- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION

There was a sense of the season ending Sunday at FedEx Field, even though we still have a month to go. Just as the Washington Redskins were getting under way against the New York Jets, SI.com reported that Trent Williams and Fred Davis stood to miss the last four games because of drug violations that had previously been whispered about.

The Redskins have had a hard enough time scoring points this year, given their injuries on that side of the ball and the limitations of their quarterbacks. Without Williams, their promising left tackle, and Davis, their big-play tight end, Sav Rocca may punt himself to the point of exhaustion between now and New Year’s.

If this was, indeed, The End for the 2011 Redskins — and again, it sure felt like it — it wasn’t pretty. They lost 34-19 to the desperate Jets, giving up 21 points in the final 4:49 after taking their last lead (16-14) a few minutes earlier on a Graham Gano field goal. Those three Jets touchdowns, by the way, went like this:

A 30-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Santonio Holmes on a pump-and-go (that victimized Josh Wilson).

A 9-yard stroll-in by Shonn Greene out of the wildcat formation.

And finally, another standing-up score by Greene, this one from 25 yards.

After Holmes’ TD, which was soon followed by a Rex Grossman sack-fumble at the Washington 9, it was as if all the air went out of Jim Haslett’s defense. London Fletcher and Co. have been propping up the team all season, but in the final minutes against the Jets they seemed to lose the will to resist. Once again, a game that could have been won with a bit more offense had gotten away, dropping the Redskins to 4-8 with the New England Patriots on the horizon.

Of course, that’s not all that’s on the horizon. If SI.com’s report is accurate — and no one associated with the club, from coach Mike Shanahan on down, is saying it isn’t — the loss of Williams and Davis is also on the horizon. And that means … well, it means lots of things. It means Grossman will have to get by without his best receiver, a guy who was taking advantage of Chris Cooley’s absence to have a breakout season (59 catches, 796 yards, 3 TDs). It also means Rex will no longer have his blind side protected by the fourth pick in the 2010 draft. (Nor, for that matter, will blossoming running back Roy Helu have Trent to open holes for him.)

As much as the Redskins struggled Sunday against master-of-disguise Rex Ryan’s myriad defenses — Grossman’s 27 incompletions were a career high — imagine how much harder it’s going to be to generate points without Nos. 71 and 83. Shanahan lamented having to “settle for some field goals instead of touchdowns once we got in the red zone” against the Jets. Heck, a week from now, Shanny will probably be cracking open champagne if his offense moves the ball enough to boot four field goals. In fact, Papa John’s might start offering free toppings for every 3-pointer.

I don’t mean to get all gloom-and-doom on you, but honestly: How can this unit function effectively minus the players in question? We all saw the running game spin its wheels when Williams was out of the lineup earlier in the season — never mind the protection breakdowns. (Or had you forgotten the 10 sacks in Buffalo?) And Logan Paulsen, who undoubtedly will step in for Davis, isn’t a backup tight end; he’s a No. 3 tight end elevated to No. 2 because Cooley is on injured reserve.

So … good luck, Rex Grossman, in your future endeavors.

“It’s frustrating,” he said of the offense’s inability to take advantage of the opportunities the Jets provided, “but I don’t know what else to say about it. … In the second half, it was always something [getting in the way].”

It only figures to get more frustrating — if not dangerous — for Grossman in the weeks ahead. With Rex playing more sanely and Helu emerging as an every-down back, the offense had begun to show a pulse in the loss to Dallas and the come-from-behind win at Seattle. But now you have to wonder whether the Redskins have seen their last Victory Monday this season, whether they’re on a Streetcar Named 4-12. Even 2-10 Minnesota and nose-diving Philadelphia might be too much for them in their depleted state.

Barry Cofield tried to be philosophical about it. “Whoever’s here is here,” he said. “Whoever isn’t, isn’t. We’ve gotta move on.”

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