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Senior Bowl report: Gruden brings balance

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden stands on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

MOBILE, Ala. – Jay Gruden fit a lot of wants.

That was clear Wednesday morning when Head Coach Doug Marrone discussed Gruden's hiring as Jaguars offensive coordinator, and it was clear that Marrone liked Gruden's experience as not only a play-caller but a head coach.

Marrone also made clear he believes Gruden will fit in with the staff, that he will be able to "get in front of the room" and lead the offensive staff – and offensive players.

That's the off-field stuff. 

As far as what made the former Washington Redskins head coach and Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator right from a play-calling standpoint, Marrone was less specific and didn't dig overly deep into what sort of offensive philosophy he expects with Gruden running the offense.

But he did say he likes Gruden's ability to "use formations, and match up the run game and the passing game," and likes Gruden's ability to have balance in play-calling and unpredictability.

"I think that's been good," Marrone said Wednesday, his final day at the 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl in Mobile. "It's like anything else: Trying to keep people off-balance as a key. Being able to attack defenses, with different schemes in the run game … Jay has shown and proven that he's done all of that."

Gruden becomes Marrone's third offensive coordinator in four seasons as the Jaguars' head coach. Nathaniel Hackett was the coordinator in 2017 and the first 11 games of 2018, and John DeFilippo held the role this past season before he and the team mutually parted ways following the season.

The Jaguars ranked 20thin the NFL in total offense, and were 16thin the NFL in passing and 17thin rushing. Gruden, who went 35-49-1 as the head coach of the Redskins, was considered one of the NFL's more innovative play-callers during three seasons as the Bengals' offensive coordinator.

"He's not someone who's specifically just going to throw it every time; he's not someone who's just going to run it every time," Marrone said of Gruden. "I think he does show a good balance and he shows a commitment to what's working."


A couple of takeaways from a conversation early this week with Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell at the Senior Bowl: One is that Caldwell believes this is a very good year to have two first-round selections. "We feel good about the players in it, especially in the Top 40," Caldwell said. The Jaguars currently hold the No. 9, 20 and 42 overall selections in the 2020 NFL Draft. The No. 9 and 42 selections are their regular selections in the first and second round and the No. 20 selection is the first-rounder obtained from the Los Angeles Rams in the trade for cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Caldwell also said he likes the state of the Jaguars' roster, adding that from a roster turnover and needs perspective this offseason "is no different than any other offseason" in recent years. "Every team has holes," he said. "We've had plenty more holes than we have this year leading into seasons. The lift is what it is. The processes will change a little bit with Coach Marrone and his staff. But I think the system stays the same. We just have to find good, effective football players. I feel like we have some very key positions that are positions of need that we feel good about, value positions. We have some needs that could very easily be filled."


Count Chris Trapasso among those agreeing with Caldwell that this a good year to have three selections in the Top 42 – and the draft analyst specifically believes the Jaguars are in good position. "This draft class aligns with what the Jaguars need," Trapasso said. "What are their biggest needs? Defensive tackle, corner and even linebacker. Those three positions along with wide receiver – that's really getting hyped as the best receiver class in a while – are where the real strengths are in the overall draft class in general. With three picks in the Top 42, they can add three – not just contributing players, but – impact rookies for 2020."  Trapasso cited South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw – who Trapasso called the best player at the Senior Bowl – as one of the draft's top players at that position and called him unblockable in Wednesday's practice. He also cited Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore as a possibility.

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