Jay Gruden: "We still have a lot out in front of us"

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden on the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles during the fourth quarter at Lincoln Financial Field.Photo: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Jay Gruden Tuesday Press Conference

On the quarterback search:

"Yeah, we have a workout here at 4:30. We have a couple quarterbacks coming in and we'll compare those to the guys that we already had in and then we will make a decision after the workout at 4:30."

On accelerating QB Mark Sanchez's comfortability with the offense:

"Accelerate? I think we're going to have to try to study what the Giants do and then try to fit what he knows into what the Giants do and try to come up with a game plan that is both functional and something that he can handle, not to mention the new offensive linemen that we're going to have in here also. So, a lot plays into it. I've got to figure out who the starting left guard is, right guard, and go from there. But we'll try to do the best we can to make plays fit that are good that he knows. That's the fine balance that we have."

On if QB Colt McCoy needs surgery and if they plan on bringing in a backup quarterback for Sanchez:

"It would be for a backup right now. Colt did have surgery on his right fibula. He had a fracture and had surgery this morning and two to three weeks would be wishful thinking – four weeks possibly, but we'll see how it goes. But he had successful surgery this morning. The other injuries; (Jonathan) Cooper obviously had a bicep tendon tear he will require surgery, Jonathan Cooper will be out. (Tony) Bergstrom has a high ankle sprain. He will be out a couple weeks at least. Ryan Anderson had a hamstring strain and will probably miss a week. Fabien (Moreau) had a knee contusion, came back in the game a little bit and then (Quinton) Dunbar, (Matt) Ioannidis, (Trey) Quinn – we're waiting to see how they are. But as far as the backup quarterback, yeah we have four games left and to think that we're going to find another quarterback and put a whole new game plan together again is quite difficult. Sanchez has a very minor understanding of our offense. He just got here not too long ago, so we're going to try to work with him and fit in with what he knows and branch off what the Giants do a little bit. But the backup quarterback whoever it will have to just give him a small group of plays that he can understand and function with."

On Sanchez's strengths and weaknesses are:

"I think the reason we signed Sanchez in the first place is he had some experience and obviously has played a lot of football, won some playoff games, a little bit of knowledge with Coach (Matt) Cavanaugh. Coach Cavanaugh coached him for a little bit, but as far as his strengths, shoot – other than his experience he has been pretty efficient from time-to-time. I think the thing that he has struggled with is turnovers, quite frankly throughout his career. We just have to make sure that he protects the ball in the pocket. He had a ball stripped that he recovered and then he threw the interception. Those are things that the way we're going to have to win a game against the Giants. We can't have any of those. We have to make sure we protect the ball, punt when we have to punt, let Tress Way do his thing and then we have to play great defense without a doubt."

On what the silver lining is at this point in the season:

"Well, we're 6-6 and we still have a lot to play for. We're not out of anything right now. It's not like we're 0-12 and we're just playing for whatever, we're actually playing to try to get into the playoffs, possibly win the division, heck we still have a lot out in front of us. Defensively, we're fairly healthy; there is a silver lining there. We just have to play better. We have to play more physical. We've got to be more sound, we have to tackle better, we have to do everything better on defense – we have to step up our game to heights that we never have before and it just has to be done in order for us to get where we want to get. Great defenses can overcome a lot of deficiencies within your football team and that's what we have to expect from our defense. So, there is a silver lining, we're healthy on defense, we have a quarterback that has some experience, we still have some weapons around him that are getting healthy with Chris Thompson, Jamison Crowder coming back for the first time, Jordan Reed, Vernon (Davis), Josh Doctson is playing well, so we're OK. The edges with Trent (Williams) and Morgan (Moses), they seem to be OK right now so that's a good thing."

