By the waning moments of Sunday’s season finale, the Washington Redskins had shuffled through each of the seven active offensive linemen on their roster. So tight end Logan Paulsen jogged onto the field to play left tackle.
“I’ve never done that,” Paulsen said, “at any point in my career.”
Paulsen had tried to pay attention in meetings when the coaching staff went over protection schemes, but he had never formally prepared for such an assignment. As a result, the Redskins were forced to scale back their offensive play-calling in the final two minutes of their 44-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys. They ran one passing play and two draws for backup running back Roy Helu.
“I kind of know the calls and I kind of know vaguely what’s happening,” Paulsen said, “but if they give us anything like remotely complex, I won’t know what to do.”
A number of injuries led to Washington’s offensive line predicament. The Redskins declined to activate backup tackle Rishaw Johnson and guard Josh LeRibeus for the game. Then Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams exited with a high ankle sprain in the third quarter. Williams said X-rays on the ankle were negative.
Right tackle Tom Compton shifted to the fill Williams’ spot, and Tyler Polumbus entered the game at right tackle. Shortly thereafter, Compton left the game with a sprained MCL in his left knee and was replaced by Spencer Long. Then, late in the fourth quarter, right guard Chris Chester sprained his toe, moving Long to guard and bringing Paulsen into the game.
The shuffling ruined whatever continuity the Redskins had up front and was particularly challenging for players like Long who had to shift from one spot to another.
“It’s something that’s kind of expected of you, because you can only carry so many active linemen. So if you’re not able to do that, you only hurt yourself,” Long said. “In the back of your head, you’ve got to be ready to be able to play every position on the O-line.”
Moss, Clark face uncertain futures
Safety Ryan Clark prayed on the field Sunday afternoon, thanking God for the 177 games he’s played over 13 seasons in the NFL. Afterwards, he said he wasn’t sure if that game was his last.
“You know how this thing works, man,” Clark said. “It has to work two ways. I can’t date a girl who thinks I’m ugly. It doesn’t work. The world’s not that fair.”
Clark said he played the worst half of his professional career in the first half Sunday. He missed tackles and was slow to rotate in coverage. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed 16 of 20 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns in the half.
Clark signed a one-year, $1 million contract with the Redskins in the offseason and isn’t sure whether he’ll be asked to return next season. Wide receiver Santana Moss, who also has a one-year deal that is set to expire, is another candidate for retirement or release. He too didn’t know whether he had just played his last game, with the Redskins or in general.
“Just played a football game. That’s all,” Moss said. “I told ya’ll, I don’t get into all that stuff. I let ya’ll do that. Ya’ll drag stuff on and make it bigger than what it is. When I’m done, you’ll know I’ll be home. There will be no goodbyes.”
Bryant gets the best of Amerson
Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant caught the ball, turned and shuffled his feet. Redskins cornerback David Amerson went one way, and Bryant, one of the most explosive receivers in the NFL, went the other.
The result was a 65-yard score that put Dallas up 10-7 in the first quarter.
“When you throw it to one of their best receivers and you miss a tackle on him, that’s what’s going to happen,” Amerson said. “Everyone’s blitzing. There’s no one to help you make the tackle, so one of two things are going to happen: You’re either going to make the tackle, or he’s going to go yard. He went yard.”
In the first meeting between the two teams this season, Bryant was held to three catches for only 30 yards, thanks in large part to a standout performance by rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland. But in the season finale, the Cowboys typically lined Bryant up across from Amerson, who has struggled in the second half of the year.
The result was a huge first half for Bryant, who finished with four catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns, and a disastrous first half for Washington. Bryant beat Amerson on both scoring grabs.
“The first one was a Cover Zero play, and David was right there. He just missed the tackle,” coach Jay Gruden said. “The second one was David was in [a] great opportunity. … [It] was an unbelievable throw away from the corner and Dez made a great adjustment on it. But I don’t think those two plays were really indicative of how David played.”
Jeffcoat shines against father’s old team
Outside linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat got his first career start Sunday against the team that selected his father, Jim, in the first round of the 1983 draft. The 23-year-old made the most of a rare opportunity, intercepting Tony Romo early in the fourth quarter.
“It was special. I mean, to be able to start and play against my dad’s former team, against the Cowboys, it was a lot of emotions, a lot of excitement, just to go out there and basically show them what I’ve got. They didn’t really give me a sniff during the whole draft thing.”
Jeffcoat, who spent most of this season either on the practice squad or only as a special teams contributor, finished with three tackles and a pass defended.
Inside linebacker Keenan Robinson returned to the field after missing three games with a sprained MCL in his left knee. He recorded 10 tackles and one sack. … Wide receiver Leonard Hankerson, who is in the last year of his contract, was inactive again Sunday. He was only active once this season, recording one target and no catches in Week 11 against Tampa Bay. … Running back Chris Thompson, linebacker Steve Beauharnais, cornerback Kenny Okoro, defensive end Travian Robertson, LeRibeus and Johnson were also inactive. … Robinson, quarterback Robert Griffin III and punter Tress Way were Washington’s captains Sunday in addition to regular captains Williams (offense) and Clark (defense). … DeSean Jackson became the first player in Redskins’ history to record more than 1,100 receiving yards on fewer than 60 catches.