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Exclusive: JP Finlay sits down with Jay Gruden after Redskins Week 2 loss to Cowboys

Exclusive: JP Finlay sits down with Jay Gruden after Redskins Week 2 loss to Cowboys

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 2 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

You can listen to the interview on the latest Redskins Talk Podcast.

JP Finlay: Another tough loss for the Washington Redskins. Oddly, 0-2 is a position you've been in before. In 2016, came marching back from an 0-2 start and got to a 'win-and-in' Week 17 playoff game. We remember how that went. How do you address your team at 0-2? What did you say in that locker room yesterday?

Jay Gruden: Well, number one, we need to stay together for sure. Don't let any of the outside noise factor into your preparation and your work ethic. We have to eliminate the outside crowd noise, the talking, the yapping, all the negative articles, and that stuff and just come to work. I think we have talent in place here where we can still turn this thing around and quickly. I think we will.

JP: I had a player in the locker room tell me yesterday 'I know we lost both of these games, and neither were particularly close,' but he still felt like it's the best team he's been here for.

Gruden: We have talent. We just have to mesh and gel. Heck, we were up 20-7 at the half against Philly. So we were pretty close. They just went on a roll there and got up by eight or nine and then we couldn't come back. Same with Dallas. The horrible holding call at the end of the half gave them seven instead of 10-7 at the half. We're right there. We're playing with these guys. It's not like we're getting blown out of the water. We do have talent. I just think it's going to take a little bit of time to get these guys playing together and playing well.

JP: Defensively, for over a year now, even going back to league meetings in Arizona, you were saying that that 'we're ready to win ugly, defense first, run the football, don't turn it over.'  Through two weeks, I imagine you think your offense is doing enough to give you chances and the defense just isn't holding up their end of the bargain. Why is that happening?

Gruden: I think it's a combination of things, really. We have to do a better job of coaching, number one. We have to take the blame. If guys are messing up, that's on us as coaches. Number two, we have to play better. We have to rush the passer better, stop the run obviously better. We have the talent to do it. Like I said before, we have a lot of young people playing together for the first time. When you're playing together for the first time and changing formations, communication has to take place. If one guy messes up, you're in trouble. Unfortunately, the two quarterbacks that we've played, Wentz and Prescott, have taken advantage of the times we've messed up. If we eliminate those mental errors, I think physically, we'll be good to go. We'll be able to compete with everybody.

JP: You said you have to coach better. Are you pleased with the scheme defensively through two games?

Gruden: I think [vs. Dallas], we were pretty vanilla. I think we can be a bit more exotic once we get Fabian [Moreau] back in there and our guys back in there with some more communication. I think the key was after the Philadelphia game, we didn't want to mess up any more coverages. We had two blown coverages that gave them two touchdowns. You can't have that happen. Let's be a little bit more vanilla, let everyone know what to do, play a little bit faster. Now, I think we'll start to branch off and do some different things as far as blitzes and coverages.

JP: It's a bit of a chicken and egg then because you don't want to have blown coverages in the secondary and you need more pass rush, but neither is really happening. How do you get more pass rush without blitzing?

Gruden: We have to rush better. Maybe we have to do some more games upfront. Our edge pressure has got to get home. I think Montez [Sweat looks like he's rushing] for the first time in the NFL. I think he's a little too tight to the tackle, he's not getting up the field quite enough for our liking. I think that'll come with experience. Obviously, I think if we can get the quarterback to step up into our two defensive linemen, that's where we'll get all the sacks. That's where we'll get all the pressure. Right now the quarterbacks are very comfortable. Wentz and Prescott patted [the football] one, two, three times and were ripping it downfield. Pass rushing is going to be very important moving forward.

JP: When you're on the sideline and you see those quarterbacks pat the ball, what is your reaction?

Gruden: Oh, it's frustrating. There are times, too, when they have max protection and two man routes and we're not challenging the receivers quite enough. So it's a combination of stuff. I'm not going to put it all on the pass rush; I'm not going to put it all on the [defensive backs], the linebackers. It's a combination of a lot of things we can improve on. And we will.

JP: If you were 'mic'd up,' what of that footage could be used during the deep plays?

Gruden: None.

JP: Offensively has been somewhere between fine and good. It was great for 30 minutes in Philly. Outside of that, it's been okay. The run game has not gotten going. What do you attribute that to?

Gruden: Combination of things. Philadelphia, we tried to run the ball in the second half and we had a negative play and a holding penalty. You know, there are things that take you out of the running game, and then you lose the lead and you have to try and play a little bit faster, play a little bit of catch up and you aren’t able to run the ball. So, we haven’t been able to stick with the run for four quarters and we haven’t had enough production out of the running game. We had a couple of good hits, AP had a couple of good hits yesterday against Dallas, we can build off of that. But I also think that when you have a new left tackle and a new left guard coming in for the first time and you have the tight end issues we’ve had a little bit, I think we’ll get there.

JP: I-formation on the goal line. We’re you having fun there, do you know what I’m talking about?

Gruden: Hah, yeah I formation. Yeah, we ran it once for a loss of one, then AP stuck his foot in the ground, and, actually, got a good block from our fullback.

JP: So 53 more carries and you’re up to 55…

Gruden: Yeah I’d love to hand it off 55 times. You know, we gotta do a better job on first downs and stay out of those long-yardage situations.

JP: There was a report yesterday during the broadcast that Adrian Peterson runs too north-south for your liking …

Gruden: You want north-south running backs. I don’t think you want east-west backs, that’s for sure. AP is a north-south runner, and what that does, sometimes, ya know it’s hard when he’s in the game, like yesterday we were in 11 personnel and they but base on the field and said ‘heck you’re just not going to run it’ and you know we had to throw it. But when he gets going north-south, what that does is creates a physical mentality for our offense. Our linemen love it, and it opens up our play-action passes. We do love north-south backs.