On what percentage of the playbook is available to Sanchez and what the biggest challenge will be in getting him ready:

"I think when he first got here in his first game as a backup against Dallas he probably had about 10 percent of the playbook and then this game here he probably had about 20 percent maybe. Now, I think it's just everything as far as getting him ready. You saw the pre-snap penalties and how he handled the snap count and then we had to move guards around and then we're going on a silent count on the road and that is a whole process that new guards have to now have to tap the center and we had false start penalty because of that which cost us. There were a lot of just pre-snap things that we have to get to know and we have to get better at. Obviously protection calls at the line of scrimmage with all of these different fronts and blitzes that you see and then the run game, the run game is the run game. You have a safety down over here, you got to audible, and you have to do all these things in the run game. It is easier said than done but we just have to get him a package of plays that he is very comfortable with – that he can handle – and then try to get him to get us in the right play with things that he can understand and do."

On if they are holding a full offensive linemen workout today:

"We worked out a couple guards this morning and then the big thing is we just have to figure out what to do with Ty (Nsekhe) filled in at guard and did an OK job. So, do we put him at guard full-time or do we want to leave him as a backup tackle because Morgan is banged up and Trent is playing with a cast on his hand? If you put him at guard and something happens then who is your backup tackle? We have another guy in-house here (Austin Howard), so who is your left guard and right guard kind of puts us in a pickle. If Ty takes one of them, we can put Luke (Bowanko) in there at the other one assuming that Chase (Rouiller) is OK. Chase banged up his knee a little bit, so we just have to figure out the best possible five guys that we can put on the field and then figure out what they know and what they can handle."

On RB Adrian Peterson having fewer snaps than RB Chris Thompson last night:

"Well, after Adrian's 90-yard run, we got the ball backed up. We got a run for minus two yards; then we tried a play-action pass. Then had a keeper and we had to punt. Then, we had a two-minute drill, so that's Chris's job and that was about a 10-play deal. Then, the second half, we tried to run for minus three. We got the ball to start; then we had to run for four yards; then a third and nine and punted. Then the next drive, we threw a pass then ran it for a first down, ran for it minus five, had a penalty, had second and 20 and had to throw it, then Chris came in the game on the third drive of the second half, we threw it on first down and ran it for the first down and then had a penalty, then threw an interception. Then the fourth drive, we were down 12, we ran it on first down for minus five, then we went and pretty much pass mode and it was all two minute after that, so Chris had to play. So, he didn’t get a lot of opportunities is my point and we tried to run it, but didn’t have a lot of success."

On if QB Colin Kaepernick has been discussed:

"Oh, he's been discussed for sure and right now at this point, we already had a workout last week for the few guys. We had a couple other guys come in today and then it's just going to be a matter of which way we want to go. Do we want to go with a guy that's familiar with my terminology who we worked out last week, or with a new guy to back up [Mark] Sanchez with a similar skill set, or go with a guy and teach basically a whole new kind of offense with a new offensive line and with a lot of those zone reads and all that stuff. Not a lot of time to really get a brand new quarterback and new system installed and taught in a couple of days of practice. He's been talked about and discussed, but we'll probably go a different direction."

On if he should've kept a third quarterback:

"Yeah, that could be an option. A lot of team's do that and we're probably one of the few teams that only have two. But, my thought was that if something were to happen to Alex [Smith], we'd have Colt [McCoy] here ready to go and then we'd get a veteran type backup to teach some of the system too. Most of the time when you get down to third quarterbacks, you're going to struggle quite a bit anyway, so let's get a veteran in here and teach him and that's kind of what we chose to do. In hindsight, whether it's a young kid, usually a practice squad guy and is a young kid right out of college, a small college or what have you, that doesn’t have a lot of experience anyway. You throw him into the fire, you'd probably rather go to a more seasoned, veteran backup anyway and sign him off the street. So, that was kind of our thought process. If we had a young guy that we liked, we would have put him on the practice squad, but we just struggled to find the one that we liked and we had issues numbers-wise with the offensive line. So, we had to have some guys on the practice squad and wanted to keep a couple of tight ends on practice squad and one is a fullback, possibly, if we ever wanted to go with a fullback and obviously secondary, in order to practice, we needed those bodies and we didn’t think that quarterback was necessary at that time. Obviously now, we probably wish that we would have."

