The Redskins were already on short rest this week after a bruising Monday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, with the injury toll from that game, Washington could go into Sunday’s pivotal matchup against the Dallas Cowboys shorthanded as well.
Injuries forced coach Jay Gruden to adjust his banged-up team’s practice schedule. On Wednesday, which is normally one of the Redskins’ “heavier days,” Gruden said, the team will go with a walkthrough instead.
Why does this matter? The Redskins have just days before a crucial matchup at FedEx Field. The Cowboys and the Redskins are tied for second place at 3-3 in the NFC East, two games behind the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, rebounded Sunday with a commanding 40-10 win over the San Francisco 49ers, looking refreshed coming off their bye week.
“I think that the one thing that I’m pretty decent at is trying to get a gauge for how our team is feeling, physically, number one, and that’s my job to make sure [of] that,” Gruden said. “The majority of these guys will run through a brick wall for the Washington Redskins, that’s for sure, that’s why I love this group. But I also have to be smart and make sure I understand that this is a long year and I’ve got to make sure that these guys are healthy.”
Right now, the Redskins’ biggest health concern is on the offensive line — or as Gruden said, “I I don’t have any linemen, so there will have to be some changes made.”
Of the Redskins’ nine offensive linemen, six are dealing with injuries — four of whom are starters. Right tackle Morgan Moses sprained both of his ankles Monday, while Brandon Scherff (MCL and back) and center Spencer Long (knee tendonitis) were also hurt.
The Redskins got good news regarding Scherff’s injury, which is a “Grade 2” MCL sprain. Gruden said there’s a chance Scherff, who is also dealing with a back injury, could put a brace on his knee and play against the Cowboys.
Left tackle Trent Williams, however, re-aggravated his knee injury. Williams’ injury is officially listed as “knee soreness,” but the tackle admitted last week he’ll eventually need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right knee.
Williams is hoping to put the operation off until January. On Tuesday, Gruden said Williams was “questionable” for the Cowboys game and “day-to-day.” The tackle will likely sit out of practice this week, as has been the case for the last two weeks.
Williams has considered sitting out, but said “his heart” is telling him to play.
“There’s also pressure to stay in the game, especially when you know that you’re not yourself and something isn’t right,” Williams said. “But like I said, I’m just trying to push through for my teammates.”
The Redskins have mulled sitting Williams for a week or two to see if that would help, but they are in a tough situation with backup tackle Ty Nsekhe out after having core muscle surgery on Sept. 28. The timeframe for Nsekhe’s injury was originally 3-6 weeks, though Gruden confessed they were optimistic.
Nsekhe, Gruden said, is a longshot to play against the Cowboys, meaning he’ll miss his fourth straight game. Backup guard Tyler Catalina is recovering from a concussion.
The Redskins need their offensive line to be healthy, given a surprisingly effective Cowboys pass-rush. Dallas ranks seventh in sack percentage at 8.7 percent, ringing up 21 sacks.
The Cowboys’ pass-rush has been revitalized since defensive tackle David Irving returned from a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. In two games, Irving has two sacks. Dallas also has Demarcus Lawrence, who is second in the league with 9½ sacks.
Gruden said he’ll use Wednesday to introduce the Redskins to the Cowboys’ concepts and “put the [Eagles] game to bed,” going over mistakes. The Redskins will also alter their practice schedule for the rest of the week, incorporating more individual drills and seven-on-seven work.
Gruden said Thursday “will be a telling tale as far as optimism is concerned with a lot of these guys.”
Regardless, quarterback Kirk Cousins said after Monday’s loss they can’t use injuries as an excuse.
“It’s an expectation throughout the season that you’re going to have to reach into your depth,” said Cousins, who was sacked four times in Philadelphia. “Maybe not as much as we’ve had to at tackle and some of our other positions, but you do expect it to happen at some point. A lot of teams deal with that.”