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With an injured player and a guard, Jay Gruden wants more out of 1st-round picks

With an injured player and a guard, Jay Gruden wants more out of 1st-round picks

Jay Gruden's situation Monday afternoon was not enviable. The Redskins head coach watched his team completely choke away a chance at the playoffs Sunday afternoon, and less than 24 hours later, Gruden was forced to eulogize the disappointing 2016 season. 

The coach probably got little sleep, if any, and was then thrust into the difficult situation of talking about pending free agents and ultimately what went wrong for his team. Still, even considering those factors, Gruden's comments about building the 'Skins through the draft came off as quite surprising. 

"We’re getting there, but we’ve had, what, two first-round picks since I’ve been here? One of them hasn’t played a down, or played one game, and the other one is a guard," he said. "We have got to utilize our picks."

Woah. 

Factually, everything he said was correct. The Redskins did not have a first round pick in 2014, Gruden's first year as coach in Washington. Then the team selected Brandon Scherff in 2015, followed by Josh Doctson in 2016.

At the time, some thought Scherff would play right tackle for the 'Skins, but that experiment ended quickly. He started every game of his rookie season at right guard. The second-year player out of Iowa has proven to be a very good player, he made the Pro Bowl this season and again started every game at right guard, yet offensive guard is not widely considered a high-impact position. 

Doctson's rookie year was lost to Achilles injuries. He dressed the first two weeks, then came a series of games on the inactive list before finally going on injured reserve in October. It also was no secret that some on the 'Skins staff grew frustrated with the inability to figure out what the problem was with the first rounder out of TCU, as the Achilles ailment could not be properly diagnosed and the only remedy appeared to be rest. 

So, in a vacuum, Gruden's comments about the two first-round picks adds up, yet, they still seemed somewhat jarring in person. The coach quickly said he admires the work general manager Scot McCloughan has done with the Redskins roster and that he expects the team to continue to improve.

"We have got to make sure we do well in the draft the next year or two and make sure that we continue to add to the talent that we have," Gruden said. "We’ve had some good drafts, but we have to add to it, obviously."

Around the league, some teams make general managers or personnel executives available for an end of season press conference, but not universally. In some regard, it's tough for Gruden to have to answer questions about building through the draft, as some of the decisions that get made are not his call, though the coach certainly gets to provide his opinion as part of the decision making process, he explained.

"We are in sync. We have a very good view of what we look for in a football player – very similar – and that won’t change. I have a lot of respect for the work that he [Scot McCloughan] puts in, and he does also. I think together we’ll come up with a plan and get the right players in here."

The draft process will heat up quickly, as Senior Bowl practices take place in just a few weeks in Alabama. After that comes the NFL Draft Combine. McCloughan's first draft in 2015 was a slam dunk; the results of the 2016 crop would be best labeled as incomplete. The 2017 haul will be very important for the Redskins future, both next season and long-term. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

Watching Dwayne Haskins and Case Keenum, one quarterback definitely stands out

The Redskins might be just in the beginning of a quarterback battle, but at Monday's OTA session, it seemed pretty clear which player would eventually win. 

Dwayne Haskins made a number of impressive throws while he was on the field, and while Case Keenum had his share of good passes too, the rookie shined. Even on the surface: Haskins looks the part of a franchise quarterback, standing 6-foot-3 and 230 lbs. Keenum is listed at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs, but that seems fairly generous. 

When Haskins throws the ball, it zips through the air. He can go deep and has touch on his underneath routes. Keenum gets the ball where it needs to be, but there's a difference in velocity. 

Let's be crystal clear, however, that one OTA session in May will not determine the starting quarterback job. While Keenum and Haskins are both learning the Redskins offense, Keenum has proved he can stand in the pocket of an NFL game and make plays. Haskins has never seen the size or speed of NFL defensive linemen. 

"It’s a long process and I think they both handled it well today," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said. "Hopefully we’ll do better tomorrow and the next day and so on and so forth and I’m sure it will be a good, lengthy competition with some great players going at it."

