The Washington Redskins and Atlanta Falcons will meet Sunday. The head coaches for both teams spoke with the Washington media Wednesday. The highlights, including the potential impact of so much familiarity on both sides. Yes, that largely means Kyle Shanahan, though not exclusively...
Washington's Jay Gruden
On how the challenge of not playing a game with a full secondary so far this season gets compounded against a team like the Falcons:
“It’s a challenge every week. I’m telling you, every team has good receivers, but obviously, Atlanta has a special one in Julio [Jones] and obviously Roddy [White] still can play. [Leonard] Hankerson is doing some good things, who we had here. They’re a very impressive group, but Julio is a different human being and it’ll be a great challenge for us. He’s a guy that can take over a game by himself. There are not many like that in the league. There’s a few – Brandon Marshall, obviously, A.J. [Green], and a couple others, but it’ll be a great test for them. Whether [Chris] Culliver plays or not, you know [Bashaud] Breeland is going to have to step up. Will [Blackmon] is going to have to step up, whoever it is, our safety is going to have to be aware of where he is. We’re going to have to get great pass rush. It’s going to take a team effort. It’s not going to be one guy that takes Julio away. It’s going to be pass rush, the linebackers taking their proper drops, obviously Joe Barry mixing in the coverages here and there and trying to give Matt [Ryan] some different looks and make it as uncomfortable as possible for him, but definitely great arsenal of weapons over there.”
On how important time of possession is this Sunday (The Redskins are first after four weeks, followed by the Falcons):
“Yeah, they’re obviously controlling the clock also. They do a nice job of mixing it up with their running game. [Devonta] Freeman is playing extremely well. The passing game is what it is with Matt Ryan and they do a good job possessing the football. That’s been our strength other than the Giants game, so I think that’ll be a big difference. You know, the team that can get the other team off the field on third down and the team that can stay on the field on third down will have a big advantage in this ballgame.”
On if the former members of the Redskins currently in Atlanta factor into the game plan:
"It doesn't factor into it at all really. There's some carryover. The good thing is what we've done offensively and we've kept from the Shanahan era. We've kept some terminology, we've kept some scheme things that we're doing here so they’ve gone against some of the similar bootlegs and some of the similar running game schemes all throughout training camp. That's probably where it stops. As far as knowing when they're going to call it and how they're going to call it is two different things. Kyle [Shanahan] does an excellent job of mixing it up with the run and the pass and taking shots. But, other than the fact that we're a little bit similar in how we approach things offensively, it stops there really."
On if he has heard from the league about the penalties called on S Trenton Robinson last week:
"Yeah, we always send in plays throughout the week and we get answers back. The big thing is we want to make sure we're clear on what we're teaching, and if it is a penalty, we want to know about it so we can teach the proper fundamentals. If it’s not a penalty then we can let the player know he wasn't at fault. We got that information and we talked to Trenton about it and we're all good. Those are, like I said, bang-bang plays and sometimes officials think it's head-to-head and it might not have been. I don't think Trenton was at fault in those instances."
On if the league concurred:
“He was not at fault in those instances. No.”
Atlanta's first-year coach Dan Quinn
On the key to installing his style of football:
“Well, I think coming into the offseason we really were just trying to say, ‘Can we have the best offseason you’ve ever had?’ New schemes for players, here’s a couple technique things we think you can improve upon. That was kind of the challenge that we issued to all of the players and to all the coaches as well. Can we just have the best camp we’ve ever had? One of the things I was hoping would jump off on tape was just the effort in terms of guys coming off the ball on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I was hoping the toughness would show up on tape and our ability to finish. Those were kind of three of the things we were hoping to get accomplished in our style, our effort, our toughness and our finish and having that be demonstrated as often as we could.”
On having Kyle Shanahan, Raheem Morris and other former members of the Redskins in Atlanta:
“No doubt, we definitely have a bunch. Chris Morgan, Mike McDaniel, we definitely have a big crew, Chris Chester, a couple guys, Bobby Turner. So, yeah, definitely some familiarity. Why don’t we deal with Kyle first. Just the detail that he has in the game planning, the detail that he goes into in how to attack, that’s one of the things that I’ve been most impressed about. I know the system and what he has done has been hard to defend through the years – the pass game, the keepers, the run game. We’re just trying like crazy to have a really balanced attack that’s tough as can be. Raheem for me has brought a lot of stuff. Not just the help that he adds on defense from the pass game but also a guy that has been a former head coach and understands some of the challenges that goes on, so he’s been a terrific help to me moving forward as well. He and I have a long history together. He was actually playing at Hofstra when I was coaching there, so I’ve known Rah for years and he is doing a great job."
On how his relationship with Shanahan developed:
“Like a lot of relationships, we had mutual friends. That’s how we first kind of got connected. It might have been through Raheem from years ago, maybe all the way back from when he was at Tampa. Through the years, you just have this respect of a style and I thought, ‘All right, if I ever had a chance to get going, I’d like to do it in a system that he does where you can feature the run game, where he knows how to use the players in their best capabilities and then having the ability for him to have all the different routes and the keepers that come off of it.’ And I thought it’d be a great fit for both of us. So I tried to explain to him that we were going to run a style defensively that I was familiar with and give him the freedom and creativity to do his thing on offense. I think that’s probably why he and I have been such a good fit together.”
On what he has seen from Redskins QB Kirk Cousins:
“I think one of the things that jumps out to me is the accuracy. I’m not sure but I think it’s close to 70 percent in terms of the decisions, and that’s not all just quick game, so it’s the shots down the field, the quick game, the keepers that come out of it. I thought just from a guy who has real knowledge of where to go with the ball, the decisions to make with it, those are things that probably jumped out to me the most.”
On what he asked Shanahan about his previous experiences:
“Well, I did get a chance to talk to him about his past and the experiences he had, and all of those experiences help us grow, myself included. The times that I’ve spent back in college, back in Seattle, what did we learn from experiences as we go through. And I think for him he totally has learned from ones to say, 'OK, how can I do this better or this different.’ He’s such a unique guy and I thought for both of us to partner up together where he could use his creativity on the offensive side where I wasn’t going to be over the top and trying to say ‘Let’s do this or let’s do that.’ I thought that would be a unique spot for him. It was more just that I stressed the opportunity that we would have together not as much about what he had done in the past.”