Jay Gruden was forced to face 15 questions related to Trent Williams' minicamp absence in his Wednesday press conference, and each one seemed to wear on him a little bit more.
So, Gruden probably would've been happy to talk about literally anything else as the session with the media began winding down, whether that was Jeopardy! spoilers or the Nationals' current hot streak or even his unsteady job security.
But when the head coach was asked about his young yet mature and supremely talented defensive line, there seemed to be an extra hint of joy as he gave his longest answer from his time at the podium.
"It's an unbelievable group," he said. "On and off the field, you can't ask for a better group of men."
"It's led by a great coach, obviously," Gruden added, before delivering his only punchline of the day. "Not to take anything away from Jim Tomsula, but I think anybody in here could coach that group."
Gruden shouldn't feel too bad about that remark. In speaking with reporters on the field, Tomsula literally said the same thing before absolutely gushing about his unit.
"I feel really good about the people that are in the room," Tomsula explained. "It's the quality of the guys. We all talk about how long their arms are, how many times they bench press this or that, they talk about what the 40 is. The one thing that gets overlooked a lot is the type of individual it is, the makeup of the guy."
The room that the longtime coach is referring to has six special players: Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Daron Payne, Caleb Brantley, Tim Settle and JoJo Wicker, who was on the Redskins' practice squad for quite a while in 2018. He's naturally interested in some of Washington's other developmental prospects, but those six have a united attitude and serious commitment to getting better all the time.
Gruden sees it as well.
"It's the effort, the tenacity they play with, the accountability that they demand of each other," he said. "It's everything you want in a player both physically and, obviously, mentally and leadership-wise."
The 2019 Redskins' roster has questions everywhere. Who will the starting QB be, and how long will that guy hold the job? Which receivers will emerge, if any? Can the linebackers produce without Reuben Foster? Nearly everywhere you look, you can find flaws.
Up front on the defense, however, there's nothing but difference makers. Jonathan Allen has a chance to become nationally-known as a disruptor in his third year and Daron Payne isn't far behind him. Matt Ioannidis, meanwhile, just picked up a well-earned contract extension, and Tim Settle and Caleb Brantley are two options Tomsula is dying to give more time to.
And, as it turns out, Tomsula's Six is trying to recruit another member, even if only on a part-time basis: Montez Sweat, whom Tomsula called "freakish."
"These guys have grabbed Sweat," Tomsula said, sounding proud. "Sweat's the one guy they bring over to lift weights with them. Sweat's the guy they bring in when we do our boxing."
The thought of a pass rusher as gifted as Sweat absorbing the approach of players like Allen and Ioannidis can only be described as tantalizing.
Now, Tomsula doesn't speak to the media often, but when he does, his love for the game and for coaching is immediately evident. There was a time a few months ago, though, where it wasn't clear whether he'd be back with the Burgundy and Gold in 2019.
Fortunately, two things ultimately convinced him to return.
"Greg Manusky and those daggum D-linemen," Tomsula said. "I have a problem falling in love with those kids. I get so damn attached to these kids... You're not around them like I am. You'd love any of them to marry your daughter. They're just really, really good guys that can turn it on on the football field."
Sure, Gruden joked anyone could lead this collection defensive lineman. But you can bet he's fired up Tomsula's back and is the one who's actually doing it.
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