Injury report: Meriweather placed on IR, Hatcher ruled out for Sunday
Hampered for a third straight week by a badly sprained toe, Brandon Meriweather will go on the season-ending injured reserve list, the Redskins announced Friday afternoon.
Meriweather sprained the big toe on his right foot three weeks ago against the Indianapolis Colts and missed the games against the Rams and Giants. He tried to take part in position drills Wednesday, but the toe remained painful, hindering his mobility.
The injury-shortened season is the second in the past three years for Meriweather, who this past offseason re-signed with Washington on a one-year deal. The eighth-year veteran originally signed with Washington in 2012, but missed all but one game because of knee injuries. Meriweather missed time both to injury and suspension in 2013, playing 13 games. He missed the first two games of this season because of another illegal helmet-to-helmet hit and had played 10 straight games before leaving the first half of the Colts’ game because of the toe injury.
With Meriweather out, second-year pro Phillip Thomas will make his third straight start at strong safety.
Washington promoted linebacker Steve Beauharnais from the practice squad to the 53-man roster, filling the spot vacated by Meriweather.
Also on Friday, the Redskins announced that defensive end Jason Hatcher will not play in Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles because of inflammation in his right knee. This marks the second straight game Hatcher has missed. The defensive end, who was Washington’s biggest free agent signing, said Thursday there is a “strong possibility” that he doesn’t play in the final game, next week against Dallas.
The Redskins also have ruled out backup linebacker Gabe Miller (sprained left ankle).
Meantime, left tackle Trent Williams (strained right shoulder) has been listed as questionable. Williams suffered the injury late in the third quarter of last Sunday’s loss to the Giants. He had yet to regain full strength in the shoulder as of Thursday afternoon, but he remained hopeful that he could play Saturday.
If Williams can’t play, Tom Compton would start at left tackle (moving from his starting spot at right tackle), and Tyler Polumbus would step in at right tackle.
The Redskins listed starting inside linebacker Keenan Robinson (knee) as doubtful for Saturday’s game. Will Compton has started the last two games in place of Robinson, who sprained his right MCL against Indianapolis.
Listed as probable are Compton (shoulder), running back Roy Helu Jr (toe), center Kory Lichtensteiger (knee), nose tackle Chris Baker (chest/toe) and safety Trenton Robinson (illness).
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Santana Moss draws hefty fine for penalty, ejection
The NFL has fined Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss $22,050 for the the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and ejection from last Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, according to a league source.
Moss, a 14th-year veteran, drew the penalty after vehemently arguing referee Jeff Triplette’s call that reversed a Robert Griffin III touchdown, turning it instead to a touchback for the Giants at the end of the first half.
Moss joined Redskins Coach Jay Gruden on the field and gave Triplette an obscenity-laced tongue-lashing, which drew his unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Moss continued arguing, pointing in the face of the referee, and then gave field judge Alex Kemp the same treatment, drawing the ejection.
Triplette’s explained the reasons for Moss’s punishment after the game.
“The player’s language and pointing at the official was unsportsmanlike,” Triplette said to a pool reporter. “Then a second act took place with another official. Language — very, very inappropriate language that was derogatory toward the official. That precipitated the disqualification.”
Moss expressed remorse over his actions after the game.
“It sucks, man,” he said. “I’ll do better next time in that situation, but I hope this team can learn something from that. . . . I was excited, man, and when I saw the call overturned — it only happens to us. It feels like every time we do something good, something bad comes out of it, and it’s only been happening to us. It’s been 10 years of this, so I just got carried away, and I let that get the best of me, and I know better.”
Redskins-Eagles: Five story lines to follow Saturday at FedEx Field
The Washington Redskins return to FedEx Field on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. to take on the Philadelphia Eagles. Washington enters the game as a 7.5-point underdog, but will try to play spoiler to the Eagles, who have no margin for error as they try to remain in the playoff race after losing their past two games, including last Sunday’s matchup with the Cowboys.
