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Jay Gruden on wanting Cowboys to win: 'It's hard to root for Dallas'

Jay Gruden on wanting Cowboys to win: 'It's hard to root for Dallas'

The Cowboys could do the Redskins a big favor Monday night by beating the Lions, but for Washington coach Jay Gruden, it still feels funny rooting on Dallas.

In his Monday press conference, Gruden was asked if he would reach out to the Cowboys to leave their starters in for an extended stretch. The 'Skins coach laughed.

"No," Gruden said. "It’s hard to root for Dallas."

Like it or not, the Cowboys beating Detroit would be a big boost for the Redskins playoff hopes. If Dak Prescott and company win, that gives Kirk Cousins and his crew control over their playoff fortunes on New Year's Day against the Giants. 

"It’s fun to watch until the bitter end and see what happens," Gruden said. "I know if Dallas ends up slipping tonight against Detroit, then Detroit has to beat Green Bay, so we’d still have a chance. Regardless of what happens, we have got to take care of the Giants and then when the dust settles, we’ll see where we are."

Gruden is smart to keep his focus on the Giants game, as that is all he can control. Considering the Cowboys have the No. 1 overall seed locked up in the NFC, resting guys tonight might be premature, as they still have a game next week before a bye in the first round of the playoffs.

"I like where we are," Gruden said. "We have a chance in the final game of the season."

 

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Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Washington Redskins, Alex Smith work to balance patience and aggression in pass game

Alex Smith finished the Week 2 loss to the Indianapolis Colts by averaging 6.3 yards-per-pass attempt on 33 completions. Those numbers aren't particularly good, and while they're not bad either, it clearly did not produce enough opportunities for points in the home opener. 

The Colts defense had a lot to do with that too. Indianapolis deployed a soft zone coverage system, forcing the Washington Redskins to look underneath for short gains and eschewing many chances at deep shots down the field. 

That's fine when the team is able to run the ball well, like the dominant Week 1 win in Arizona. But when Washington can't run the ball, like the embarassing Week 2, the short passing game looks too conservative. 

"I mean I think every guy on the team, certainly every guy on offense went through the game and what plays could I have done differently to help us," Smith said Wedneday. "Could I have taken a shot here? You know, all week we talked about being patient. The way they play defense, be patient. Let the shots present themselves."

The shots rarely presented themselves. 

Smith did put two passes in positions for chunk gains, but Josh Doctson was unable to bring in a deep ball on the sideline, and later in the game, Paul Richardson could not corral a big gain over the middle. Neither drop was devestating, but a catch in either situation could have turned momentum in the game. 

Prior to 2017, Smith had a reputation as a quarterback that rarely went down the field. Last season, he disproved that with his best ever statistical campaign and a number of highlight reel plays down the field in the Kansas City offense. 

Redskins fans are starting to wonder if they got the 2017 version of Smith, or the earlier version. 

Truth is the sample size is much too small to determine that answer. In Week 1, Smith didn't need to air the ball out. In fact, he still tried, barely missing a deep completion to Richardson on a play flagged because the receiver was held. 

There are other factors too. The offensive line had a poor performance in Week 2, and Richardson played the game dealing with a shoulder injury. 

Still, there were times it seemed Smith had chances down the field he didn't take, instead opting for the safer check-down pass.

Running back Chris Thompson finished the game with 13 catches but for just 92 yards. Much of that production came late in the second half when the Colts had taken a substantial lead.

"In the second half, very apparent, I mean they were not going to let anything get over their head or get behind them. It was so soft. Hence, a lot of the underneath stuff was open," Smith said.

What version of Smith will show up Sunday against Green Bay?

Much of that will have to do with the offensive line and Jay Gruden's game plan. But plenty will be determined by Smith too. 

The veteran QB does not turn the ball over, which is a big bonus. The Redskins need points though if they're going to keep up with Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. 

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Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Redskins vs. Packers then and now

Here is a look ahead and a look back at the Redskins vs. Packers series.

Week 3, Sunday, FedEx Field

2017 Packers: 7-9, third in NFC North; 1-0-1 in 2018

2018 statistical leaders:

Passing yards: Aaron Rodgers, 567 yards
Rushing yards: Jamaal Williams, 106 yards
Receiving yards: Randall Cobb 172

Deciding factors

  • The Packers haven’t had much of a running game so far this year and the Redskins can’t let it get healthy on them. It’s hard enough to deal with Rodgers when all he can do is pass. If a viable rushing attack is in the mix, Rodgers is nearly impossible to stop. 
  • Offensively, the Redskins will have to stay aggressive. We saw what happened on Week 1 on Sunday night when the Bears couldn’t take advantage of some chances to put the Packers away. There are plenty of reasons to doubt that the Redskins would be able to kill the clock by running the ball—they couldn’t against the Cardinals—and Alex Smith will have to keep throwing. 

Key matchup: Redskins C Tony Bergstrom vs. Packers NT Frank Clark—It looks like Chase Roullier will have to move to left guard and Bergstrom will have to take on Clark, a tough, athletic nose tackle. 

Redskins-Packers series history

The Packers lead the all-time series 14-12; the teams have split their last four games including the playoffs.

Series notables

The first time: November 28, 1937, Griffith Stadium—In their first season in Washington, the Redskins needed a win to have a shot to play for the Eastern Conference title the following week. The home team trailed 6-0 at halftime, but the Redskins weren’t done. Cliff Battles ran for a touchdown, Sammy Baugh threw for another and the Washington defense held for a 14-6 win. 

The last time: November 20, 2016, FedEx Field—In one of his career highlight games, Kirk Cousins passed for 375 yards and three touchdowns. The game was close at halftime with Washington leading 13-10. Then they exploded for 29 second-half points with the highlight coming on a 70-yard TD bomb from Cousins to Pierre Garçon early in the fourth quarter of the home team’s 49-24 win. 

The best time: December 24, 1972, RFK Stadium—The Redskins were hosting their first playoff game since 1942. The highlight play was a 32-yard touchdown pass from Billy Kilmer to Roy Jefferson. But the game was won with a five-man defensive line that George Allen designed to stop the Packers’ powerful rushing attack. Green Bay mustered just 78 yards rushing as the Redskins won 16-3 putting them a win away from their first Super Bowl.

The worst time: October 17, 1983, Lambeau Field—It was a highly entertaining game, still the highest-scoring game in the history of Monday Night Football. Joe Theismann passed for 398 yards, but Lynn Dickey nearly matched him with 387 yards. The game was back and forth the entire way with five lead changes. The fourth one came with 2:50 left to play with a five-yard TD pass from Theismann to Joe Washington. But the Redskins still couldn’t play defense and the Packers drove to a field goal to take a 48-47 lead. Mark Mosely had a shot at stealing the win, but he missed a 39-yard field goal try as time ran out.  

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