Washington Redskins

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

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USA Today Images

Redskins dealing with numerous injuries heading into Week 7 vs. Eagles

ASHBURN, Va. — Quinton Dunbar takes pride in the way Washington Redskins defensive backs coach Torrian Gray makes every member of the secondary prepare as though he's starting.

"When you get in, you are expected to play like a starter," Dunbar said.

That approach has come in handy this season. Already 2015 All-Pro Josh Norman, fellow cornerback Bashaud Breeland and safety Stefan McClure have gone down with injuries, and second-year safety Su'a Cravens left the team to contemplate retirement.

It's possible Breeland, who sprained his left knee Sunday against San Francisco, and Norman, who has been out with a broken rib, play Monday night.

If they can't go, Washington will lean heavily on Dunbar, Kendall Fuller and rookies Montae Nicholson, Fabian Moreau and Joshua Holsey against quarterback Carson Wentz and the NFC East-leading Eagles.

"It'll be a great challenge because he's playing extremely well," Gruden said.

"Our guys will have to step up. That's just the way it is. There's a lot of teams around the National Football League this time of year that are dealing with key injuries at certain positions and we just had a couple of them at the corner spot. Fabian, Dunbar, they'll have to step up and play well (along with) Holsey, Fuller."

Breeland began the 49ers game as the top cornerback with Norman out and took a block at the knee from offensive lineman Joe Staley. Gruden said Breeland escaped serious MCL damage and is a quick healer, so he could be ready to face the 5-1 Eagles.

Norman will ramp up his running and exercise this week, and Gruden said "there's a chance" he plays Monday.

The news isn't so good for rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen, who could miss three weeks or more with a Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, and kicker Dustin Hopkins, whose right hip rotator muscle strain will force the Redskins to work out free agent kickers this week.

Even with all the injuries in the secondary, Washington hasn't yet had to look for external help because it has four 2016 or 2017 draft picks on the roster and able to take on extended roles.

"We are as strong as our weakest link and we always talk about not having the drop-offs," said Fuller, a 2016 third-round pick. "Anybody who is in there, we trust to make plays."

The Redskins have had no choice but to trust their young players, including Dunbar, a 25-year-old converted receiver. Injuries to D.J. Swearinger and Nicholson on Sunday almost forced Fuller to move from cornerback to safety where he saw no snaps at practice, and Moreau had to take over on the outside when Breeland was hurt in the second half.

Moreau, a third-round pick who missed the start of training camp with a torn pectoral muscle, said players follow Swearinger's lead to be ready for any situation.

"We got dogs," Moreau said. "We all trust each other. We all feed off of him, and we know that."

Of all the young defensive backs, no one has made a bigger leap than Dunbar, who was a receiver at Florida. Gruden joked that Dunbar isn't "really smart enough to know the magnitude of the situation he's in" and just goes out and plays.

Dunbar said after what he went through growing up that football's a pleasure for him and he doesn't blink. But he has made incredible strides since shifting to cornerback.

"Mentally I'm a thousand times better," Dunbar said. "I always had the physical attributes, man. It was more mental for me -- just breaking down the offenses, learning what's coming and stuff like that."

That'll come in handy against Wentz as the 3-2 Redskins try to close the gap and keep this a competitive division race.

From the coverage to the pass rush, Washington's defense must be better against Wentz than it was in a 30-17 loss in Week 1.

"We've got to figure out a way to contain Wentz," Gruden said. "He killed us with the off-schedule plays, and he's been doing that consistently throughout the year. That's why they're 5-1. It's a big game for us. We know that."

Best of NFL: Steelers outlast Chiefs to defeat NFL's last unbeaten

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Best of NFL: Steelers outlast Chiefs to defeat NFL's last unbeaten

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Le'Veon Bell ran for 179 yards and a touchdown, Antonio Brown made an acrobatic touchdown catch in the fourth quarter and the Pittsburgh Steelers held on to beat the Kansas City Chiefs 19-13 on Sunday.

The Chiefs (5-1) still had a chance after Brown's 51-yard reception made it 19-10, moving quickly downfield and getting a 33-yard field goal from Harrison Butker.

