The first quarter of the Washington Redskins’ season is over. Through four games, they sit at 2-2 heading into their bye week. It oddly enough came at a great time, as Washington will get a chance to rest a banged-up roster following its 29-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night.
As the Redskins welcome the opportunity to reflect during the break, they are optimistic about what they have seen thus far.
“They realize we can compete with anybody, obviously,” Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said during Tuesday’s conference call. “Anywhere, any time. I think they’re in a good frame of mind.”
After a shaky season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, the Redskins began to form an identity the past three weeks, led by their defense. Although they’re tied for 18th in points per game (22.3) allowed, the Redskins defense is 10th in yards allowed (311.3 per game) after facing good offenses in the Los Angeles Rams, the Oakland Raiders and the Chiefs.
Washington’s defense was the catalyst in consecutive victories against the Rams and Raiders. Its offense has had moments, but has been an inconsistent unit outside the Raiders game, when quarterback Kirk Cousins arguably had the best performance of his career. The Redskins offense is tied for 16th with 22.8 points per game and is ninth in yards per game (363).
“We’ve got a nasty, menacing defense, if you haven’t noticed,” said cornerback Josh Norman, whose rib injury is a cause for concern after the bye. He could miss 2-4 weeks. “Our offense is coming into its own. Kirk is playing ball. Once he gets rolling, it’s hard to stop that man. He is one of the top quarterbacks in this league once he gets rolling. … The backs, they’re doing their jobs. Wide receivers are making plays.
“That defense, we’re going to win games. Best believe that.”
In their final game before the bye, they stood toe-to-toe with the Chiefs, the NFL’s only undefeated team, in a hostile environment while dealing with multiple injuries. Somehow, Washington was still in a position to win until the final seconds, when injuries and mental mistakes proved to be too much to overcome.
The players left the visitors’ locker room believing like they have the ability to beat the best in the NFL.
“We got a damn good football team, and they got a damn good football team,” said cornerback Quinton Dunbar, who replaced Norman in Monday’s game. Dunbar played through cramps in the second half while taking both defensive and special teams snaps. “It shows where we’re at. If we just put it all together, keep coming to work, having the same mentality that we have, keep getting better and keep believing in each other, we’re going to make it far. We’re going to get back from this bye week, and this could be a special 12 weeks left.”
In order for the Redskins to make a run during the final 12 games, it will be crucial for them to minimize mental errors, such as penalties. Although they’re tied for the fourth fewest flags, the Redskins committed five penalties accepted by the Chiefs during the second half Monday.
Washington’s backups must be prepared when the team’s depth gets tested. There were multiple occasions when safety D.J. Swearinger changed the play call in coverage based on pre-snap recognition, and visibly directed players to their positions on the field.
“We’re a hard-working bunch, man,” said left tackle Trent Williams, who played through a right knee injury he suffered in the first half. “We’re talented. When we can get all the units playing together, we can play with the best of them. Like any other team, when mistakes tend to pile up, it’s going to be hard to win.”
But the talent is there, and that’s evident to the entire franchise. The second quarter of the season will give a better idea if Washington’s identity is sustainable, starting in Week 6 when it hosts the San Francisco 49ers. Washington will then travel to Philadelphia to play another Monday night game against the Eagles, host the Dallas Cowboys the following week, and then play at the Seattle Seahawks in Week 9.
“Shoot, let’s go get a run,” Norman said. “Let’s go 4-0, or 3-1. We can do something special here. We can make this run for this next quarter. I believe that we’ve got the guys here to make it happen. We’ve just got to do it. We’ve got the ability to do it. We’ve got the guys to do it, so let’s make it happen.”