In the least surprising news of the week, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said that he will not play the team’s starters in the preseason finale in Tampa Bay on Thursday.
“It's my intent now for after a couple good days of practice to let the other guys play, let the backups play,” said Gruden after practice on Tuesday. “So, we can solidify those roles, very important. I think we have our starters. In general, we feel pretty good about who they are and now we need to find the key backups and who they are and make sure they get the ample reps to make the football team and show what they can do on the field."
After the Redskins laid an egg offensively in Baltimore on Saturday, a reporter asked Gruden if he would deviate from what has become standard NFL procedure and play the starters against the Bucs.
“No, I don’t think so,” said Gruden. “Like I said we’ve been together for a long time. From organized team activities and training camp, we’ve seen enough out of them that we feel good about who our starters are. The main thing is you don’t wan to force another drive or two down their throat and then lose a key player.”
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After practice at Redskins Park on Monday, Gruden changed his tune a bit, saying that he was “open to the possibility” of playing the starters in Tampa Bay. He later said there was a “10 percent chance” that Robert Griffin III, Alfred Morris, and company would play.
That chance reduced to zero yesterday. While this might look like a flip flop by a rookie head coach it is understandable. Players are human and they need motivation. Gruden decided to make the starters earn the night off with a good couple of days of practice. He got what he wanted and some 30 players will be spectators on Thursday while the other 45 fight it out for jobs.
Gruden is still in the learning process as a head coach. You can bet that a year from now after the third preseason game Gruden will give a much more vague answer if he’s asked about the starters’ status for the next game.