And when their defense forced a quick three-and-out, Tyreek Hill's 32-yard punt return gave them the ball with 1:48 to go.

But after the Steelers (4-2) gave up a first down, James Harrison sacked Alex Smith on third-and-10, and the quarterback's incomplete pass on fourth down left the NFL with no unbeaten teams.

Ben Roethlisberger was 17 of 25 for 252 yards for Pittsburgh, bouncing back from his abysmal five-interception performance against Jacksonville last week (see full recap). 

Dolphins rally from 17-point deficit to stun Falcons 
ATLANTA — Jay Cutler and the Miami Dolphins finally generated some offense.

Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons totally fell apart.

The result: a stunning 20-17 victory for the Dolphins.

Cutler threw a pair of touchdown passes, Cody Parkey kicked a pair of field goals and Miami rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit, rekindling memories of Atlanta's epic collapse against New England in the Super Bowl.

And next up for the Falcons — a rematch against the Patriots.

"It's tough," Atlanta linebacker Vic Beasley Jr. said. "We experienced that feeling before in the Super Bowl."

Ryan, who had five interceptions in the two previous games, threw another crucial pick with the Falcons in position to at least attempt a tying field goal (see full recap). 

Peterson scored twice as Cardinals hold off Bucs
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Adrian Peterson rushed for two touchdowns and 134 yards in an impressive Arizona debut and the Cardinals held off a furious second-half Tampa Bay rally to beat the Buccaneers 38-33 on Sunday.

The Buccaneers (2-3) lost quarterback Jameis Winston to a right shoulder injury in the second quarter, with the Cardinals (3-3) leading 21-0.

But backup Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 290 yards and three touchdowns to bring Tampa Bay back from a 31-0, early third-quarter deficit.

Fitzpatrick's 37-yard touchdown pass to Mike Evans cut the Arizona lead to 38-32 with 2:02 to play.

Larry Fitzgerald recovered the onside kick and, with no Tampa Bay timeouts remaining, the Cardinals ran out the clock (see full recap). 

Cousins inconsistent as Redskins hold on to beat 49ers
LANDOVER, Md. — Jay Gruden took solace in the fact he didn't feel as happy as he normally would when celebrating a victory.

There's reason for that after Kirk Cousins and the Washington Redskins sweated it out and barely held on to beat past - and possibly future - mentor Kyle Shanahan's winless San Francisco 49ers 26-24 on Sunday. The Redskins (3-2) blew a 17-point lead amid injuries and a pair of turnovers and survived a last-minute drive by 49ers rookie quarterback C.J. Beathard.

"You can see that we're starting to turn a corner a little bit when you're not quite as ecstatic as you normally would be after a win," Gruden said. "I know we can play a lot better."

That includes Cousins, who threw for two touchdowns, ran for one and had an interception against the team he has been linked to for next season because of his connection with Shanahan. Gruden called Cousins' play "efficient" after the quarterback was 25 of 37 for 330 yards passing and added 27 yards on the ground (see full recap). 

NFC East Report: Washington sits, Cowboys choke, and Giants are the walking dead

NFC East Report: Washington sits, Cowboys choke, and Giants are the walking dead

Each week, we'll take a look at how the Eagles' division rivals fared the previous weekend (spoiler alert: EVERYTHING WENT AWESOME) and what they have upcoming. This week, Washington fell another game behind the Birds, Aaron Rodgers made AT&T Stadium his home office, and the Giants went from funny to sad faster than an episode of M*A*S*H. 

Here’s what happened in Week 5 in the NFC East:

Washington (2-2)

What Happened: The Washington Football Team was on a bye this week, so let’s take a quick sec to recap how their season has gone so far.

After opening the season with a four-turnover loss at home against the Eagles, Washington squeaked a victory by the maybe-better-than-expected-Rams in LA. They then went on national television and completely demolished a Raider squad before the wheels came off for Oakland, and then nearly beat the still-undefeated Kansas City Chiefs. Their quarterback is playing well (though not $24 million well), Chris Thompson looks electric (though not electric enough to get his coach to give him the ball more), and the defense is currently ranked eighth overall (though second overall is the 2-3 Cincinnati Bengals, so how important are those rankings, really?).

