Washington coach Jay Gruden is a counter puncher. Every time the Redskins look desperate, he often induces victories.
Teams too often get in the first shot against the Redskins, especially four straight opening-day victories. But Gruden is a bit like Rocky, a bloody eye inflaming his comeback.
And now Gruden has enough coaching help to deliver a team-wide payback. Jim Tomsula has revamped the defensive line to straight up winning matchups man to man. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is finding strength through depth.
The Redskins’ 2-1 start is largely thanks to out-scheming opponents. While the Los Angeles Rams were waiting for the Redskins’ deep game, Gruden ran over them. When the Oakland Raiders thought they could pass the Redskins into submission, Washington’s secondary controlled them from the second snap.
Coaching is irrelevant if players aren’t good enough, but it potentially turns a good team into great. And, the Redskins suddenly have league-wide attention after bullying the Oakland Raiders, who are supposed to be Super Bowl contenders. With a win at Kansas City on Monday, the Redskins will become instant front-runners.
The difference in the past two victories was the Redskins’ preparation and intensity. Defenders were punishing opponents after being in the right position. Safety D.J. Swearinger and linebacker Zach Brown made solo statement tackles while the line’s play was its best in years.
Remember the many years of holes in coverage where two Redskins defenders looked at each other wondering whose fault it was? That hasn’t happened this year, despite a young lineup. Recall all those sloppy tackles that let opponents escape? Not happening this year, either.
How about Gruden’s return to play-calling seeing more runs than passes in two of three games, despite mediocre per-carry results? Maybe it was offensive coordinator Sean McVay who was pass-happy the last two years rather than Gruden?
Oh, Gruden still wants to throw that fade for touchdowns just to prove it can be done. It smacks of coach Steve Spurrier’s days that were a sad 12-20 over two years. Gruden’s smart enough to back off his favorite plays for those that will work each week.
Loverro: Gruden Might Be Another Norv Turner
Indeed, Gruden is looking more like former Redskins coach Norv Turner, a brilliant play-caller, though mediocre head coach. Turner sometimes called plays to distract future teams’ preparation. Gruden is showing diversity so defenses can’t define his tendencies.
It’s not just game film that Washington’s future opponents must study. They now have to worry about the Redskins coach’s misdirection. So far, Washington is winning the mind games, too.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.