- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 8, 2018

ASHBURN — Adrian Peterson is fifth in the league in rushing, so he wasn’t exactly happy earlier this week when he learned three offensive starters were out for the season.

Two of them — guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff — were key figures up front who created holes for the Redskins running back.

Peterson knows his job is about to become a lot tougher.

“Me and my friend Maker’s Mark, we had a long night,” Peterson said. Who could blame Peterson — or Redskins fans — for breaking out the bourbon?

Still, this team remains in first place in the NFC East — why not accentuate the positive? Put the bottle down.

Going into Sunday’s game against the 3-5 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, here are five reasons the glass, it turns out, is still half full: 

Their MVP is healthy

Peterson is coming off a game in which he had only nine carries for 17 yards. The Redskins abandoned the run after falling behind early. But the former MVP is still capable of establishing a pace that allows for the Redskins to control the clock and grind out the game. Peterson is averaging 4.4 yards per carry and Washington is second in average time of possession.

Injuries are never good, but at least the Redskins haven’t lost their (arguably) most valuable player.

“You’ve got to stay positive and keep pressing,” Peterson said. “It’s not the end of the world.”

Murderer’s row, this schedule ain’t

According to PlayoffStatus.com, the Redskins have the fifth-easiest schedule left in the league. The combined winning percentage of the Redskins’ upcoming opponents is just 44 percent — and only one of them, the Houston Texans (6-3), has a winning record at the moment. And with four more division games ahead, the Redskins control their own destiny. 

Redskins can find out who Josh Doctson really is

With Paul Richardson out for the year with a shoulder injury, the Redskins need another wide receiver to step up. That opens the door for guys like Maurice Harris and Josh Doctson.

Doctson doesn’t play in the same spot as Richardson, but he’s been asserting himself over the last few weeks. He overcame a few drops Sunday to catch his first touchdown of the year.

This is a big stretch for Doctson. After the season ends, the Redskins have until May 3 to let the wideout know if they will pick up his fifth-year option. If they don’t, the former first-rounder will become a free agent after the 2019 season.

Doctson has 19 catches for 190 yards in seven games. He missed Week 5 with a heel injury.

The makeshift line has experience

Look, the Redskins would obviously prefer to have their starting offensive line from Week 1. And it’s true they’ll be without at least three (Lauvao, Scherff and Trent Williams) of those five players on Sunday — and possibly a fourth if Morgan Moses (sprained MCL) can’t go.

But the Redskins signed three experienced offensive linemen in Luke Bowanko, Jonathan Cooper and Austin Howard. That’s better than nothing.

Cooper, who will most likely start at left guard, is the former seventh overall pick from 2013 and has started 27 of his 42 games. Howard, the team’s likely right tackle if Moses is out, has started 88 games. Bowanko has been with three other teams.

“We’re trying to teach them OTA’s, training camp, seven weeks, eight weeks of football in a day or two,” coach Jay Gruden said. “Phil [Rauscher] and Coach [Bill] Callahan have got their hands full, but I think they’ll get it done. These guys are veteran guys and are smart guys.”

Defense still solid

The Redskins defense has been inconsistent at times, most recently giving up 38 points to the Atlanta Falcons. But this is a talented group, one capable of helping the Redskins stay in games. Overall, the Redskins rank seventh in total defense and ninth in points allowed per game (21.5).

And they’ve remained relatively healthy. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin) is the only defensive starter who has missed time. The Redskins have the pieces to bounce back from a disappointing loss. 

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