Not so long ago, Santana Moss' place within the Redskins' receiving corps and his spot on the 53-man roster - appeared shaky. Two positive statements bythose named Shanahan later, there now appears to be onlya thin chance the slimmed down 33-year-oldwill not be around for the regular season opener.First, there was head coach Mike Shanahan. Following a practice earlier thismonth, he praised Moss' fitness, declaring, "Itsthe best I've seen him since I've been here."On Wednesday, it was Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's turn totoss a solid in number 89's direction."Santanas entire offseason, he came in, to me he came in possessed. Hewas ready to go," the younger Shanahan said during his post-minicamp pressconference in which he also noted the impact following the receiver's weightloss. After playing last season north of 200 pounds - his playing weight on theRedskins site currently reads 205 - Moss is now reportedly in the 190-poundrange."We got Santana to come in, lose some weight and he did," KyleShanahan said. "You know a lot of guys can lose weight by starvingthemselves, staying in the steam and dehydrating themselves and just getting ona scale. Santana did it the right way. I feel hes more powerful. Hes moreexplosive. Hes about 10 or 15 pounds lighter and hes been great outthere."Last season the 11-year veteran posted a disappointing 46 receptions for 584yards and four touchdowns. Moss played in only 12 games, missing time with ahand injury. His projected 2012 salary cap number is around 2.65 million. For a teammissing some of its precious cap space following a league sanction, that's afigure large enough to consider eliminating - especially if it's not for afrontline starter.Maybe all those factors plus the Redskins signing two notable free agentreceivers this year gave Moss an extra kick with his workout program. Who couldblame him.Of course, the new guys are just that, new. I previously wrote howexperience could be Moss' trump card. The two newcomers, Pierre Garcon and JoshMorgan, are learning the Shanahan's system while 2011 draft choice LeonardHankerson is essentially getting a second crack at a rookie season. With rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III preparing for his first NFLaction, plying him with instinctive and playmaking weapons is vital. Moss isshowing he can play that part."He has a better understanding of the offense," Kyle Shanahansaid.Shanahan also noted this is the first offseason since his father took overthat they have had the opportunity to meet with players with their own Redskinsgame tape available. In 2010, the Shanahan's arrived. Last season the NFLlockout derailed spring and summer practices. Regardless, Moss' comfort level appears to have expanded just as hisphysique went the other way. "You saw it physically, and then to see him in the meeting rooms, hesbeen great," Kyle Shanahan said. "Hes been so attentive and itsshown over to the field. The guys not thinking out there, hes confident inhis speed. He feels confident in his knowledge of the offense and theres nohesitation. Hes been very exciting."Morgan and Hankerson, both recovering from injuries, have been limitedparticipants during the spring practices. Their absence has kept Mossconsistently working with the starters. Based on the Shanahan's touts, Moss'efforts might have placed him in that position regardless.
When the Redskins sent their defense out to the field to start the game against the Giants on Sunday, Zach Brown did not take his usual spot at linebacker. Rookie Shan Dion Hamilton did instead.
"I was surprised but the coaches made a decision I guess," Brown said after the game.
Brown missed practice time last week with an illness, and Washington head coach Jay Gruden said after the game that's why Hamilton got the start. Brown clearly did not like the decision and posted a message on his Instagram voicing his frustration before the game.
The results were bad too, as the Giants ran for more than 150 yards in the first half. That type of yardage did not completely hinge on Brown not being on the field, obviously, but it was a noticeable difference in team speed. Hamilton did notch seven tackles before going down with a shoulder injury.
Of the run struggles, Gruden said that a number of players suffered "missed fits." That means a player wasn't in the right spot for the defensive scheme, and one player missing a fit can impact the whole defense.
"It's stuff you work on in practice, but at the same time, it's certain things you should know," Brown said. "You should know how to fit, it probably was a Day 1 play that we ran. At the same time, you got to execute the call."
The Redskins offense never produced at a high level this season, even when Alex Smith was healthy. In turn, it's not that weird for the offense to continue to struggle as their quarterbacks and offensive linemen suffer one injury after another.
Defensively, however, things are weird.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's unit looked like one of the best defenses in the NFL during the first half of the season. Then, things fell apart. It hasn't been a byproduct of injury either.
There aren't any answers on the demise of the Redskins defense. Coaches and players can't understand why simple mistakes keep happening, and Brown's comments explain it well. Guys are missing Day 1 techniques, and the execution just isn't there. There seems to be much more under the surface, but so far, that information is staying there.
What happens next? Brown said the team has to look at Jacksonville next week.
"You just got to move on from this game. We got beat, and we got beat bad. We just got to move on to the next game," he said. "We just got to make sure we're on point."
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The Redskins lost their fourth straight game on Sunday, this time in embarrassing fashion. Washington head coach Jay Gruden can feel the pressure mounting.
"My job is in jeopardy every week," Gruden said after the 40-16 defeat.
Forgive the head coach a bit of hyperbole, but not much. NFL coaches age in dog years. Every game is a referendum on their ability, and that takes a toll.
For Gruden, it hasn't been an easy season. What started well has since fallen apart, and things swung dramatically when Alex Smith broke his leg last month. His team took an even bigger hit when Colt McCoy also broke his leg last week.
Not everything swung on the health of the quarterbacks though.
The Redskins defense started the season strong but has been bad for the last six weeks. Penalties are also a tremendous problem for the Burgundy and Gold.
"For the most part, I don’t have an explanation right now as far as what the breakdowns were, who they were and why they were," he said.
It doesn't seem fair to blame everything on Gruden, but that's also the nature of the NFL.
In some ways, it seems Gruden's modest success in Washington might also be his downfall. Jay Gruden's teams won at least seven games the last three years. No Redskins coach in the last 20 years can say the same thing. Gruden was the first, and only, coach to get a contract extension under owner Daniel Snyder. That shows some level of continued competency. Gruden has maneuvered with a stable roster capable of sustained mediocrity, largely without drama.
But there also hasn't been any real success.
The team won the NFC East in 2015, but got quickly dispatched in the playoffs. Gruden's squad lost a win-and-in Week 17 game to the Giants in 2016 to miss the playoffs. In 2017, injuries buried the Redskins' chance at playoff success. In 2018, a new rash of injuries did the same thing.
The ugly losses don't help. There have been embarrassing defeats that lead some in the 'Skins fanbase to scream for coaching changes. The first half of the Giants game might be a new low point for a franchise that all too often is forced to wonder about new low points.
Gruden knows the current situation. He understands it.
He was clearly upset after the Giants game, frustrated by the injuries and his defense's play. Next week in Jacksonville, the team will start their fourth quarterback of the season. That's almost unprecedented in the NFL.
"What did work? There was nothing that worked so nothing worked. Everything did not work," the coach said.
The nature of the NFL beast means the spotlight lands on the head coach, for better or worse. Gruden, now in his fifth season, knows that, and knows what that means after an awful loss.
"It’s tough to deal with. It really is. It’s unfortunate. Our guys continue to compete. That product we put on the field today was not a reflection of the guys work during the week and at practice. However, it did look bad. It’s a reflection of all of us."
While the reflection might be of the whole team, Gruden is in the center.
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