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Offseason Update: Gruden anxious to get on field

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden looks on prior to an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden looks on prior to an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears Monday, Sept. 23, 2019, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

JACKSONVILLE – This isn't ideal, and Jay Gruden understands that.

Something closer to ideal would be nice, though – and the Jaguars' offensive coordinator said it would be nice if that happened relatively quickly.

"We've got to get out on the field soon," he said.

Gruden, hired this offseason as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, spoke to local media on video conference Tuesday afternoon. As might be expected, a major topic was installing a new offense as a new coordinator – and doing so in a virtual offseason as mandated by COVID-19 regulations.

Also as might be expected, Gruden said the circumstance isn't close to easy.

Gruden, who spent three seasons (2011-2013) as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator and five-plus seasons (2014-2019) as the Washington Redskins' head coach, said the trickiest aspect is learning precisely how the system fits players and vice-versa.

"It's one thing to install plays on a chalkboard and in virtual meetings and getting them to know the concepts and all that stuff," Gruden said. "It's another thing going out and seeing these guys execute – to see what they're good at, what guys can do."

It was the second part of that equation – using practice time to get a feel for how players fit into the offense – that Gruden emphasized Tuesday.

"I don't have a lot of information as far as how these guys can handle different positions, and how to run different routes," Gruden said.

The Jaguars this offseason have signed two players who previously played for Gruden – tight end Tyler Eifert (Bengals, 2013), and running back Chris Thompson (Redskins, 2014-2019). Both players talked in recent weeks about Gruden use players in multiple roles to create matchup advantages. Gruden said Tuesday doing so is difficult without having a feel for what players can do within the offense.

"I know [wide receiver] Dede [Westbrook] played in the slot," Gruden said. "We drafted Laviska [Shenault Jr. in Round 2]; we'll see what he can do outside and inside. I'd like to move some of the other receivers around a little bit – Chris [Conley], DJ [Chark Jr.] – and see what happens."

Gruden also mentioned needing to work with players such as running back Leonard Fournette, Eifert and tight ends Josh Oliver and James O'Shaughnessy "just to get to know everybody."

"We've got to get these guys on the field," Gruden said. "I think from a knowledge standpoint they'll know the plays and the concepts, but then [it's] getting them out there and seeing them execute it versus different looks and finding out what they're good at so we can best utilize their skills."

The virtual nature of the offseason also has changed at least somewhat how Gruden has approached teaching the offense. Specifically, he said he has increased meeting time between players and position coaches compared to how if players and coaches were meeting at the facility.

"I haven't done any group install meetings – trying to get 40 guys on one line at one time where I have a picture of me and I'm going over plays," he said. "I've tried to break it up where these coaches can teach the system, because it's the first time they are teaching our system as well. It's good for them to teach it and work with their guys …. I'm able to go in and out. They're able to really hone in on their positions and what their task is.

"Then when we come together, we'll do more group installs – and obviously the walkthroughs and the practices. I think it will be more beneficial that way. That's probably the biggest difference. We would have more group activity at this time if it was a normal year.

"Obviously, it's not a normal year, so we're doing more individual stuff and trying to hone in on the individual positions."

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