The Washington Redskins’ injury list in the wake of Sunday’s 34-31 overtime loss in New Orleans went far beyond the broken leg suffered by multifaceted running back Chris Thompson, who will miss the rest of the season following surgery, and is straining already thin ranks on the offensive line, defensive line and at safety.
“We have so many question marks,” Coach Jay Gruden said Monday, citing ailing players at virtually every position. “The list goes on and on and on.”
It’s a particular concern heading into a short workweek that affords Gruden, his coaching staff and the team’s trainers roughly 72 hours to identify how many healthy bodies they’ll have for Thursday’s game against the New York Giants (2-8, 0-2), determining who will play and getting them ready without benefit of a single on-field practice.
At safety, Montae Nicholson is in the NFL’s concussion protocol, so Gruden offered no timetable for his return. Nicholson, a Michigan State safety chosen in the fourth round of the most recent NFL draft, had only returned to the starting lineup Sunday after missing the two previous games with shoulder injuries. After he exited with what proved a concussion, the Redskins’ performance in the secondary suffered and contributed to the Saints’ success in the last two drives, in which quarterback Drew Brees was 11 of 11.
“He can run; he can hit,” Gruden said of Nicholson. “He has had the issue with his AC joint on both shoulders and now the concussion. It’s unfortunate because we love him as a prospect, without a doubt. I think he’s gonna be an excellent safety. We just have to try to keep him out of the [therapeutic] hot tub, and obviously this concussion thing is a concern. We’ve got to get him well. That’s the number one thing.”
While D.J. Swearinger has started all 10 games at free safety, strong safety has been a revolving door this season, with Nicholson, Deshazor Everett and DeAngelo Hall alternating starts depending who is healthy. Gruden noted Monday that second-year cornerback Kendall Fuller can also play safety, if need be.
Gruden confirmed that wide receiver Terrelle Pryor will join Thompson on the injured reserve list after he undergoes surgery on his right ankle, bringing a premature end to what both he and the Redskins had hoped would be a productive season. Pryor was a 1,007-yard receiver last season in Cleveland, but after failing to land a long-term contract that suited him he signed a one-year deal with the Redskins in March. His role diminished as the season wore on, and he bows out with 20 catches for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Gruden didn’t offer an injury update for left tackle Trent Williams, left guard Shawn Lauvao or Spencer Long (who didn’t play Sunday, inactive with a knee injury), but acknowledged that all remain a concern.
“It’s still pretty banged up, quite honestly,” Gruden said of the offensive line, adding that backups Tyler Catalina, Arie Kouandjio and Tony Bergstrom are standing by if needed.
“One thing [offensive line coach] Bill [Callahan] has done is he has developed [players],” Gruden said. “If you’re in the building, you’re going to know what to do.”
Along the defensive line, which lost rookie Jonathan Allen to a foot injury earlier in the season, the ranks of healthy players remains so thin it’s impossible for coaches to substitute as freely as they’d like. Gruden was grateful Sunday to get back Matt Ioannidis, who played with a club-like cast protecting his surgically repaired broken hand that limited his effectiveness. But there was no net gain coming out of the game, with Terrell McClain exiting with a toe injury.
Despite a spirited fight by the healthy linemen who battled on, the strain was evident. Absent significant pressure, Brees had little trouble picking apart the secondary to force overtime and engineer the victory.
“You got to hand it to ’em for their effort and their tenacity,” Gruden said of the shorthanded defensive line. “We could use some help to spell ’em from time to time; we just don’t have that luxury right now.”
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