Talking about the pulse of his team throughout the week of practice, coach Jay Gruden said, “I think we’re around each other for so long and it’s such an important game here at the end. It’s a little chippy out there from time to time. That’s to be expected. I think they’re anxious to get out on the field and play this game. It’s been a long year and we have a lot to play for. These guys are excited to play, and it’s time to go. And I think they’re fired up to get it done.”
The Redskins once again must do some shuffling at their safety position with Donte Whitner now on IR with a quad injury. Look for the Redskins to go primarily with Duke Ihenacho and Will Blackmon, and Deshazor Everett will be sprinkled in here and there.
Ihenacho and Blackmon have played extensively this season, but normally they rotate in and out with Whitner, given the situation. Whitner and Ihenacho usually took the field on run-heavy downs, and Blackmon an Ihenacho the passing downs. Lately, Everett and Blackmon shared the field on some of those passing downs.
But the players don’t expect the loss of a man to hamper their efforts.
“We’re not worried about injuries or who’s not playing,” Ihenacho said. “Whoever we’ve got, we’re playing with them.”
Said Blackmon, “If anything, it’ll help us get into a better rhythm because you’re not coming in and out and you’re out there more and get a better feel for the game.”
Meanwhile, should coaches call upon him, the recently-re-signed Josh Evans will join the mix. Evans – who spent a couple weeks in October with the team and then got cut because of needs at other areas on the roster, after playing primarily on special teams – said that little has changed with the safeties’ responsibilities during his time away, and that he’s ready to chip in.
Coach Jay Gruden also said that if needs be, the Redskins can shift Bashaud Breeland to safety for a play here and there.
● Mixing and matching and adjusting on the fly is nothing new, so the Redskins are basically unfazed. This year, they had DeAngelo Hall, who transitioned from corner to safety midway through last season, and Blackmon and Everett, who made the move from corner to safety this season. That led to growing pains and glitches here and there. Gruden admitted that that transition for those three players was actually tougher than anyone within the organization expected.
“Well, you think as a safety, I’m just going to play a deep half or a middle third and just play coverage. But there’s a lot more to it. There’s different coverages involved. There’s different run fits involved, obviously. So there’s a lot more to the position and there’s a lot of learning that goes with it. So it’s been a process for them.”
● Blackmon last week was one of three Redskins players with an interception and will try to pick off a pass in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. Washington enters this game with a plus-3 differential in the turnover department and they’ll try to conclude the year with a positive mark in that category in back-to-back seasons for the first time since a three-year stretch from 1995-97. Washington was plus-5 in the turnover category last season.
● Cornerback Bashaud Breeland had two interceptions last week to tie a career-high with three interceptions. He last recorded back-to-back interception games in Weeks 5 and 6 of the 2015 season. Breeland and Josh Norman both need two interceptions today to become the first Redskins players with multiple interception games in a season since Darrell Green did so with two such outings in 1993.
● Norman needs one interception to tie his career-best mark of four in a single season.
● Quarterback Kirk Cousins enters this game needing 370 passing yards to reach the 5,000-yard mark. Cousins would become the first Redskins quarterback to reach that milestone and only the ninth quarterback in NFL history to hit the 5,000-yard mark.
● Cousins needs one touchdown pass to record the seventh 25-touchdown pass season in team history. He would join Sonny Jurgensen (31 in 1967 and 28 in ’66), Joe Theismann (29 in 1983), Mark Rypien (28 in 1991) and Sammy Baugh (25 in 1947) as the only other quarterback on the list. Cousins already is on the list having thrown 29 touchdowns last season, but would join Jurgensen as the only Redskins quarterback with more than one 25-touchdown pass season.
● The Redskins have three wide receivers knocking on the 1,000-yard door for this season. DeSean Jackson needs just 29 receiving yards to record the fifth 1,000-yard season of his career, and his second as a Redskin. Pierre Garcon needs 55 yards for his second 1,000-yard season as a member of the Redskins. Only Art Monk (five), Santana Moss (three), Ricky Sanders (two) and Bobby Mitchell (two) have had multiple 1,000-yard seasons with the Redskins. Meanwhile, second-year wide receiver Jamison Crowder needs 169 yards to reach the 1,000-yard mark. He would become the fourth Redskins player to post a 1,000-yard season within his first two years of his career, joining Garry Clark in 1986, Charlie Brown (1983) and Rod Gardner (2002).
● Jackson today can set a Redskins record with four consecutive 100-yard games.
● Tight end Vernon Davis needs two catches to tie Dallas Clarke and Frank Wycheck (505 each) for 10th place on the NFL’s all-time list for career receptions for a tight end.
● Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan today is expected to become the first Redskins player to start all 16 games in each of the first six seasons of his NFL career. This will be Kerrigan’s 96th consecutive game played, which is the second-longest active streak among NFL linebackers. Kerrigan needs 1.5 sacks to become the third member of the Redskins to record 60 career sacks, joining Dexter Manley and Charles Mann. Kerrigan enters the game with 11 sacks and needs 2.5 sacks to tie his single-season career high of 13.5, which he set in 2014.
● Meanwhile, fellow linebacker Trent Murphy needs just one sack to reach the 10-sack mark. Murphy earned his ninth sack after a statistical review and change made last week. Originally, Chris Baker was credited with a sack on a play against the Bears where Murphy also had gotten to the quarterback. After reviewing the play, the Redskins’ stat-keepers turned in the play to the league, which ruled that the sack should have indeed been awarded to Murphy, who got to the quarterback first and brought him to the ground before Baker joined the pile. With a sack today, Murphy would join Kerrigan to give the Redskins their first double-digit sack tandem since 2009 when Andre Carter and Brian Orakpo recorded 11 apiece.
● Tight end Jordan Reed needs two catches to bring his career total to 245 and move past Don Warren for third place on the Redskins’ all-time receptions list for tight ends. Reed needs seven catches to become the 12th Redskins player to reach the 250-catch mark. Reed needs one touchdown catch to become the 16th Redskins player with 20 career touchdown catches with the team.