Here are five key story lines to follow in this game:
1.) Griffin’s last stand — When he benched Robert Griffin III following the San Francisco game, Jay Gruden told him to keep working because another opportunity could come. That opportunity came early in last Sunday’s game, and now Griffin gets another shot with two games left on the schedule. Had Colt McCoy not gotten hurt, he would have had the chance to make his case for leading this team going forward. But now Griffin returns as starter, and must show in these final two games that he can improve and that it’s worth it for the Redskins to invest more time in him. How can he do that? By finally putting together a well-rounded performance, maintaining consistency, playing with decisiveness and putting his team in position to win games. Griffin hasn’t won a game since Nov. 3, 2013. He has made 10 starts since then. He needs to snap this losing streak. A strong outing by Griffin will go a long way toward convincing Gruden to stick with him going forward. Woeful performances will only further sour Gruden, and in turn, Griffin’s days as a Redskins’ starter could end.
2.) Washington’s start — The Redskins have struggled out of the gate in nearly every game this season. For the year, they have mustered only 36 first quarter points — the fewest in the NFL. The Eagles average 29.7 points a game, so matching that pace will prove challenging. However, in the last two games, Philadelphia has gotten off to slow starts, going scoreless in the first half against Seattle and mustering only seven first-half points against Dallas. It’s important for the Redskins to take advantage of these struggles and put themselves in a favorable situation. Washington’s offense excels when it features a heavy dose of the run, and play-action passes. Gaining a lead and playing with it will enable the Redskins to stick to their game plan. If they fall behind early, nothing good can happen.
3.) Battle in the trenches — Washington’s offense has yielded 53 sacks (second-most in the league). The Eagles’ defense has racked up 47 sacks (also second-most in the league). Statistically, this has the makings of a very bad mismatch. But the Redskins’ offensive linemen, tight ends and running backs must do a better job of executing. They have been at their worst in the second half of the season, yielding at least five sacks in six straight games (second-longest run in NFL history). The Redskins also must control the line of scrimmage in the run game. They have allowed opponents to dictate far too often, and the futility on first and second downs leads to third-and-longs, where struggles abound. Meanwhile, Washington’s defense struggles to get to quarterbacks, and the Eagles — with their spread formations and quick-hitter passes — make it even harder on foes. Philly quarterbacks have been sacked only 25 times this season. But the Redskins have to find a way to get to the flappable Mark Sanchez.
4.) Turnover battle — The Eagles rank among the league leaders with 25 turnovers forced while Washington’s defense has managed only 16 takeaways. Meanwhile, Philadelphia has turned the ball over an NFL-high 33 times. (You thought Washington’s 25 turnovers were bad). Sanchez has thrown nine interceptions since taking over for an injured Nick Foles in Week 9. The opportunity should be there for the Redskins’ defense to get its hands on the ball. However, their offense must capitalize, and take care of the ball itself.
5.) Coverage assignments — You can’t talk about turnovers without thinking of pass coverage, which has ranked among the Redskins’ biggest weaknesses. Washington’s defensive backs and linebackers have managed only five interceptions all year, and instead, blow coverage assignments on a weekly basis. In their last meeting with the Eagles, they gave up eight catches for 154 yards and a touchdown to Jeremy Maclin, and eight catches for 59 yards and two touchdowns to Jordan Matthews. The special teams coverage units also must do a better job. In their last meeting, the Redskins gave up a 102-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. Given that the Eagles have recorded two punt returns and two kick returns for touchdowns this season, this could be another nightmare matchup area for Washington.
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A struggling quarterback and offensive line need to help each other in pass protection
The offensive line has long been a problem for Washington. It has struggled to maintain pass protection and give its quarterback the extra second or two to make a pass. It hasn’t just been one player either. Everyone on the line, including Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, has played poorly.
This was a third-and-10 play for the Redskins last Sunday. Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul takes on Williams on the edge, while left guard Shawn Lauvao also gets matched up one-on-one.
Williams struggles to contain Pierre-Paul, who uses his speed to reach the edge. Inside, Lauvao gets grabbed and pulled.
Lauvao is pulled off balance and allows the defensive tackle to use a swim move to get past. Center Kory Lichtensteiger crashes on a stunting defensive tackle, and didn’t recognize the defensive end stunting in behind him. On the edge, Williams can’t stop Pierre-Paul from turning the corner.
The Giants get two free rushers up the middle while Pierre-Paul is arcing around the edge against Williams.
Robert Griffin III has nowhere to go with the football and gets sacked before he can try and scramble.
It’s been clear to see that the Redskins offensive line has struggled. But for me, pass protection is a two-way street. The quarterback can have just as big a part to play in pass protection as the offensive line. The best quarterbacks will identify blitzes, set the protection, change the play to find a better matchup, read the coverage and get the ball out of their hands quickly to give the defense as little time as possible to get pressure.
