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Redskins head coach Jay Gruden speaks to the media. Credit: Vernon Freeman Jr.

Richmond, Va. – Entering his fourth season as head coach of the Washington Redskins, Jay Gruden believes he is much better equipped to build a winning NFL roster than he’s ever been.  What happens between now and Week 1 of the NFL season will bear that out.

“I think having a good understanding of the players that we have who have been in the building for a long time, and some of the new guys” Gruden said at the Bon Secours Training Center on the eve of this year’s camp.  “I think have a pretty good understanding of how to practice, how to work them, how to take off, maybe take extra days off here and there.”

“Mainly it’s a feel. Every year is going to be different, but every year you do learn and you feel more comfortable in your approach.”

Gruden will be working with a revamped defensive coaching staff, and will also transition himself into calling plays for the first time as head coach. That move will alter some of this year’s practices, at least in the early part of camp.

“I think early on we’re going to have scripted practices, and once we get going, get our main core of plays in there, I think we’ll have a lot of unscripted practices where I can call plays” Gruden said. “Whether it’s two -minute, whether it’s drives down the field, whether it’s third downs, all that good stuff, do a lot of unscripted work, red zone and go from there, but I feel pretty comfortable already.”

The team has spent another offseason dealing with the distraction surrounding the contract status of quarterback Kirk Cousins, who will again be playing on a one-year franchise tag and not under a multi-year contract that would guarantee his future with the team. If it has bothered Cousins throughout preseason camps and exercises, his head coach hasn’t seen it.

“That’s the thing about Kirk is you’re never worried about his preparation. It’s not going to vary from day in to day out” Gruden said.

“[He’s] a great competitor, wants to get better. [He] understands he has a lot of room for improvement and he wants to be coached and it’s fun to coach him. The contract status will take care of itself eventually, hopefully, but right now it is what it is and we’re happy to have him for 2017.”

Gruden said that former Virginia Tech standout DeAngelo Hall and linebacker Houston Bates will likely be added to the team’s Physically Unable To Perform list at the start of camp as they work their way back from injury. Tight End Jordan Reed was also placed on the PUP list late Wednesday afternoon.

Wide receiver Josh Doctson and linebacker Junior Gallette, who have each missed significant time because of injury are both 100% and expected on the field Thursday.

Even with the loss of 1,000-yard receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson, Gruden believes his offense, under his direction, will still hold up their end of the bargain.

“I have every reason to be excited and fired up. There’s no reason why we can’t be equally as productive or more productive. I’m expecting us to get better. That’s what we have to do. We have to be better, especially in the red zone. Adding Josh Doctson’s size and Terrelle Pryor’s size will help that. Having Jordan Reed healthy will help that also. Vernon Davis is a great threat at tight end also and Chris [Thompson] out of the backfield and our strong running game should be a great benefit, but I feel good, man. Any time you can put together the same offensive line from one year to the next, same tight ends, same backs, I think that’s your nucleus right there. Receivers, we’ve got guys that can get open with Jamison [Crowder], Ryan [Grant], Terrelle, obviously Josh, Mo Harris, I feel good about that, Chris Thompson out of the backfield. We have a lot of reasons to be excited. Now we have got to go out and perform.”