Last season, the Redskins picked up win No. 4 in their 15th game. This season, it arrived in their ninth.
While it’s not really something to brag about—there are 12 teams in the NFL with better records—it does signal a small measure of progress.
“A little bit,” Coach Jay Gruden said Monday. “But we’re really trying to see progress throughout the building, in how we prepare [and] the guys working hard.”
Gruden didn’t use the word ‘culture’ or say that he's noticed any sort of a shift. But that’s what he was getting at, no doubt.
“There’s a lot of things that we can view as progress that aren’t [reflected in] wins and losses, really,” he continued. “The accountability factor. How the [players] come into meetings. How they work out in the weight room. How they practice. There’s a lot of things that we see positive progress in this building, really.”
A big story line in recent days has been the Redskins’ approach to practice last week. For the first time all season, Gruden had the first team line up against the first team in a padded practice last Wednesday. Prior to the session, defensive captain Dashon Goldson called the entire team to the middle of the field for an impromptu pep talk.
The result? It set the tone for what Gruden and his players called their best week of practice, and that intensity carried over into Sunday’s 47-14 throttling of the Saints.
“Just to get the competitive juices flowing,” Gruden said, asked why he opted for tougher practices. “[But] we have to maintain that because when you have a great week of practice, and reward them with a positive game like we played against New Orleans, hopefully it will make them want to come back and practice hard again this week, which I think they will.”
And that’s Gruden’s challenge over the final seven weeks—to maintain and build upon the momentum gained Sunday.
Matching last season’s win total six weeks sooner is one step. But it’s a small one. The next, much bigger step is to accumulate a few more wins ...and possibly challenge for the NFC East title.
“I think the wins will come more [often], obviously, with the way we’re working, hopefully they’ll come,” Gruden said. “But 4-5 is obviously not where we want to be, but it’s where we are. We have a great stretch of seven games here that are going to be very, very meaningful and very important for these guys and they’re excited about it.”