Mondays with the first-place team in the NFC East have become strange, with mornings after Washington Redskins victories not bringing the elation one might expect following a key win. Success in the standings hasn’t brought a feeling of satisfaction. Instead, there are usually frank discussions in their locker room about something that needs to get better, fast. More often than not, that something is the offense.
“We’re halfway through the season. It’s time for us to put some points on the board,” right tackle Morgan Moses said Monday.
Through the first nine games the Redskins have survived despite uninspiring offensive numbers, earning a 6-3 record behind a defense that has allowed a lot of yards but has generally kept opponents from getting into the end zone at the biggest moments of games.
And yet for a team that expected to have more than 176 points and 3,037 yards by now, there is a sense of disappointment and confusion. How has it not been better than this?
“We got to connect on the explosive plays. We got to,” Moses said, before citing one specific missed opportunity from Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “We got Vernon Davis running 50 yards down the field and we don’t connect, whatever the case is, we need those plays. I know I’m not the only one that’s feeling it.”
Each Monday brings another set of explanations for the things that didn’t go right the day before. This week, after putting up just 286 yards in a 16-3 victory over Tampa Bay, which has one of the league’s worst defenses, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden said he was trying to be conservative with a patched-together offensive line.
Not wanting to tax a group that included one starter who was out of the league until last week, Gruden said Washington wasn’t as adventurous on Sunday, especially with on-field temperatures around 100 degrees and the Bucs fielding an aggressive pass rush. Holding penalties also killed some drives, he added.
“From an opportunity standpoint, we didn’t have many,” Gruden said, referring to legitimate chances to score.
He said what he has said every week when discussing the offense. He said it needs to improve. Then he said things will get better.
“It’s our job to pick up the slack,” Moses said. “We can’t lean on the defense anymore. We got to step our game up on offense and find our rhythm.”
The offense has been overwhelmed with injuries that have robbed it of five or six starters, depending on what one considers pass-catching running back Chris Thompson, who is still recovering from a rib injury. Guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff are out for the season, as is wide receiver Paul Richardson. Star left tackle Trent Williams, absent the past two games, is expected to also miss this Sunday’s home matchup with Houston with a dislocated thumb. Slot receiver Jamison Crowder has missed the past five games.
Gruden is hopeful that Crowder’s ankle injury has healed enough for him to practice this week. He also is excited about the possibility that rookie receiver Trey Quinn, out since the season opener, will be able to rejoin the team when he is eligible to come off injured reserve this week. Gruden had expected Crowder to be a big part of the team’s offense this season, believing the receiver’s speed cutting across the middle of the field would fit well with quarterback Alex Smith.
Crowder will have another MRI this week, and if it shows he has healed well, he might be able to play against the Texans. He practiced last week but did not make the trip to Tampa. His injury was severe, more than just the sprained ankle that people around the team had described. Even if he plays on Sunday, he might not be at full strength. But the offense is desperate to get started, especially with so many key players out.
“We got to do a better job of communicating. We got to do a better job of putting the pieces together and then just figuring it out,” Moses said. “At the end of the day, it’s football. We’ve been playing this game since we are 4 or 5 years old and it hasn’t changed, just the personnel, so we got to come together and put the best feet forward.”
Gruden smiled Monday when asked if he was surprised by how unhappy people seem to be with a 6-3 team.
“I’m glad we’re winning, without a doubt. We’re 6-3 and in first place,” he said. “That’s a heck of a deal after nine games, but we’re also excited about the fact we have not played our best yet, and I think the best is yet to come, and it’s our job as coaches to try and get the best out of them.”
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