A few, unexpected things stood out with Haskins.

Though he has a long windup on his throws, the ball gets out plenty fast. He also seemed quicker in the pocket than some of his NFL Scouting Combine numbers would suggest. Haskins certainly isn't fast, but he's not a plodder either. That said, Keenum does seem to have the advantage in squirting through the line of scrimmage and keeping plays alive. That's something Gruden really likes in his passers.

Both of the QBs seemed comfortable with their role in the competition. 

"It’s normal. I compete every day whether I’m playing football, playing ping pong, playing golf, I’m competing. I’m competing against myself. I’m competing against the defense. In the quarterback room, we’re always competing," Keenum said. "Competition makes you better and that’s what the spring is about."

Haskins sounded very tactful in his responses; respectful of the veterans already on the team in Keenum and Colt McCoy, yet also eager to get more work.

"I want to be with the best, be around the best, and compete with the best. All season I’ll be around working out with the best quarterbacks on my team," the rookie said. 

Planned or not, Haskins also seemed modest in his goals for the OTA session. 

"I didn’t have any expectations for today, I just wanted to execute. The biggest thing for me was going to play right in the huddle."

That stands out in stark contrast to the Redskins last first-round rookie passer, Robert Griffin III. Expectations for RG3 were out of control, almost immediately, and while parts of his rookie season actually lived up to the hype, that situation was not healthy or sustainable. It's smart for Haskins to set reasonable goals at this stage of his career. Calling plays correctly in the huddle will get him on the field more, and that will give him more chances to make big plays.

It's a learning process, and at OTAs, Haskins showed a willingness to start on the ground floor. In a world of egos and branding, that's a sage move. 

While McCoy was not present on the field at OTAs, he is in Ashburn. He will be a part of this competition, but he needs to get healthy soon. Gruden didn't provide much of an update when asked about McCoy, though the coach did say the quarterback should be back on the field for training camp.

McCoy knows the Redskins offense backward and forward, but without him on the field, Keenum and Haskins are learning the Redskins plays at the same time. And that means while Gruden is looking at a rookie and a veteran, neither player has much of a leg up on his playbook. 

"I think we have to grade them based on production out here every day. Every day is a new grade, every day you see how they’re developing, see how they’re getting better, see if they’re making the same mistakes over and over. But it’s a process, this is the first time Dwyane has had a chance to call plays in a live huddle and go after a live defense and this is the first time Case has had a chance to do that with the Redskins terminology. So, we don’t expect perfection on the day one, but we do expect the guys to know what they’re doing when we go out to the practice field, execute and then continue to get better each and every day."

Get better each day. Compete. That's the cornerstone of success in the NFL, and for the Redskins, how QB1 will find his spot.

"Somebody is going to rise I would think," the coach said. "The cream always rises to the top and we’re hoping that’s the case.”

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Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Reuben Foster believed to be lost for 2019 with major knee, leg injury, per source

Redskins officials fear that linebacker Reuben Foster has torn the ACL in his left knee, sources tell NBC Sports Washington.

Additionally, there is concern about a more significant injury that could include the artery in his left leg, sources said. 

Foster went down on his first snap in a non-contact drill during OTAs on Monday after stepping on the leg of guard Tyler Catalina. Immediately, Foster fell to the ground, and it was obvious he was in intense pain. He was audibly screaming and crying while writhing in pain on the field. 

Moments later, the Redskins medical staff rushed out to Foster, and within a matter of minutes, his leg was placed into a stabilizing device. He was then helped onto a cart and wheeled off the practice field. 

After practice, Jay Gruden said the team was unsure of Foster's prognosis but did say, "I’m just very disappointed in what happened in his first rep as a Redskin. He runs through the gap and gets injured."

The Redskins took a major public relations hit by signing Foster last fall, and the team's belief was that his play on the field would be worth the controversy that enveloped his signing. Foster won't be playing in 2019, but remains under contract for 2020, and Washington will have the option to keep him in 2021. 

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