Gruden talks playing starters; praises Pierre Thomas

Highlights and thoughts from coach Jay Gruden's Thursday press conference on Kirk Cousins, Pierre Thomas and the inside linebackers.

Jay Gruden's final press conference of 2015 occurred Thursday. The key quotes and news:

* The coach remains coy about who will play and for how long, but for now look for Kirk Cousins and the other starters on the field. Some players are nearing various personal and team records entering the finale.

“That’s quite an interesting dilemma, quite honestly, and that’s something we’ll have to decide on come game day — how we’re going to approach that," Gruden said. "Right now, we’re approaching it, if they’re dressed they’re playing. Kirk is getting ready to start the football game. Jordan Reed is getting ready. All our guys are starting. They’re getting ready to play the game and then how I substitute throughout the course of the game will be dependent on how we’re doing health-wise and the situation of the game. Those guys put in a lot of good work. I think those records do mean something to them. They mean something to the entire offense, the entire team quite frankly. So, hopefully, they’ll have a chance to get it, but if not, it won’t be the end of the world. It won’t be a disappointment but I think it’ll be exciting if they do.”

* Even though Perry Riley could play some Sunday and therefore presumably be ready for a return to the starting lineup in the playoffs, don't expect any changes. Will Compton and Mason Foster have helped solidify the unit in recent weeks as Breaking Burgundy analyst Paul Conner noted in his latest film review

"Well, we’re happy with the way they’re playing right now," Gruden said of the current inside linebacker rotation. "When Perry [Riley] comes back, we’ll see what happens, but it’s just a matter of playing the healthy guys. That’s a problem that we’ll address when they are healthy. I don’t want to get into a lot of ‘what ifs’ because a lot can happen between now and then, but we’re really happy with the way all four linebackers have played and they’re doing a good job so we just have to let them roll and see how they do. 

* Pierre Thomas (knee) is among those on the weekly injury report. The veteran running back also might be among those receiving more work going forward. Asked if he's thought about altering his RB rotation after getting a closer look at Thomas, Gruden said, "A little bit. It didn’t surprise me. I think Pierre has been a solid back in the NFL for a long time. He brings a wealth of experience. The thing you like about Pierre is there’s really nothing he can’t do. He can run between the tackles. He can run outside. He’s great in pass protection and catching the football, obviously, he proved that. So it just added another guy to the mix. When Chris [Thompson] got injured, originally we thought it was a season ender with the labrum but he came back. Now, we just added another back to our rotation which kind of muddies it up a little bit, but you know, having too many good backs is a good thing. We’ll have to deal with that come next week.”

Gruden said Matt Jones (hip), who did't play against the Eagles, "tried to push it yesterday and didn’t feel right so we kept him out today." If healthy, a Jones/Thomas pairing with Chris Thompson serving as the change-of-pace option makes some sense as it keeps a pass-catching threat in the backfield at all times

* The injury report

Ben Standig is the Publisher of Breaking Burgundy. You can find him on Twitter @benstandig and on Google+

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