As players reported to Redskins Park on Monday to regroup after Sunday’s sobering defeat to the Panthers, the team could have filled a small medical ward. Moss was preparing for surgery. Quarterback Rex Grossman had checked into an area hospital, where his peneumonia and high fever were being monitored. Hightower was undergoing an MRI exam that would confirm the worst fears about his knee. And tight end Chris Cooley was consulting with orthopedist James Andrews to discuss his future.
“You kind of go through some situations like this — hopefully not too often — where you lose a number of starters,” Shanahan said. “I don’t think I’ve ever lost so many just on one side so quickly.”
When the Redskins meet the Buffalo Bills this Sunday, they’ll have only four offensive starters from Week 1 healthy, starting and playing the same position they did on Sept. 11 against the New York Giants. John Beck has replaced Grossman at quarterback. Hightower and guard Kory Lichtensteiger are finished for the year. Left tackle Trent Williams is recovering from a high-ankle sprain sustained Oct. 16 against the Eagles. And Moss and Cooley both have pins holding together broken bones in their hands. Cooley will likely miss at least three more games. Former center Will Montgomery has moved to left guard.
“Any time you have, like, seven new starters from when you started, it’s always a little different,” Shanahan said. “On the good side, John Beck was practicing with the scout team and a lot of those players are out there now. So he’s comfortable with them.
“That was kind of a joke,” he added.
But only kind of. The Redskins will be looking for several young reserves to become contributors as the team tries to re-establish itself as a division contender. Nine days ago, the Redskins were in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. They’ve now lost three of their past four games and have two difficult opponents ahead: the Bills (4-2) and San Francisco (5-1).
“We have to win. That’s the nature of the game,” Shanahan said. “We have to find a way to win. The guys that will step up are guys that are going to be starters. They’re on our football team for a reason. Now, we have a chance to see what they could do.”
Running backs Ryan Torain and Roy Helu will likely share duties in the backfield. The Redskins will also need to add a third running back at some point this week and could promote rookie Evan Royster from the practice squad.
“You’ve got to be ready to come in and play whenever coach asks you to,” Torain said. “With his system, coach wants you to go in there and play like you’re the starter even if you’re third string. He prepares us for that mentality.”