ASHBURN, Va. - The Washington Redskins have not had a first-round NFL Draft pick in consecutive years for the first time since 1989-90, but new head coach Jay Gruden was very upbeat about the performance of his eight picks during the team's rookie minicamp at Redskins Park.
The Redskins have a large influx of youth on a team that saw seven draft picks last year play in 46 combined games including 16 starts in 2013.
"We had a good four practices," Gruden said after the final workout on Saturday afternoon. "I think we got accomplished what needed to get accomplished. We got to see our draft picks for the first time and we're excited about what they did and what they bring to the team. ... (This was) a good chance for them to learn a system - just bits and pieces of it moving forward so they have a good general knowledge of it so when they do come to training camp this experience will help them.
"That's all we wanted to get accomplished. We wanted to see them out on the hoof just running around playing (and) competing and then figure out where we need to go and where we need to help them improve (and) in what areas."
Gruden said the draft being pushed back two weeks makes the rookies' learning curve even steeper.
"That's an issue ... there's no doubt about it," said Gruden, who helped turn Cincinnati from a 4-12 team before his 2010 hiring as offensive coordinator into a wild card qualifier behind rookie quarterback Andy Dalton. "... These poor guys, we've got two or three days they're trying to learn a brand new language ... They're trying to learn everything and that's the hardest thing to translate mentally into out on the field and playing fast. They've got to break the huddle and they've got to know exactly their split, their route, the concept, the depth of the route, everything. ... That's a major adjustment with coaches in their ear barking at them all the time. And then the tempo of it is also obviously different. ... We try to draft smart guys that are football-smart and played in good systems and hopefully they'll be able to learn fast. But (thanks to) what we did in free agency, we're not necessarily having to draft guys that come in and play 70 snaps a game right away. They can come in and be a backup and play situational and then learn and learn and develop."
Second-round pick Trent Murphy fits that mold. The outside linebacker graduated from Stanford in December with a degree in science, technology and society, but the presence of Pro Bowl performers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan in Washington's lineup will allow Murphy to give them an occasional breather and to see duty as a situational pass rusher inside in nickel packages.
"I'm excited about learning from a couple of guys like that, two guys who have been successful at the position" said Murphy, who led the nation with 13 sacks in 2013 while seeing some time at Stanford's 'Joker' position inside. "I've done it on the move. I haven't done it (from a) stationary (start) yet, but it's definitely something I think I can do. It's a shorter distance to the quarterback."
The matchups of the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Murphy and 6-6, 314-pound offensive tackle Morgan Moses, whom the Redskins drafted in the third round, were the highlights of the rookie minicamp.
"We battled back and forth," Murphy said. "He's a great player. It's making us both better."
Moses, who earned his anthropology degree from Virginia on Sunday, recalled going against Murphy in the Senior Bowl.
"He's a hard-nosed guy with a lot of energy," said Moses, who played left tackle the past two seasons but is working at right tackle because the Redskins have 2012-13 Pro Bowl pick Trent Williams on the left side. "We're making each other better and work hard. I'm getting used to playing right tackle again. Everybody in this league is athletic. I have to get the footwork down so I can be technically sound."
Gruden said he was pleased with what he saw from both Murphy and Moses.
"Both of them did a nice job," Gruden said. "We're very excited to have Trent. He did some good things coming around the corner. He's got good inside moves. He's got a good spin move. Everything we saw on tape he demonstrated out here in just four practices. He's only going to get better. The ability to move him around and do some things we can do with him ... is exciting.
"Morgan, he's got a ways to go. He's moving over to right tackle and we're introducing him to the outside zone(-blocking scheme) the way we want it, the protections the way we want it and it's going to take him some time, but we're happy with his progress. He's got a major, major upside with his size."
-- Fourth-round selection Bashaud Breeland will likely see the most playing time of any Redskins rookie in part because the former Clemson cornerback won't back down from anyone. It will be interesting to see how often-feisty veteran receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson react to the newcomer's aggressiveness in training camp.
"There's a fine line there and we're going to have referees out here throughout training camp and they're going to police it and we'll continue to coach him up," Gruden said. "When he's at the line of scrimmage, one of his strengths is playing bump and run. He's got the long arms. He's very physical. We've just got to make sure he just watches the holding and all that, but I'm very impressed with the way he handled the mental aspect of the game, the coverages and also the physical obviously with his technique."
-- Trent Murphy doesn't have the pressure of being a first-rounder that such recent Washington rookies as Robert Griffin III, Ryan Kerrigan, Williams and Brian Orakpo (all top 16 selections) carried. However, the second-rounder from Stanford does appreciate the significance of being the Redskins' top choice in 2014.
"It kind of means a lot to be a team's first pick even though it wasn't in the first round," Murphy said. "I couldn't be more excited to be that guy and to put that weight on my shoulders."
-- Until this month, the Redskins hadn't drafted a kicker since 1999. Seventh-rounder Zach Hosker, a soccer player until becoming a kicker as a junior at Russellville (Ark.) High, doesn't have to make the Redskins forget a performer like franchise scoring leader Mark Moseley. He just has to beat out Kai Forbath, who has made 35 of 40 attempts in 24 games during the past two seasons but hasn't shown a booming leg on kickoffs.
"Forbath's an incredible kicker and I have the utmost respect for him, but I'm going to come in and compete," said Hosker, who set school records for field goal percentage and field goals at Arkansas and hit five of six kicks during minicamp while booming his kickoffs. "This is a great opportunity and I'm very thankful for it. Camp went really well as far as chemistry with my snapper (tryout candidate J.R. Carr) and holder (Blake Clingan, a punter)."