- The Washington Times - Monday, December 11, 2017

At various points this season, the Washington Redskins’ preparation has been called into question. It began as early as training camp when the Redskins offense was out-of-sync to start the preseason.

But after another one-sided loss Sunday — this time a 30-13 blowout to the Los Angeles Chargers — that preparation again came under fire: from fans, pundits and even safety D.J. Swearinger.

Getting players prepared circles back to one person — Redskins coach Jay Gruden.

It’s somewhat surprising, given the jaw-dropping number of injuries the team has suffered through this season, that Gruden, who just signed a two-year extension in March, could be on the hot seat.

But at 5-8, the Redskins are in a free-fall — and Washington is abuzz with speculation over Gruden’s job security if the Redskins can’t correct their flaws in their three final games.

Gruden took the responsibility on Sunday, admitting he “regressed” as a head coach and didn’t do a good enough job of getting his players ready to play.

A day later, Gruden still struggled with putting together a clear reason for why this keeps happening.

“Obviously, if I feel like we were lacking preparation, I’d fix it before the game the would start,” Gruden said. “I don’t think we’re lacking preparation. I just think, for whatever reason, we’re not taking our preparation into the game-day field. That’s something we have to do.”

For the second time in five weeks, Swearinger again questioned the Redskins’ focus, saying plays were unprepared for their assignments and still asking about them pre-game. He previously made similar remarks after a Week 10 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Former Redskins on local airwaves are also sounding off. NBC Sports analyst Brian Mitchell said apathy on the part of the players will translate into apathy among fans. “If you don’t give a damn, then why should I?” he asked.

Former wide receiver great Santana Moss also publicly wondered if ownership would start examining if Gruden was “the right one for the future.”

Until now, Gruden’s job status has been largely considered safe. He’s done a great job of plugging in players and coming up with offensive game-plans with the team’s injuries. He’s also done an above average job of resuming play-calling duties for former offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who was hired by the Los Angeles Rams in the offseason.

But football is more than just Xs-and-Os. For the second straight week, the Redskins were blown out in all aspects of the game.

Over the past five games, a once-feisty Redskins defense has given up at least 30 points four times. Against the Chargers, the offense was also a mess, scoring just six points. (The Redskins’ other score was a pick-6 from cornerback Bashaud Breeland.)

Injuries have played a large role in that decline, but they’re not the only reason. Miscommunication, specifically, has plagued the defense, as evidenced by a 75-yard touchdown by Chargers wide receiver Tyrell Williams in the second quarter.

Williams burned cornerback Josh Norman on a post-route, but Gruden said there should have been a safety deep in the middle of the field. Ironically, it was Swearinger who appeared to misread the play.

With the playoffs no longer a possibility, some Redskins said players need to be playing for their jobs.

“No matter what you think, if the playoffs are out of reach or whatever, we’re all getting judged at the end of the day,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “Everybody’s job — they’re going to take a close look at everybody and what everybody put on film the end of the year. There’s no reason to think mediocre play is OK.”

Added Swearinger: “You signed on the dotted line to play football. So, whether you’re going to the playoffs or not, you got to prepare like you want to win.”

Gruden said Swearinger hasn’t raised his concerns to the coaching staff. He added he would address Swearinger’s latest comments with him at the team’s facility on Tuesday.

“If he felt that way, then he should have probably … we should’ve probably known something that day,” Gruden said.

But Gruden did try to pinpoint why his team’s execution has been lacking. He said players aren’t playing fundamentally sound “in a couple of different areas.” The Redskins coach also brought up the challenges of dealing with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, which limits teams with the number and length of practices.

The Redskins, meanwhile, have never had a coach enter his fifth year under owner Dan Snyder.

Gruden, for his part, declined to discuss the stakes for the last three games, instead saying he was only focused on the Arizona Cardinals, the Redskins’ next opponent.

In the meantime, Gruden will look to get the Redskins better prepared, even if he can’t name the problems at the moment.

“We’ve got to do a better job as a staff to make sure these guys are on top of dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s, without a doubt,” Gruden said. “For some reason, it didn’t seem that way at certain critical times in that game and that’s something we have to fix as a staff.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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