The Washington Redskins' playoff chances were dealt a major blow Monday, with the news that they will be without three offensive starters for the rest of the season. Coach Jay Gruden announced that right guard Brandon Scherff, left guard Shawn Lauvao and wide receiver Paul Richardson will all miss the remainder of the year because of injuries.
Scherff suffered a torn pectoral muscle and Lauvao a torn ACL in Sunday’s 38-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Richardson has been dealing with an injury to the AC joint in his shoulder for much of the season, and the team decided Monday to shut him down.
The injuries are a significant setback to a team that, following Sunday’s blowout loss, is clinging to a one-game lead in the NFC East at the halfway point of the season.
An offense that has struggled to score points is now in particularly dire shape up front. Star left tackle Trent Williams missed the Atlanta game following thumb surgery, and he is expected to be out another two to three games.
“That, obviously, has a major impact,” Gruden said. “Your two starting guards go out in the same game and you’re already playing light at left tackle, it makes it difficult. . . . This is something you don’t want to go through, but it is pro football and you have to go through it. Fortunately we have a very good offensive line coach in Coach [Bill] Callahan, and we’ll figure it out and make it work.”
The Redskins brought in six free agent offensive linemen for a workout Monday, and they signed guards Luke Bowanko and Jonathan Cooper and tackle Austin Howard in the afternoon. Howard started 16 games for the Baltimore Ravens last season at right tackle, Cooper was the No. 7 overall pick in 2013 by the Arizona Cardinals, and Bowanko was a sixth-round pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2014.
Before the signings were announced, Gruden had said that one of the linemen the team ended up signing would likely need to start Sunday in a road game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Right tackle Morgan Moses injured the medial collateral ligament in his knee Sunday, but he is listed as day-to-day.
The receiving corps is also reeling following the loss of Richardson, who signed a five-year, $40 million free agent contract in the offseason. The Redskins were already without slot receiver Jamison Crowder, who has missed the team’s past four games with an ankle injury and is no lock to return for the Buccaneers game. Pass-catching running back Chris Thompson is dealing with a rib injury that kept him out against the Falcons.
Richardson will have surgery to repair the shoulder, and his recovery time is expected to be six to eight months.
“Commend him for his efforts trying to play for the eight weeks that he played,” Gruden said, “but I think it’s time to get it fixed.”
Washington will have to use its fourth starting offensive line combination of the year against Tampa Bay. It finished Sunday’s loss with rookie Geron Christian making his NFL debut at left tackle, reserve swing tackle Ty Nsekhe at left guard, Chase Roullier at center, backup Tony Bergstrom at right guard and Moses at right tackle. The Redskins were down to their last active offensive linemen.
“We have a couple prospects we worked out this morning that could come in here and play right away with experience and could help us out,” Gruden said. “We’re going to demand a lot out of them, whoever that is, or we have to move some people around that are already here. . . . But we can’t slow down. The train doesn’t stop.”
Center Casey Dunn is the only remaining offensive lineman on the 53-man roster who was not active Sunday. Tackles Timon Parris and Justin Evans are on the practice squad. Veteran Arie Kouandjio will not return in 2018 after going on injured reserve before the season.
The situation brings back memories of 2017, when Williams, Lauvao and Moses all finished the season on injured reserve — among 23 players in total.
“You learned from last year that no matter who’s next to you, you’ve just got to continue to push on,” Roullier said Monday. “You need to help guys learn positions quickly and just make sure you’re communicating out there. Make sure any new guy that might come in, you need to help them out with things. That’s why communication is very important and key to having success out there.”
There are several challenges in mixing up the offensive line at this stage of the season. Any player who is newly signed or playing a new position needs extra time to learn the responsibilities in the Redskins' scheme, and there’s the importance of acquiring a comfort level with new teammates.
“It’s always a balance,” Roullier said. “As new guys come in, you need to teach them things. Coaches are going to be teaching them hard, probably extra meetings and all sorts of things. As other players, we’re going to help out where we can there. . . . We’re just going to go out there and play with the five guys they decide to put out there on the field.”
The ground game has been the strength of the team’s offense so far, but running back Adrian Peterson will now have to adjust to a new group up front.
“It’s something you don’t prepare for, but when it does happen, this is what you have to do,” Gruden said. “We have some guys developing in house that are young that have very little to zero NFL experience that we’re trying to develop for the future, but not for Sunday. If we need to play them, we’ll play them. But let’s take a look at some of these veteran guys, see how they fare, see how they learn, see what kind of shape they’re in and hopefully move forward.”
In other injury news, Gruden said he hopes to get Crowder (ankle) back to practice Wednesday, but the wide receiver is still feeling a lot of pain when he runs and cuts. Cornerback Quinton Dunbar is listed as day-to-day as he continues to deal with a nerve issue in his lower leg.