RICHMOND—The second-happiest man in Richmond after Ryan Kerrigan agreed to a five-year, $57.5 million contract extension was Jay Gruden.
The Redskins head coach is a big fan of the fifth-year linebacker. “Great kid, obviously. Drafted here. A Redskin,” Gruden told the media on the eve of training camp. “He loves the area, loves this football team. We love rewarding guys like that. . . . We’re happy to have him. We’d love to have a locker room full of Ryan Kerrigans, that’s for sure.”
Gruden thinks that Kerrigan is capable of having better seasons than the one he had last year when he registered 13.5 sacks, a career high and the seventh best in the NFL. But he needs some help.
“He can get to another level, we have to give him a chance to get to another level,” said Gruden. “We have to play with a lead, make teams have to throw in the fourth quarter so he can get his numbers up . . . Unfortunately, we were behind in a lot of games in the fourth quarter.”
Among other topics covered by Gruden at his news conference:
—The entire 90-man roster should be able to take the field tomorrow. There were some injury concerns about OT Trent Williams, Kerrigan, OL Morgan Moses, CB DeAngelo Hall, and TE Jordan Reed. “So far we have clearance on all of those guys,” said Gruden. “We expect them to be full go. We’ll monitor them as they go.”
—The team’s top priority will be what you would expect with a team that has won a combined seven games in the last two year. “We’re trying to improve as a football team, No. 1,” said Gruden. “That’s what we’re trying to do every day is improve in a certain area of our game. We also critique our players and find out who our best 53 are. That’s an ongoing process.”
—Now that Kerrigan has signed the team shifts it’s attention to re-signing Williams, the team’s Pro Bowl left tackle. Gruden said that talks are ongoing and that they will not be a distraction. “I saw him out there running today, he looked like a gazelle,” Gruden said of the 6-5, 318-lb. lineman. “He’s in great spirits and he’s going to work hard no matter what the contract situation.”
— The team made a lot of changes from signing five defensive free agents, making 10 picks in the draft, brining in a new defensive coordinator, several new position coaches, a new strength and conditioning staff, and a new general manager in Scot McCloughan. “We had to make some changes,” said Gruden. “If you keep everything status quo you’re probably going to get the same results . . . I feel like we’re a lot better, no question about it. We attacked free agency in a positive way . . . We did a good job in the draft, we got some young players with very talented skills and we feel good about moving forward.”
—Gruden was not concerned about some negative, anonymous comments about fourth-year quarterback Robert Griffin III. “There’s always comments about the quarterback position, good and bad, no matter where you are,” said Gruden, a former college and Arena League QB. “It’s just something you have to deal with as a quarterback . . . We’re excited about him here, the work that he’s put in to get his body right. The work he’s put in to get his mind right. Now it’s just a matter of going out here and continue to coach our offense and watching him get better.”