On what the challenge is in keeping the team focused for the last four games:

"Well, I think you hit it on the head, we do have a lot to play for. It's my job to make sure I challenge these guys and let them know that we still have enough talent in here to be successful. It might not be pretty. We might not throw for 500 yards and lead the legue in offense or what have you. We might throw for a hundred and rush for a hundred and win the game 7-3 who knows. I know that we have enough talent in here where we can still do some damage and compete with anybody on our schedule. That's my job to get our team up and ready and then it's their job to go out and perform at the very highest level that they can possibly perform. That's going to be the great challenge that we have in front of us."

On if the discussions on Kaepernick are any different than the other quarterbacks:

"No, not really. No. I think when you're talking about bringing a quarterback in; I think you have to think of – A – what is that quarterback's skillset? B – How can you implement that skillset to fit your offense without having wholesale changes? Had this been Week One, maybe he would probably be a greater possibility but since it's week 13 with four games to go, in order to really utilize somebody like Colin Kapernick's skillset, you're talking about a whole new group of formations and run concepts and all that good stuff. It's just very difficult. We're trying to obviously, A – we have to get [Mark] Sanchez ready to go and get him as many reps as possible and B –p whoever the backup is we decide to find, either he has familiarity with my terminology and offense where he can come in in a pinch or – C – be a be a quarterback with a similar skillset to Mark that can fit into the plays that we're going to run vs. the Giants."

On if Quarterbacks Coach/Passing Game Coordinator Kevin O'Connell will continue to call plays with Sanchez like he did last night:

"Yeah, I'll pick it back up. Now that we know Mark is the quarterback, we'll come up with a plan to utilize his strengths and really utilize what he knows. Then obviously, he's going to have to learn some more stuff, that's what quarterbacks do on a weekly basis. He's mentally been in the league along enough where he can handle it now. I think he has a pretty good understanding of our formations and a few of our base concepts in the running game and in the passing game. We're going to have to push the envelope a little bit, but we're not going to overload him and do too make different crazy things. For the most part, he's going to have to learn a few new concepts but I think he'll be fine."

On if he considered Kaepernick during the last workout:

"Yeah, not really, no. We thought same thing, same reason why. Sanchez we wanted a guy with a similar skillset than Colt and somebody coming in a pinch and function a little bit, which Sanchez did, you know, he made some nice plays. He had a little two-minute drill at the end of the half, got us some points, and then the second half, like I said, we were behind, it changed so much, it was hard. We had second-and-20, like I said, and the penalties were killing us, and then he threw the interception, and we were down 12 and that’s a tough deal with a couple backup offensive linemen in there against the Philadelphia Eagle pass rush so I think with everything being equal, zero-zero, I think Mark will be fine this week, but we just wanted someone with a similar skillset that Colt, and had a little familiarity with some of the concepts that we’ve been running."

On being near the top of the league in holding penalties:

"Holding calls, I can’t put my hand on the holding calls. We’ve sent a lot to the league and some of them we get back they’re not holding, some of them we get back, they are holding and then you look around the other teams and they’re doing similar-type stuff. I don’t know what it is right now with the holding calls. It’s been one of our major problems. You look at all the holding calls we’ve had and how many drives they’ve destroyed. It’s been the number one reason, A – why the running game’s been affected, and B, why our drives have been affected. False starts last night obviously, new quarterback, new guards and the noise, it was very difficult for us to function as a group there and it’s something we got to do better at. Playing at home will be a big major advantage for us. We’ll be able to use our snap count and be able to communicate verbally as opposed to non-verbally with those new guards in there tapping the center and head bobbing and all that stuff. So, yeah that was an issue. But holding calls have been an issue for us all year and we’ve been coaching them up and we’ve been getting called a few more times than other teams for some reason."

