Following every Redskins game of the 2019 season, NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay will sit down with an exclusive, one-on-one interview with head coach Jay Gruden to discuss the team's performance.
Here's what Gruden had to say following the team's Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
You can listen to the interview on the latest Redskins Talk Podcast.
JP Finlay: Did you sleep at all after a night like that?
Jay Gruden: A little bit. You try to.
JP: How hard is it after that game, where your team played so well for 30 minutes, to then have the second 30 minutes, then try to remind yourselves it's game 1 of 16?
Gruden: Yeah, for sure. It's disappointing. We came out pretty strong, 17-0 lead. They had a big play to DeSean [Jackson], 17-7. We had a big stop, got a field goal at the end of the half to go up 20-7. Third quarter, we talked about the importance of coming out fast. They put together a nine-minute drive, scored a touchdown. We go three and out. They get a quick touchdown. By the time we get the ball, we're down one. Then we missed a couple throws here and there. A big penalty cost us, and the next time we get the ball we're down 29-20. It was tough. We have high expectations for our defense. It was surprising we couldn't get off the field on third downs. That's something we have to continue to work on and put an emphasis on.
JP: Case [Keenum] connected on the big touchdown throw to Terry McLaurin in the first half. In the second half, he missed one by two feet, I'd say. What's your reaction when you see that ball hit the turf?
Gruden: Yeah, it's hard. You're talking to your team like, 'we need some momentum-changing plays.' That's one that could have changed momentum and put it back in our favor. Unfortunately, we missed it, then we dropped a slant on the next play and had to punt. They still had the momentum. We did nothing to take the momentum over on special teams, defense, or offense. Somebody is going to have to step up and make a big play, and unfortunately, we couldn't do it.
JP: If you hit the home run there, the momentum swings. Even if [Paul Richardson] catches that ball, what difference could that have made in that game?
Gruden: It's a first down and we're moving the ball, moving the chains. We missed the post, then we missed that, and I don't know what happened after that. We had a couple of opportunities to make some plays, and we just didn't make them. We [have] to call better plays, but eventually, somebody has got to make a play.
JP: Looking ahead to Dallas now, it's Dallas week. I know everybody in the building is focused on that. Injury news with Derrius Guice, can you give us the latest on that?
Gruden: He had an MRI and is getting it checked out. We'll send him to a couple of specialists to make sure we get the right prognosis. If there's time he has to miss, or if he has to have anything done, we'll find out and get it taken care of. Most important thing getting it taken care of, then we'll go from there.
JP: How tough is it for a guy who played his first NFL game, I mean, he has 27 carries as a Redskin, and more than half of those are in the preseason. He missed one year, now he's getting [an] MRI, and there's speculation he could be missing some time, what do you say to that young guy?
Gruden: It's hard. This guy works his tail off to get back in shape and rehab from his last injury, and then to have something else come up possibly, it's hard for the guy. He's a very strong, talented guy. If it is something, he can overcome it. He's got a lot of years left to play. But hopefully, it's something he can deal with and play with.
JP: Speaking of hard decisions with running backs, Adrian Peterson a healthy scratch Week 1. I believe that was the first healthy scratch of his career. Did you talk to him beforehand? Did he know what was coming?
Gruden: Yeah, of course.
JP: What's that conversation like?
Gruden: It's not easy. Adrian was on a couple of teams before we got him. It's hard sometimes to dress two backs on first down, two first down backs. You have to have guys who different things. You have to have a third-down back. Sometimes it's Chris Thompson, somebody else got to play third down. Somebody has to help on special teams. It's hard to get everybody up on a 46-man roster. We just chose to dress [Wendell] Smallwood for a special teams sake and only dress three running backs, which is something we've done since I've been here pretty much. So it was a tough decision, something you never want to do, especially with Adrian Peterson. It's one game. We could dress them all next week and the week after that. So we'll just address it next week. But this week, with Darren Sproles back there on punts and on the road, we thought it was important to really have the coverage unit in place.
JP: If Guice can't go against Dallas, and maybe longer than that, how comfortable are you with AP back in that role?
Gruden: I'm very comfortable. [Guice and Peterson] are 1 and 1a to me. They're the same position. If something happens and Derrius can't go, we're happy to play AP and not even bat an eye. Hopefully Derrius will be fine, and eventually, there could be a situation we dress both of them and Chris Thompson. It's just a matter of where we are special teams wise that given week.
JP: Optimism with Jordan Reed? How close was he for Philly?
Gruden: I'm optimistic, yeah. Concussion-based symptoms are totally out of my control. I think he's feeling better. That's the most important thing. We'll get him checked out, get him some work and continue to expand on his workload and see how he's doing after that. If he's cleared to go, he'll be ready.
JP: With his concussion history, have you ever talked to him about his long-term future, or is that not really your job?
Gruden: The concussion history is what it is. The doctors take very serious; the trainers take very seriously; the players take very seriously. We would never put him in there with any risk.
JP: Of course. It's crazy to think about how much has happened. It's a complicated matter I imagine.
Gruden: Yeah, it is. The most important thing is the players well being. We're not going to risk anything for Jordan Reed, that's for sure. We're going to make sure he's healthy. We would never put him in the lineup if there was any risk involved.
JP: I'll let you go on this. Dallas looked pretty good against the Giants, I don't know if you were able to watch much of that. What's the key for the Redskins to beat the Cowboys?
Gruden: They're a good football team. The key is defensively, we obviously have to stop [Ezekiel Elliott]. Without a doubt. Amari Cooper hit us with a couple big plays last year, so they have a lot of weapons across the board. So we have to stop the run and make sure we play pass. We have to hit the quarterback. Last week against Carson Wentz, he patted the ball way too many times for my liking. We have to get after the quarterback. Offensively, we have to handle movement. They stunt, they twist, they do a great job in their defensive line games. We have to handle that and try to stay balanced.
JP: What was up with the defensive line in Philly? That's supposed to be the strength on your football team, and they sacked Carson Wentz once.
Gruden: Yeah. Outside pass rushing, we have to do a better job. On the interior, they got a little bit gassed. When Jonathan [Allen] went out early, then Caleb [Brantley] went out early, we we're down to just three: [Tim] Settle, [Daron] Payne, and [Matt] Ioannidis. They got a little run down there on that long drive in the third quarter. Then we went three-and-out, and then we went three-and-out again. They were on the field a long time and they got a little bit gassed.
JP: The left side of your offensive line, there's been a lot of talk. Trent Williams is still holding out. What did you think of [Donald] Penn and [Ereck] Flowers?
Gruden: I thought they played great, man, for their first time playing together. Flowers made some serious strides about showing the potential he has at left guard. He protected, he competed, I was impressed with Flowers. I was impressed with Penn. He did a good job protecting as well and competing in the running game.
JP: Saying this on the record to you, Flowers has been a bit of a punching bag for a while, maybe fairly or not. I thought he played well, too, and whatever jabs I may have taken, I'll back off for a week.
Gruden: That's nice. I'm sure he appreciates that.
JP: I doubt he cares at all.
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