A quarter of the way through the season, and this team appears to be trending upwards… just like the Army of the Dead in Game of Thrones (which makes Dan Snyder the Night King). And like the Army of the Dead, history tells us this Washington squad is in store for a long, drawn-out demise. The best we can hope for as fans is some unbelievable action scenes before they end up losing, ideally to the good guys.


Positive Spin: Kirk Cousins continues to look above-adequate, despite losing two 1,000-yard wide receivers during the offseason. More importantly, the defense appears dramatically improved, which was probably the biggest reason this team missed the playoffs in 2016. The Oakland victory was unlike anything we’d seen in DC since RG3 was relevant, and they really were just one dropped pass away from stealing one in Kansas City. Jay Gruden probably isn’t getting the credit he deserves, which seems like a reasonable time to remind everyone that Howie Roseman hired Chip Kelly (who would later overthrow him) rather than give the younger Gruden a serious interview.

If Washington fans are looking to avoid the inevitable Nationals collapse in October, and are already dreading the inevitable Capitals collapse in April, this football squad may offer some temporary relief, like taking Pepto or just farting really loudly.

Negative Spin: Josh Norman is out for about a month, which won’t make things easy on this defense. The running game duties are mainly being given to “Fat” Rob Kelly & Samaje Perine, who are both terrible, and are both being outplayed by Thompson, whom Gruden inexplicably hates. And with Jordan Reed chronically injured, 57-year-old Vernon Davis has had to play a significant role in the passing game. That’s a recipe for success in the same way drinking raw eggs like Rocky will help you fight a heavyweight.

Oh, and they’re still paying Kirk Cousins $24 million. That’s a bigger waste of money than Mike Pence buying his entire secret service detail Colts tickets and having them leave before the coin-flip (and on “Peyton Manning Day,” no less. Sad!). 

This franchise's’ history under Snyder is well documented, in the way a termite colonies ability to destroy a house is well documented. If you’re looking for cracks in this team’s foundation, there’s plenty to find.

What’s Next: A must-win game at home against the San Francisco 49ers, and I only write “must win” because they’ve already fallen two wins behind the NFC East leading Birds. They’ll then get a chance at revenge against Philly, followed by a tough stretch against Dallas, Seattle, and Minnesota.

 

Dallas Cowboys (2-3) 

What Happened: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA haha.. Ha… woo.

Despite leading by as much as fifteen points, despite winning the time of possession by ten minutes, despite 116 yards on the ground by Ezekiel Elliott, and despite taking the lead with just 1:13 to play, the Dallas Cowboys choked it away to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at HOME, by a final score of 35-31. Again.

Prescott had three touchdown passes in the first half (Wentz threw three in a single quarter, so NBD), and Elliott had perhaps his best game of the year, but just like last postseason, the Dallas D couldn’t contain A-Rodg for a full sixty minutes. The Packers offense scored 20 fourth-quarter points, including the game-winning touchdown to Davante Adams on an incredible 9-play, 75-yard drive that took 62 seconds flat. And just like that, Jason Garrett (who’s never had back-to-back winning seasons his entire coaching career) has his Cowboys team at 2-3.

Oh, and word is Jerry Jones will bench any player who protests social injustice by kneeling during the anthem, and OH MY GOD DEZ BRYANT PLEASE DO IT. Lord knows I’ve never asked anything of Dez Bryant. He OWES me! Besides I’ve laughed at some of his cell phone commercials, sometimes even genuinely! 

Seriously, does anybody believes Jones would REALLY bench a player like Dez or Zeke or Dak if they kneeled during the anthem? This is the same man who signed domestic abuser Greg Hardy knowing he’d be suspended for four games, and then defended him for an entire year. This guy would do anything to win, social injustice or the American flag be damned. Jones would frack below his own stadium, then use the Stars and Stripes to wipe up the excess oil if he thought it would help him get a Lombardi trophy.

Anyway, the Cowboys are 2-3, matching their loss total from all of last season. Good riddance.