Redskins quarterbacks haven’t been able to do that enough this season. One of Griffin’s biggest flaws this season is holding on to the ball too long and not anticipating throws. That has lead to plenty of sacks this year, including one against the Giants.
This was a fourth-down play. Washington called for a slant-flat route combination that should give Griffin a quick easy throw to tight end Jordan Reed on the slant route.
When Griffin reaches the top of his drop, he has Reed breaking inside. In my opinion, he could get rid of the ball now and trust Reed to shield the ball from the defensive back and get the first down. But whether Griffin saw the defensive back sitting on the route, or the linebacker flying to the flat underneath, he must have decided it wasn’t worth the risk.
But the bigger problem I take issue with is Griffin not anticipating Reed running open. Maybe he thought the linebacker charging to the flat was a zone defender, but he never once looked back to Griffin for the ball. He should have been able to anticipate Reed running open after the flat defender cleared the lane. But instead, Griffin moves on to his second read, Andre Roberts, who is also open.
But Griffin waits the extra second to make the throw, giving Pierre-Paul the time to bulldoze over Williams and get to Griffin in the backfield for a sack-fumble.
You only had to look at the other side of the field to see how a quarterback can bail out his offensive line. Eli Manning had a very similar play to this for the Giants.
The Giants have Odell Beckham Jr. running a slant route.
Manning pump-fakes to the flat, getting both E.J. Biggers and Bashaud Breeland to bite. That allows Beckham to work in behind on his slant route.
Manning, having seen Biggers bite, anticipates Beckham running open behind him. He throws the ball, with Redskins defenders in his face, before Beckham is open.
Manning takes a hit from Ryan Kerrigan, but he gets the throw away and hits Beckham in stride. Beckham repays the effort from Manning by taking it all the way in for a touchdown.
Quarterbacks and offensive lines work hand-in-hand on pass protection. The best offensive lines give their quarterback the extra second or two that he needs for a route to develop; while the best quarterbacks anticipate throws and get the ball out of their hands quickly to keep the blocking time to a minimum. It’s rare that teams have both a great quarterback and offensive line, but the Redskins’ problem is that they have neither. Both are making the situation worse for the other, and will continue to do so unless the problem is addressed.
Gruden counting on veterans to ‘right the ship’ against Philadelphia
With two more games to overtake Dallas for the NFC East title, the Philadelphia Eagles (9-5, 3-1) will have no lack of motivation Saturday against Washington (3-11, 1-3) at FedEx Field.
Among the challenges facing first-year Coach Jay Gruden is getting his squad to match the Eagles’ intensity after last Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants cemented Washington’s last-place finish in the division for the sixth time in seven years.
“It’s a division rival, No. 1, No. 2,” Gruden said, asked what Washington had to play for. “It’s a chance for us to come and play a home game in front of our fans and try to right the ship and show what we are made of. Anytime you get an opportunity to right the ship after some poor performances, it’s a great opportunity for a lot of guys.”
Defensive end Jason Hatcher, who sat out his fifth consecutive practice with an ailing knee Thursday, indicated afterward that he may have played his last game this season. If so, Hatcher would become the latest in a long list of aging free agents whom Washington signed for multi-millions after their prime.
Hatcher, 32, underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee the day after signing a four-year, $27.5 million contact with Washington, which included $10.5 million guaranteed. He registered 11 sacks for Dallas last season but reached half that total for Washington (5.5) before being sidelined by an ailing knee.
It’s likely starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather will miss his third consecutive game with an injured toe.
Nonetheless, Gruden said he intends to stick with his veterans Saturday, rather than devote the balance of the season evaluating young players.
“We’re still playing to win football games,” Gruden said. “I’m not going to pull a veteran out of the lineup because I want to see a young guy play if the veteran deserves to play. The veterans want to play. They have earned the right to play, and they’re going to play unless we decide the younger guy is better.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys who have gotten significant reps, and we have some veteran guys that are still playing and competing and want to win this football game. That’s what it’s all about man, I don’t care how old you are. I just want the best players out there on the field.”
Washington last won a game Oct. 27, when quarterback Colt McCoy led a come-from-behind upset of the Cowboys at Dallas. Its six-game losing streak is the NFC’s longest and second only in the NFL to Tennessee’s nine-game slide.
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