- The Washington Times - Monday, October 31, 2016

Everything is back to normal now, Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said.

The team flew back from London on Sunday night following a laborious and eye-rolling tie game. Injured players are in the team building being scanned, flexed and assessed. Others are trying to get the time zone flip out of their system with a rare day off to start the week.

It’s the Monday injury checkup that is most representative of what’s normal at Redskins Park. Even in a league where broken participants are the norm, the Redskins have spent the first half of the season adjusting to more than their share of aching heads, hyperextended joints and grumpy knees. This Monday was no different. Gruden announced that starting safety Will Blackmon is having surgery on the thumb he broke Sunday. Gruden was hopeful they can “cast it up” and Blackmon will play Nov. 13 against the Minnesota Vikings.

Tight end Niles Paul had an MRI performed Monday on his shoulder. Gruden did not yet have the results when he was gravelly-voiced on an afternoon conference call with reporters. Right tackle Morgan Moses is day-to-day because of an ankle sprain. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson is battered. His shoulder was sore coming into the game, then again coming out. He also had a tight hamstring hamper him, plus was hit in the head. He left the game early and did not return.

“It wasn’t a concussion but he was just banged up — his whole body was banged up so he didn’t go back in,” Gruden said. “But I think he’ll be OK.”

While the Redskins are sewing themselves back together during the bye week — smack at the season’s midpoint — they will look around and see a few things.

First, they are 4-3-1, which is as strange as it appears. That makes them last in the division. They have execution problems in the red zone on offense and third down on defense. But, looking across who was projected to be playing, when the team was training this summer under the Richmond sun, and who is on the field now, shows the impact injuries have had.

Blackmon is the starting free safety because DeAngelo Hall (ACL) is out for the season. Next to Hall in the opener was David Bruton. He was placed on injured reserve Oct. 5 because of a concussion. The team signed veteran Donte Whitner the same day. He’s now the starting strong safety and played 100 percent of the snaps Sunday. Duke Ihenacho, the backup strong safety, was kneed in the head Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals. After staying down for an extended period of time, he walked off the field. He did not return because of a concussion. Before that, he was playing along with Whitner because of Blackmon’s injury.

The Redskins are down to five safeties on the roster: Blackmon, Whitner, Ihenacho, rookie Su’a Cravens and Deshazor Everett. They have no safeties on their practice squad after waiving Josh Evans on Oct. 28.

In the middle of the defensive line is Ziggy Hood, occupying the spot that would have belonged to Kedric Golston. Filling the back end of the receiver depth chart is Ryan Grant since rookie first-round pick Josh Doctson was placed on injured reserve.

At center, Spencer Long took over for Kory Lichtensteiger. In the backfield, undrafted free agent Robert Kelley was the starting back Sunday because of Matt Jones’ knee injury that forced him to be inactive for the game.

Gruden did not commit Monday to one feature back going forward. Kelley gained 87 yards Sunday in his first start. Jones’ fumbling problems have resurfaced in recent weeks. The Redskins have spent much of the season being considerate of Chris Thompson’s frame and past injury history, using him primarily as a third-down back for production and protective reasons.

“We’ll have to wait and see how [Jones] does when we return from the bye,” Gruden said. “He’s going to get treatment these next four or five days and then when we come back to practice, he’ll practice, hopefully with the team. Then we’ll make that determination of how good he’s doing.

“But Robert Kelley I thought ran hard. He ran physical and made some nice runs. I think he predetermined a couple cuts here and there, maybe didn’t let the play develop a little bit like we would like, but I think for the most part I was happy the way he ran … I think he had 21 carries for 85 yards, or something like that, 87 yards. That’s a pretty darn good first day for the guy as far as being a lead-down back. I like what I saw in Robert, but it’s not out of the possibility that Matt Jones could come back in here and get some of those reps back.”

There will be a lot to figure out after the bye week. Can Blackmon play in a cast? If not, who replaces him? Who replaces them? Should Jones receive his job back? Or has Kelley done enough to at least share carries? If Paul’s injury is long-term, then do the Redskins active Derek Carrier from the reserve list? And, who would replace Paul on special teams or as the pseudo-fullback?

Things are back to normal as the break starts. That hasn’t been great news for the Redskins‘ health this season.

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