme can be built around him.​

While the Redskins still have about two months to try and work out a long-term deal with current quarterback Kirk Cousins, few people around the situation feel a lot of optimism. Cousins gave a lukewarm answer about wanting to stay in Washington, and for years he has talked about wanting to see his true value on the open market. 

Washington head coach Jay Gruden discussed his frustration with keeping Cousins on a one-year deal, as the Redskins have done the past two seasons. The coach wants his QB to be with the team for the long-term, and that could become clear by the NFL Draft in late April. 

If Cousins and the Redskins have not signed a long-term deal by the draft, and it seems unlikely, Washington should absolutely consider a QB with their first round pick.

What passer to take is a different argument, and that will be up to Bruce Allen, Doug Williams, Gruden and a collection of the Redskins highest scouts. There are also a number of QB-needy teams drafting ahead of Washington. 

As for Mayfield, he was certainly a star in college. As a senior he won the 2017 Heisman Trophy, throwing for more than 4,600 yards with 43 touchdowns against just six interceptions. He completed an absurd 70 percent of his passes, extremely high accuracy for a college passer. He also ran for another 300 yards and five more scores. 

There are questions about Mayfield. He might lack the height of traditional NFL quarterbacks, and he might lack the game of a traditional NFL pocket passer. Plus, he showed immaturity in on-field celebrations multiple times in 2017 and had an offseason arrest that resulted in a plea deal with Arkansas police. 

Plenty of players will get drafted that showed immaturity and even had offseason arrests. That's nothing new. 

For the Redskins, the biggest question remains Cousins' future. Once that's decided, or if it gets decided, the team will need to make a decision with the 13th pick. Looks like that decision could easily include Baker Mayfield. 

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Who will be the Redskins' core defensive players three years from now?

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Who will be the Redskins' core defensive players three years from now?

Just before training camp last year, I took a stab at figuring out who on the Redskins roster would still be with the team and contributing in the year 2020. Now that the season is over, let’s revisit that look, move it up to 2021, and see how much the picture has changed. I looked at the offense earlier, the defense is up today.

The terms used here are mostly self-explanatory, if you want details you can look at this post from a couple of years ago.  

Defense (age as of Week 1 2021)

Potential blue-chip players: Jonathan Allen (26)
Changes from last prediction: Removed Josh Norman (33)

Allen was already playing well and getting better when a Week 6 Lisfranc injury ended his rookie season. He will continue to improve.

Norman will be a free agent in 2021. He still could be an effective contributor in Washington or elsewhere but his days as a blue-chip player likely will be over.

MORE REDSKINS: WHAT CAN THE REDSKINS LEARN FROM THE PLAYOFFS?

This is a pretty thin group of blue-chip defenders and even Allen has question marks until he puts at least two fully healthy seasons on his NFL resume.

Solid starters: Ryan Kerrigan (33), D. J. Swearinger (30), Kendall Fuller (26), Preston Smith (28), Matt Ioannidis (27), Anthony Lanier (28)
Changes: Added Fuller, Smith, Ioannidis, Lanier, removed Su’a Cravens, Bashaud Breeland, Ryan Anderson (27), Zach Brown (31)

Age obviously could be an issue with Kerrigan and Swearinger. Kerrigan’s career has the look of one of a player who can still play well into his mid-30’s but you never know. Swearinger will just be hitting football middle age, but the high-speed hits delivered by safeties tend to shorten careers.

The others will just be hitting the primes of their careers in 2021. Ioannidis should continue to improve and Lanier needs to play better against the run to be a starter. If Smith can perform at his highest level consistently, he could edge up towards blue-chip territory.

RELATED: NFL MOCK DRAFT 4.0

Cravens is unlikely to return after his rocky departure a week before the 2017 season. The chances are very good that Breeland will be gone in free agency in March. We really didn’t see enough from Anderson to figure out anything about his future, and while it’s possible that Brown will re-sign, I don’t see him still being here in 2021.

Potential starters: Trent Murphy (31), Quinton Dunbar (29), Fabian Moreau (27), Montae Nicholson (25)
Changes: Added Dunbar, Moreau, Nicholson, moved up Smith, Fuller, removed Mason Foster (32), Will Compton (31)

The most potential in this group comes from Nicholson and Moreau. Nicholson was headed to being in the “solid starters” group before his season was cut short with a concussion. He doesn’t have a bad injury history, as he missed just one game in his last two seasons at Michigan State, so there is reason to believe that he can stay healthy. Moreau has speed and a physical style and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him starting before the 2018 season is over.

If Preston Smith leaves as a free agent, Murphy could start on the edge. It seems likely that Dunbar will still be around and he could be a starter or a reserve.

There is one other group of players that is hard to classify based on a small sample size. We didn’t see enough out of rookies Anderson, Josh Holsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons to plot a career arc for them with any degree of reliability. Deshazor Everett will be 29 in 2021, and although right now he seems to be a special team player and spot starter, he could catch on and become a starter.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.