ASHBURN — Since the Washington Redskins have already secured the NFC East title, an additional challenge for coach Jay Gruden ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys is deciding whether he wants rest certain starters ahead of the playoffs or play them in a game that does not impact the standings.
That decision is hardly a simple one and will likely be impacted by several factors, the first of which is based on how many players are legitimately hurt. The Redskins can only declare seven players inactive, so that will to a degree impact who will play and who will not.
Running back Matt Jones was inactive last week because of a hip pointer and was limited in Wednesday’s practice. Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not practice, though he normally takes Wednesdays off to rest his knee and neck. Left tackle Trent Williams, who was listed with knee and foot injuries, also did not participate. Free safety Dashon Goldson, played every snap in last week’s win despite a broken rib and shoulder and knee injuries, and defensive back DeAngelo Hall, who injured a calf late in the game, were both out on Wednesday. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar (quad) also did not participate.
Inside linebacker Perry Riley, who was yet to play since having surgery on a broken bone in his foot in the first week of December, was limited in practice, along with wide receiver DeSean Jackson and running back Pierre Thomas, who nursed knee injuries.
“We’re preparing to play the Dallas Cowboys and try to win the football game with the healthy bodies that we have,” Gruden said. “I have a good feel for it, so we just have to make that determination. No. 1, it’s the health of our football team with these injured guys who are legitimately injured and can’t play. From there, we’ll have to figure out the able bodies that we have — personnel groupings will be adjusted — and then throughout the course of the game, we’ll make adjustments depending on the situation.”
The other factor the Redskins’ coaching staff needs to consider is whether it wants to risk putting the brakes on the momentum generated by a three-game winning streak that includes two victories on the road.
Sunday’s game presents an opportunity to win a third consecutive road game — something that is highly valued for a team that lost its first five games away from FedEx Field.
“It’s important for us to be healthy come playoff time, but it is also important to have some kind of momentum going in,” Gruden said. “I’d like to end on a four-game winning streak, win three games in a row on the road, finish the fourth quarter [of the season] 4-0, finish 9-7. I think it’s a hell of a step in the right direction.”
After Wednesday’s practice, several Redskins players echoed the same sentiment. While the decision is ultimately up to the coaches, many seemed eager to play despite the fact that the division title and playoff berth are safe.
“I feel good and want to play,” quarterback Kirk Cousins said. “I feel as a younger player that I want to continue to develop and get into a rhythm. I’ll always defer to the head coach with whatever he decides. It’s a pretty fluid situation as we go.”
In the last three games, Cousins has completed 77 percent of his passes for 984 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at email@example.com.
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