- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 22, 2019

ASHBURN — Adrian Peterson appreciated the gesture.

When Morgan Moses was asked about the running back’s benching two weeks ago in a radio interview, the Redskins’ right tackle called the move a “slap in the face.”

By uttering those words, Moses openly questioned Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s decision, noting it didn’t sit well inside the locker room. Further, Moses said he planned to speak with the coaching staff about getting Peterson back on the field.

Peterson, the starter again after Derrius Guice’s injury, said Moses’ comments “meant a lot.”

“He understands what we’re trying to accomplish here as a team,” Peterson said. “He realizes the players that need to be out there that helps us accomplish those things. So (he’s) a guy that’s not afraid of speaking his mind and having confidence in what he says.”

These days, Moses is increasingly willing to voice his opinion. In the spring, the 28-year-old told reporters it was “about time” someone took a stand against an NFL team’s medical staff, supporting Trent Williams’ holdout. He wore Williams’ practice jersey to a post-practice press conference in training camp. He even suggested referees have a bias against the Redskins in calling penalties.

Of course, the more outspoken a player becomes, the more likely he could open himself up to scrutiny from fans.

When the Redskins face the Chicago Bears on “Monday Night Football” in prime time, Moses’ play will be under a microscope. Through two games, Moses has allowed six hurries, two hits and a sack — the most of any Washington offensive lineman, according to Pro Football Focus.

But asked about his sluggish start to the season, it wasn’t a surprise to learn that Moses, too, had some strong thoughts about the topic.

“A lot of [the media] haven’t played football, so you don’t know what a two-and-three jet looks like, or a 12 dual looks like, so a lot of people that are talking about it have no insight on what football really is,” Moses said. “They just look at the play and say, ‘Oh, this guy is not blocking.’ It doesn’t mean it’s one of our guys. It could be someone else.

“But at the end day, we’re not worried about what anybody else thinks outside. It’s about the locker room inside and everything else doesn’t matter.”

Moses said that speaking out is just “being who I am every day,” adding he feels like he has grown every year since being drafted in 2014.

With Williams still away from the team, the Redskins’ offensive line has collectively tried to fill the leadership void from their star left tackle’s absence. For example, every Friday the unit meets with Case Keenum and the quarterbacks at 8:30 a.m. to discuss protection calls and assignments to make sure everyone is on the same page. Keenum will tend to dictate the meeting, but all five starting linemen will chime in with their thoughts and questions.

In practice, Moses will make sure to encourage his teammates if he notices them being sluggish, center Chase Roullier said. Moses occasionally will also call offensive line-only meetings, if he feels it’s necessary.

Entering the season, the offensive line was thought to be a glaring weak point. But in two weeks, the unit surprisingly has held up. The Redskins have given up only two sacks — tied for the second-fewest in the NFL.

Yet there are notable mistakes Washington has to clean up. After leading the league with 14 penalties last year, Moses has incurred two penalties through two games — holding and a false start. Another holding penalty was declined.

As an offense, Washington has committed 12 penalties, tied for second-most this season. Of those 12, eight have been offensive holding. League-wide, there’s been a major emphasis on holding as it’s up 66% through the first two weeks of the year compared to the same time period in 2018.

The drastic uptick has frustrated everyone from Moses to even Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who said he was turning off “Thursday Night Football” because of “these ridiculous penalties.” Gruden called it “painful.”

The challenge for the offensive line doesn’t get any easier this week. The Bears have recorded seven sacks in two games and they have star defensive end Khalil Mack, a force who can single-handedly wreck an opposing offense. The Bears like to send Mack off either side of the line, so Moses will have to be prepared for him.

Chicago is exactly the type of opponent against whom the Redskins could really use Williams. But the tackle did not return this week — and possibly won’t any time soon.

Moses and the Redskins, though, have come to accept the seven-time Pro Bowler’s absence.

“Obviously missing Trent is a big piece of leadership, a veteran guy that you can’t really get back, but at the same time, he’s not here and we gotta, we can’t dawn on that,” Moses said. “We have games we have to play.

“We’ve got games that we’ve got to play and get it done.”

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

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