JP: So any suggestion that there’s not a spot for AP in your offense is …

Gruden: You know, he played last year and had a thousand yards, so…yeah.

JP: Keenum. If I had told you in August that the reason you are staying in games for the first two weeks of the year is because of Case Keenum, what would your reaction have been?

Gruden: We signed him for a reason. We thought he could come in here and compete for the starting job. He's done it and been productive. Great competitor. Great leader. Now it's just a matter of him getting comfortable with the plays and concepts and people around him. 

JP: Two first-round rookies. Haskins isn't playing, that's part of the plan. Sweat is playing, not giving you what you want. The next rookie, Terry McLaurin, looks like he's emerging to be something special. How do you view his start to the year?

Gruden: I agree, I think he is going to emerge into something special. I think he's that type of guy. He doesn't let anything bother him. He's a great competitor, very smart, very talented, very explosive. He's got Pierre Garcon-like explosiveness out of cuts, and he's got the great speed to go along with it. Just a great guy to have on your football team. He can do it all. 

JP: You've got an extra day. You don't play until Monday night. The track record on Monday night is not great. Does that let you get these guys back in the right frame of mind? One more day to stew on the losses? How does that work?

Gruden: No, you have to move on for sure. Just like Philly, we tried to move on to Dallas right away. The longer you stew on your losses, the longer you're in a stew, period. We have to get out fo the funk, learn from our mistakes, add to what we've been doing offensively and defensively,. Being sound and getting after the Chicago Bears is what it's all about. 

JP: They haven't been blowout losses, but two losses in the division. How do you keep these guys together? That's what you said the challenge is.

Gruden: For sure. Take it one game at a time. I know that's the coaches cliché, but that's the fact. One game at a time. One day at a time, really. Your preparation has to be great Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Dominate the installs and do great at practice and always have confidence. Never lose confidence in yourself and never lose confidence in the guy next to you, and everything will be just fine. We have enough talent in this building that I think we can turn it around quickly. I think that starts on Monday.

JP: In your time coaching the Redskins, you've never had an in-season coaching change. There's none of that stuff on the horizon, I imagine. 

Gruden: No. We have to work together and get this thing fixed. We will.

JP: Lastly, Friday night is the Redskins fashion show. Will you be walking the runway this year?

Gruden: I will not.

JP: Are you positive?

Gruden: I am sure.

JP: I will be wearing an all-burgundy jumpsuit.

Gruden: You're going to look wonderful.


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In a blowout, Dwayne Haskins and Derrius Guice connect for a meaningful touchdown

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In a blowout, Dwayne Haskins and Derrius Guice connect for a meaningful touchdown

Getting blown out by the New York Jets, one would think that any touchdown the Redskins would potentially score when trailing 34-3 would mean nothing. In most cases, that would be correct.

But when Dwayne Haskins connected with Derrius Guice for a 45-yard score, it was actually a very notable touchdown.

The touchdown is important for multiple reasons. One being that it is Haskins' first NFL touchdown. Making his first home start, the quarterback didn't have the performance many would have hoped for. But, he does now have one touchdown.

While it was the first for Haskins, it was also the first for Guice. The second-year running back who has missed a lot of time with injuries returned for the Week 11 battle and show the playmaking ability that has many excited to see him on the field.

Last, but definitely not least, the score put an end to the horrid touchdown-drought the Redskins had been in. Before Guice crossed the goal line, Washington hadn't scored in 16 quarters. Yes, that is the equivalent to four games.

But alas, the Redskins have a touchdown and so do Haskins and Guice. Sunday was a disappointing day, but at least there was this moment.


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The Redskins played the Jets and everything was awful except Derrius Guice

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The Redskins played the Jets and everything was awful except Derrius Guice

The Redskins played the Jets and Washington provided the FedEx Field crowd one of the worst performances in the last decade. 

The team was terrible in nearly every facet. The Jets scored 34 points and somebody named Ryan Griffin had more than 100 yards receiving and a touchdown. 

Washington did have one very legit highlight: Rookie QB Dwayne Haskins connected with second-year RB Derrius Guice for a 45-yard touchdown. Guice did almost all of the work, as it was a screen pass from Haskins, but the running back showed vision and speed going down the sideline and avoiding tacklers as he got into the end zone. And then he connected with Jeremy Sprinkle for a second one a few minutes later. Unfortunately, the game was long over by then.

Beyond that, it was ugly for the Redskins. 

  1. Sam Darnold and the Jets took the opening kickoff and marched down the field for a quick touchdown. It was a sign of things to come, as Darnold finished the first half with three TDs and had four TDs in the game. Darnold carved up the Redskins secondary and frequently had open wide receivers streaking through the middle of the field. Darnold finished the game with 19 completions on 30 attempts with just one interception. Good day.
  2. Coming into the game, the Redskins ranked 31st in the NFL at defending third downs. Washington was giving up first downs on 50 percent of third downs this season, and with five minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Redskins defense was right on track. The Jets had converted five of 10 third downs. The defense was just awful. 
  3. Dwayne Haskins was bad in this game, his second start and his first time at home. Haskins completed 19 of 35 passes and threw a terrible interception in the fourth quarter. There was one incredible play from Haskins, where he connected on a deep pass to Terry McLaurin after scrambling out of the pocket. The throw was gorgeous and showed off Haskins' arm, but in the end, it didn't matter. The play was called back on a holding penalty. 
  4. For the most devoted Redskins fans, here's a bit of good news. Coming into this game the Redskins had not scored a touchdown in more than a month. Well, when Guice got into the end zone, that streak snapped. So congrats.