On if McCoy will be going on injured reserve:

"I don’t know yet, that’s something we have to decide. I don’t think I’ll put him on IR right away. I think we’ll try to get through this week, see where we’re at, and see where he’s at. So, if we can figure out a way to beat the Giants, which I think we will do the best we can, and we’re still alive in this thing, I’d like to keep him up if he can get back for the last game of the year against Philadelphia it would be great, or possibly the playoffs. But right now I think we’re going to hold on him and not put him on IR until we get more information about where we are."

On the roster spot after moving LB Cassanova McKinzy to injured reserve:

"Well we’re going to have to sign… obviously [Jonathan] Cooper’s going on IR also, so we’re going to sign a guard here. We’re also probably going to sign another center-backup guard possibly for [Tony] Bergstrom. And then the 53rd spot, well we’ll obviously have to find another quarterback if we keep Colt on the roster. We might have to make another spot for possibly another player to be named later, an outside linebacker possibly if Ryan Anderson can’t go next week. So, we still need another outside backer in here up, we need to get two, possibly three offensive linemen up and obviously another quarterback."

On if there are other reasons they didn't pursue Kaepernick earlier:

"No just football, strictly football. Like I said, when you’re talking about a backup quarterback this late in the game, end of the season, you want to have somebody with a similar skill set to the quarterback you have. Not that Colin [Kaepernick] can’t do some of the things that I’m talking about, but somebody with a little bit of familiarity, you know Sanchez being with [offensive coordinator] coach [Matt] Cavanaugh helped out a lot. Sanchez’s experience in a pro-style type offense helped out a lot. But when you have a short week like we had Thanksgiving going to Dallas, you had to have somebody in here that had some similar, obviously some similar conceptual-awareness that we had with Colt. That’s why we went with Sanchez."

On CB Adonis Alexander receiving more playing time:

"Well we’re looking at him. He’s a big guy. He’s shown some promise throughout practice and we’re trying to get him in there a little bit. Danny [Johnson] and [Greg] Stroman and obviously Adonis are three very young players - all three of them have had their issues of being pretty good and all three of them have had their issues of being rookies. They’re all three I think are going to be good players for us, but all three have had their ups and downs throughout their first season here. But Adonis is a guy that we’re going to try to implement a little bit more. Big kid, physical, can run a little bit so we’ll try to get him a little more but we’re not down on Danny or Stroman at all. We’re just trying to mix and match a little bit and get the best people out there and see what happens when the lights cut on. Some people raise their level of play; some people kind of succumb to the pressure a little bit. We never know until we throw them out there. We intend on trying to use him a little bit more and more every week."

On defensive line's struggle when stopping the run:

"I don’t know if it’s simple fundamentals. There are a lot of runs that some teams are pretty good at. The Eagles have a very good offensive line. They’ve got Lane Johnson, obviously (Jason) Peters and a Pro Bowl center (Jason Kelce) and Brandon Brooks is a heck of a guard. They’re powerful and they were getting off on the second level and we weren’t doing good at the second level. Our point of attack wasn’t bad but they were bringing their receivers in and inserting on DJ [Swearinger] and our safety and they were cutting some runs back where they were bouncing them off to the free player, which had to be the corner. From time to time our corner missed the tackle. You can’t really – when you look at the run game as a whole, sometimes it’s the linebacker not falling back, sometimes it’s the defensive linemen at the point of attack, sometimes it’s the corner not tackling and sometimes it’s somebody hitting the wrong gap. We just have to be more sound like I know we can be. The last four weeks we have to be very, very, very sound. We have to be good physical, tackling football team and if the running back bounces it out to the unblocked corner, he’s got to make the tackle. And that didn’t happen a couple of times in that game last night. And then sometimes, like I said, our linebackers didn’t get the right gap. Sometimes maybe a defensive lineman got pushed down too far out of their gap. Run defense is a total team effort and that’s something we’ve taken pride in and has fallen off in the last three or four weeks. We’ve got to get back to being good because Saquon Barkley (NY Giants RB) sure is pretty excited right now."