Like every other head coach at the combine, Jay Gruden will be using the combine to further evaluate the talent on display.
The NFL draft isn't renowned as the most relaxed environment in the world, and Washington's lack of a pick in the first round means they need a good draft. The combine brings the intensity up a couple of notches.
Rumors abound of teams talking to players, while individual performances bring publicity to guys previously considered as nothing more than a late-round pick.
Read on for some of the things being said about Jay Gruden and his scouts since they've been camped out in Indianapolis.
Bruce Allen outlined the need for mental toughness among this year's draftees.
Gruden and Bruce Allen have been keeping understandably tight-lipped when it comes to changes being made across the roster. Once concession that Allen did give at the combine was that he was "going to find mentally tough players" and that he wants "to find people who love playing the game of football.”
When Rich Tandler reported this quote for RealRedskins.com, he took the opinion that Allen could be implying that there were too many soft players already on the roster.
While it's more likely that Allen was attempting to assuage the curiosity of reporters without revealing too much about his plans, there were definitely moments last year when a little more toughness would've been beneficial.
Poor tackling derailed a lot of things, from special teams through defense and then forcing the offense back on the field. It was too easy for teams to run through Washington in 2013, but mental toughness wouldn't accomplish much without the requisite fundamentals.
Jay Gruden was blunt about the need for improvement in 2014.
Washington finished 3-13 last year, but that team wasn't much removed from the one that went 10-6 the year before. Injuries, suspensions and off-field issues affected the 2013 season, so there was still a feeling that there was talent to build around.
Gruden set out his stall early at the combine, with Mike Jones reporting his press conference for The Washington Post:
We have a lot of holes everywhere. Not just on offense, but special teams, defense and we’re going to have to address all those.
There’s really not a position we’re not looking to get better at whether it’s in-house — getting the player we have in place, get him to play better — or looking to the draft or free agency.
Although an incoming head coach is expected to evaluate all players and make sweeping changes where necessary, it's nonetheless refreshing to hear Gruden speak bluntly about the need to get better. A 3-13 record may make that obvious, but his willingness to use the combine as a rallying cry to both potential and existing Washington players is encouraging.
Michael Campanaro has a fan in Washington wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard.
Washington met with Wake Forest wide receiver Michael Campanaro on Sunday, Feb. 23, and according to CSN Washington's Chick Hernandez, wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard is "said to be enamored" with the slot receiver.
Hernandez broke the news via Twitter:
Redskins met with Wake Forest WR Michael Campanaro at combine. WR coach Ike Hilliard said to be enamored. #RedskinsTalk— Chick Hernandez (@CHICKatCSN) February 23, 2014
Campanaro helped his draft stock immensely with good showings across the board in Indianapolis. At 5'9" and 192 pounds, he needed some strong showings to help him stand out. He bench pressed 225 pounds 20 times, which was good for fourth among receivers. He also ran 4.46 40-yard dash and posted a 39-inch vertical jump.
Prior to the combine, Campanaro had been projected as a fourth-round pick, but the extra attention he's been getting at the combine suggests he will go higher. With Hilliard appearing to be very impressed with the former Demon Deacon, Washington could pull the trigger with one of their earlier picks.
Taking him at the top of the fourth would represent great value, but the top of the third would be the absolute limit.
Campanaro still has work to do with his blocking, while stronger defenders can affect his routes and cause his timing to be off. He has the ability to be a good special teams contributor, but also never really delivered in that area at Wake Forest.
With Santana Moss unlikely to return, Washington has need for a slot receiver. Campanaro would be able to come in and be productive from Week 1, but also has room to grow with the team.
Jon Halapio would add some extra aggression to the offensive line.
The interior of the offensive line is one of the positions under scrutiny this offseason. Players like Chris Chester and Kory Lichtensteiger didn't live up to expectation or salary in 2013 and are now in danger of being cut.
Emmanual Benton of Player Insiders reported on Twitter that Washington had met with Florida guard Jon Halapio at the combine:
This will be a move welcomed by those shouting for more aggression along the line. Back in July, NFL.com's Daniel Jermiah remarked on Halapio's ability to finish blocks and how he looked to dominate his opponents:
Florida OG Jon Halapio has crazy upper strength. I counted 13 knockdowns against LSU and several were pure flat-backs. Nasty dude— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) July 4, 2013
NFLDraftScout.com ranked him as a fifth-round prospect, and he would be a good acquisition here. It's possible that he could go earlier, but his combine performances were not spectacular, so it's more likely that his outlook is somewhere around the bottom three rounds.
Nonetheless, he has all the intangibles needed for a career in the NFL and Washington seemingly has a space available for him.
Jordan Matthews, however, could be the first player Washington takes off the board. It's also entirely possible that he goes in the first round.
The cousin of Jerry Rice, Matthews departed Vanderbilt as the SEC's all-time leader in receptions (262) and yards (3,759). He showed some speed at the combine with a 4.46 40-yard dash, while his 21 reps on the bench press was equal to that of Jadeveon Clowney.
He's not a complete prospect, however, and anyone taking him in the first round would be playing with fire. Despite his impressive stats, Matthews isn't as explosive or elusive as his record suggests. He could also do with adding some size to his frame, but at 6'3" and 216 pounds, he has room to do that.
Cyril Richardson has versatility, having played right tackle and guard in college.
Continuing with the OL, Mike Jones at The Washington Post broke the news that Washington had met with Baylor guard Cyril Richardson. This was not limited to the combine, either. Jones stated that the team had met with Robert Griffin III's former right tackle at the Senior Bowl, too:
#Redskins talked to Baylor guard Cyril Richardson both at Senior Bowl and here at Combine he said.The 6-5, 329-pounder projected 2-3rd round— Mike Jones (@MikeJonesWaPo) February 22, 2014
Richardson has the ability to be taken in the second round, but Gruden and his team would be wiser to wait. The guard's performances at the Senior Bowl left a lot to be desired and there are questions about his agility and intensity. For a player his size, he shouldn't be getting overpowered, which would occasionally happen last year.
His experience at right tackle would fulfill a double need for Washington, with that position also crying out for an upgrade over Tyler Polumbus.
Should Gruden pull the trigger, OL coach Chris Foerster will need to work hard with Richardson on his technique, maximizing the use of his massive frame ahead of the 2014 season.
With the right amount of dedication, Richardson could be a solid contributor in his rookie year. Nightmares of Josh LeRibeus still remain, so it's important that Richardson keeps his weight in check and puts in the hours working on his technique.