The Washington Redskins are entering a critical year for the team after two years of disappointing finishes. With head coach Jay Gruden entering his second year with the team, they are hoping for more success in 2015 and that starts with OTAs which kicked off Tuesday. The pressure is on Robert Griffin III to really step up this season, but missing his top wide receiver during practices could hurt his progression.
The Redskins ideally want perfect attendance at OTAs and according to Jason Reid of ESPN.com, DeSean Jackson's absence is not being taken well. According to team sources, instead of working out with the team on the first day of organized activities, Jackson was at the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff game which is likely not sitting well with the coaching staff. Jackson is supposed to be Griffin's safety blanket and skipping practices for basketball playoffs will not help the effort.
Griffin downplayed any issues of player absences and simply told the media that he is focused on improvement this season. However, he did recoginzed the important of OTAs saying, "Because every organization, at the beginning of the year ... it's not a team. You have to form into a team. That's what we've been doing here." The Redskins endorsed his future by not drafting Marcus Mariota and picking up his expensive fifth-year option despite the struggles of the past two seasons. Griffin said that he just wants to get back to enjoying football and consistently playing better.
"It all starts upstairs," said Griffin, via the Washington Post. "It's a mindset change with not accepting mediocrity. We're getting there and I think the guys all have the right attitude. I'm not just saying that. I'm a very optimistic person, everyone knows this. But I can truly feel that in the locker room."
While Griffin is the starting quarterback for 2015, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy are expected to challenge him. The same can be said for Alfred Morris and Matt Jones who are seeking the most carries in the run game. With Jackson out, Pierre Garcon will be the leading receiver in practice while players like Niles Paul and Andre Roberts become very important.
The Redskins are hoping to make the ground game more of a focus this season. Despite the drafting of Jones, Morris is expected to be the starting back and he told the media he is ready to be the cowbell running back for the franchise entering the upcoming season.
"I feel I'm better at downhill plays anyway," Morris said, via ESPN.com. "You know what's coming. It's a knockout, drag-out style of play. I don't shy away from contact. It's right up my alley. I thoroughly enjoy it. Competition only makes us better. Every year they draft one or two guys. It's always expected and drafting a guy that high, the competition is that much higher. I'm excited about it. They know what they're doing. It's business and competition drives this business."