WASHINGTON – Jay Gruden spoke as though he’d fought to get into an NBA game recently.
“Oh yeah, I’m getting up my day right now,” he said as Redskins spring workout wrapped up at Duke University on Monday. “No, I’m pretty good now. I’m excited. This is really just a launching pad. We’re only at the beginning stages here.”
It’s fair to say that the coach’s spirits aren’t wholly shared among Redskins fans – that, amid excitement about the prospect of the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2012, there is a sense of dread from some people about the looming prospect of a potential first-round upset by the Philadelphia Eagles.
To spur the interest and excitement he hoped to generate, Gruden mentioned several young players who he’s trying to break into the NFL – and he then noted that the Redskins host the Eagles, at FedEx Field, the same week the thrilling wild-card matchup was played, in Green Bay, Wis.
“We’re excited about that,” Gruden said of the looming rematch. “Obviously a dangerous game. It’s our first playoff game since 2012. And now we’re at home, and it’s exciting. We’re going to have a ton of energy on our side that week, and we’re just thrilled to be hosting.”
The Eagles are familiar foes for the Redskins, having eliminated them from the playoffs in 2015 and 2016. But then, Gruden had the Redskins locked into the playoffs the next season, and they went on to play, and eventually win, the NFC East title.
Gruden praised the Eagles as a team to be taken seriously.
“They had a great season last year, a Super Bowl contender,” he said. “We’re happy to be able to go there. It’s a different team this year. Carson Wentz is going to be up to it. But I think their offense is going to run through Nick Foles. They’re a dangerous team to play. I know the excitement is there, and it should be.”
Before the team left Duke, it held its first intrasquad scrimmage. Eight of the starters were on the field, and the starters stayed in for several, as the coaches worked to get the starters up to speed with the new West Coast offense. When it was over, Gruden declared himself “pleasantly surprised” with the feedback from the starters.
Receiver Josh Doctson had a solid day, recording eight catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns. His first touchdown was a slant that drew a tip of the helmet from Josh Norman. After fellow wideout Jamison Crowder broke free, cornerback Mike Hilton picked up Doctson’s fumble and returned it for a touchdown to seal the win.
“I’ve been around a while, and when that happens with a pro football player, I think it gets some nice juice to it,” Gruden said. “So that’s definitely a positive for him.
Wideout Paul Richardson’s second touchdown was a snazzy one, with little discipline from the defense allowed in a 10-play, 94-yard drive. Two plays later, free safety Montae Nicholson knocked the ball loose from Richardson to set up the final score.
But the Eagles, coming off a disappointing season in which they missed the playoffs for the first time since 2012, are missing two of their starters at wide receiver, including Alshon Jeffery, who is out for the year because of a foot injury.