Positive Spin: Aaron Rodgers is a future Hall of Famer, and there’s no shame in being just another highlight in his long reel of awesomeness. It’s like being one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s ex-girlfriends. Besides, Dallas did lead for most of this one, and there’s a lot of positive things they can take away; like how they won the time of possession, or were winning most of the afternoon, or that linebacker Sean Lee could be back as soon as the next game. Sure, their record won’t be as impressive as last year, but it’s a long season, and the Cowboys still have the horses to get through this one.

Negative Spin: AARON RODGERS OWNS THIS TEAM. Sure, Lee may return and magically have his feeble limbs turned into adamantium, and the offensive line may start to play up to the level Dallas “fans” have come to expect. If you’re looking for reasons to believe the Cowboys can play better, there’s enough evidence here to fill a dossier. #ThatsWhatRobertMuellerSaid.

But no matter what, the road to the Super Bowl in the NFC will almost certainly be through Green Bay. And at this point, there’s no way anyone even close to the Dallas Cowboys should feel confident they can ever beat the Pack. Look no further than color commentator Troy Aikman, who spent the entire final ten minutes of the game pleading with his former team not to score, just so Green Bay wouldn’t get the ball back. Those are the words of a man who is afraid…  or just the victim of one-too-many concussions. Whichever it is, it’s not funny!

It’s not hard to imagine the Cowboys coming back to win the NFC East. It’s nearly impossible, however, imagining them beating any team with Aaron Rodgers.

What’s Next: A bye week, which is just perfect. Let them seep in it. With a little Wentz Magic Thursday night, the Cowboys could come back from their bye three wins behind the NFC East leaders.

 

New York Giants (0-5)

What Happened: Like an episode of Scrubs, the New York Giants went from giggle-filled hijinks to medical mystery in a blink of an eye. Ben McAdoo’s squad lost their fifth consecutive game 27-22 to the winless “Los Angeles” Chargers while their entire wide receiving corp went down with injury. The Giants actually took the lead on an Eli Manning TD early in the fourth, but would eventually blow it, because of course they did. The Giants have had a fourth-quarter lead in each of their last three games, and as everyone knows, they lost all of them. 

But that’s not the story right now. After Brandon Marshall, Sterling Shepard, AND Dwayne Harris all left the game with leg & ankle injuries, New Yorkers had to watch the most exciting player in the NFL, Odell Beckham Jr. (no offense to Senor Elliott) break his ankle and be carted off in tears. His season, like the Giants season, is officially over.

Last week I wrote that the characters on The Walking Dead have a better outlook than the GMen. The line is no longer funny. This team is as dead as John Cleese’s pet parrot.  They’ve shuffled off this mortal coil and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible. A season that started with so much promise (for no real reason, we see now) has come crumbling down as fast as humanly possible. 

Things are so bad that many are beginning to ask if the second-year head coach is on the hot seat. That’s a pretty dramatic shift for the Giants, who have had just six head coaches in the last thirty-four years. It’s like McDonalds saying they’re replacing the Big Mac with frozen bananas, or GEICO saying they’ve replaced the gecko with a cocker spaniel that looks like Gordon Gekko. I’m not saying any of those would be bad changes, just that they would be surprising and out of character.

Positive Spin: There’s only eleven more games to go. And hey, tanking isn’t the worst! Look how excited Sixers fans are!!

Negative Spin: The demise of the Giants has gone from hilariously enjoyable to cruel and unusual. Watching the brutal injury to Beckham on Sunday was as uncomfortable as chewing aluminum foil. It’s like learning the school bully has to go to summer school, which is funny, then finding out his Auntie has to sacrifice shifts at the Wawa just to pick him up, which is awkward. That’s what this Giants season feels like, where you feel a little dirty thinking “thank the Football Gods that’s not us!”

What’s Next: No mercy. The Giants next three games are against the Broncos (coming off a bye), the Seahawks (coming off a bye), and the Rams. Eagles fans can only hope they have something left in the tank when they take on Washington at the end of November, and Dallas at the start of December. But at this current pace, they’ll be lucky if they can field a team.