The Washington Redskins get back to work following their bye week, hitting the practice field at 1 p.m. Monday as they prepare for the 1-4 Eagles, who come to town Sunday.
The Redskins are in first place in the NFC East with their 3-1 record and would like to pick up another divisional win on Sunday.
1.) Can Shanahan & Co. pick up where they left off?
Coach Mike Shanahan owns a 10-5 record coming off bye weeks. For a second straight year, they face the Eagles in their first game back on the field. Last season, Philadelphia embarrassed Washington on Monday Night Football on the day that the Redskins were trying to put Donovan McNabb’s benching for poor cardiovascular conditioning behind them and gave the quarterback a contract extension that ended up being nothing more than a charade. There’s much less drama this time around. The Redskins’ defense paved the way for a victory over St. Louis, and the offense chipped in, but has yet to play a complete game. What kind of Redskins team takes the field this Sunday?
2.) How long can they get by with Rex Grossman at QB?
Turnovers have kept Rex Grossman from being a consistent starter and winner for his whole career. So far, aside from the Dallas game, the Redskins have managed to win despite their quarterback’s inability to take care of the ball. Some of the turnovers haven’t been his fault, but he definitely needs to play smarter and see the field better. Eventually, one of those inopportune interceptions or fumbles will end up costing the Redskins. But for now, the defense has bailed them out. Grossman and the Redskins are facing a 12-game stretch. Can he cure his ills and help lead Washington on an unexpected run?
3.) What happens at running back?
Ryan Torain is coming off of an impressive outing after going the first three games without so much as a carry. Tim Hightower had been the workhorse, and Roy Helu the change of pace back. Shanahan wouldn’t say last week whether there would be a shakeup in the depth chart, but he said he’d go with the hot hand. Will Hightower continue to start with Torain taking over if he struggles? Or, does Torain claim that starting job with Hightower reduced to third down back?
4.) How will LaRon Landry hold up?
As he entered the bye week, safety LaRon Landry said his body felt beat up after playing two games and working his way back into the flow of things after 10 months of inactivity. The strong safety has yet to play a complete game. He missed portions of the third quarter in his first game back because he was receiving IV fluids. The next week he was out for a couple of series because of what Shanahan said was a bathroom break, but Landry refused to confirm one way or another. “Dirty 30” was looking forward to getting back to Arizona to work with his trainer and get his body some rest and recovery last week. Can he bounce back this week? Will his health hold up the rest of the way?
5.) Where does Phillip Buchanon fit?
The veteran cornerback returned from his four-game suspension last Monday, and the Redskins obviously believe he can help them because they cut rookie Brandyn Thompson, and activated Buchanon. What does that mean for Kevin Barnes, who had held down that third cornerback spot the first four weeks of the season? Shanahan wouldn’t say other than that Buchanon “can help us right away,” but cornerback DeAngelo Hall said it will force Barnes and Byron Westbrook to scramble and that their jobs could be in jeopardy. Obviously, that’s a player talking, but he’s in practice and sees how reps are divided. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Buchanon on the field for a good bit Sunday. Will he alternate with Barnes? Will he be used to spell Josh Wilson? We’ll see.
Other areas to monitor:
> Cooley’s involvement: We’re still waiting for the real return of Captain Chaos. First he was hobbled and played second fiddle to Fred Davis, then he was used as a fullback. When will he reclaim a key role as a playmaker?
> Anthony Armstrong’s health: Does he return this week from the hamstring injury that forced him out of the last game?
> Darrel Young’s health: He missed the last two games with a hamstring injury, but you’d think he would be ready to go this week.
> Philly’s funk: Once favorites to win the division, the Eagles are reeling, having lost four straight, and are hobbled by injuries on both sides of the ball. A desperate opponent likely will roll into Washington on Sunday, but are they healthy enough to rebound this week?