Jay Gruden’s black T-shirt said it all Monday, even before he launched into the injury update that precedes each regular season news conference at Redskins Park.
"By Any Means" it proclaimed. And that is the level of determination, spiced with luck, that will be required for the Washington Redskins' cobbled-together roster to weather the team's upcoming stretch of games — three consecutive against NFL division leaders — without tumbling precipitously in the standings.
With Gruden citing nine starters and four key backups as injured in the wake of Sunday's 33-19 loss to the Dallas Cowboys — including four members of the starting offensive line — the Redskins are scrambling to find enough healthy bodies to send onto the field. Among the ailing, Gruden said he was least optimistic about tight end Jordan Reed and defensive lineman Matt Ioannidis playing Sunday at Seattle.
An extended absence by the 6-foot-2, 246-pound Reed, who had only recently returned to health, would hamper a Redskins passing game that has managed to be productive through Week 8 despite limited production from the largely remade wide receivers corps.
Gruden essentially ruled out Ioannidis for the upcoming game against the Seahawks and seemed skeptical about a short-term return after explaining that the defensive lineman will undergo surgery Tuesday on his broken hand. That’s a major blow, further winnowing a defensive line that lost its best player, first-round draft pick Jonathan Allen, to a foot injury in Week 6.
And even before the Redskins’ lone healthy starting offensive lineman, Shawn Lauvao, was injured Sunday, the toll of injuries to the unit exceeded anything Gruden had experienced in 20 years in coaching — a sentiment echoed by virtually every player in the locker room.
“If we’d go out to practice tomorrow, I don’t know who my left tackle would be,” Gruden said, without a trace of hyperbole. “I really don’t have one right now.”
He ran down the list: Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams can’t practice because of searing pain from a knee injury that requires reconstructive surgery; backup Ty Nsekhe isn’t ready to practice, easing back from surgery on an abdominal muscle; and third-string tackle T.J. Clemmings, who played the bulk of snaps against the Cowboys until spraining an ankle, probably can’t practice.
While holding out hope that Nsekhe and Clemmings might be available later in the workweek, Gruden said he would likely tap Tyler Catalina to work at left tackle if his first-, second- and third-string players couldn’t go. A rookie guard from Georgia who had never appeared in an NFL game before Sunday, Catalina mopped up at left tackle after Clemmings went down.
With the Redskins’ bye week behind them and no chance to rest players without suffering the consequences, the stark truth is that Gruden has few options as the team heads into arguably the toughest stretch of its schedule.
Their next three games are against teams that boast a combined 16-6 record, and two of those games are on the road at particularly inhospitable venues: Sunday at Seattle (5-2), leading the NFC West; followed by Nov. 12 against Minnesota (6-2), leading the NFC North; and Nov. 19 at New Orleans (5-2), leading the NFC South.
“The issue is we have 13 guys that are questionable [with injury], and we only have seven guys that we can put as inactive [on game day],” Gruden said. “That’s the major issues that we have right now. We have to try to get six of those guys up, at least — somehow.”
While midseason trades are rare in the NFL, the league’s trade deadline is Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Gruden tamped down speculation that the Redskins’ front office might be working on a trade but acknowledged an urgent need along the defensive line, in the wake of Sunday’s loss, and at safety, with starter Montae Nicholson suffering a stinger and AC shoulder joint injury and backup Stefan McClure a hamstring strain.
“We have to add a defensive lineman somewhere, somehow,” Gruden said. “We are short at safety possibly. Obviously offensive line we are in limbo because we are waiting to see who can play and who can’t play. But we can’t really make a lot of roster moves because of all these injuries. You can’t put any of these guys on IR and you can’t cut any of these guys. They are all major parts of our football team. So we will have to figure it out and we will do it.”
The Redskins would likely draw interest from other NFL teams if they were willing to trade wide receiver Terrelle Pryor Sr., given his 1,007-yard production in 2016 and despite a relatively slow start in Washington.
There is no evidence the Redskins are willing to part with Pryor, whom they signed to a one-year deal in March to complement second-year wide receiver Josh Doctson. The hope was that between them, the 6-5 Pryor and 6-2 Doctson would compensate for the 2,000-plus receiving yards lost when the team let DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon depart via free agency. But Pryor and Doctson rank fourth and seventh among the team’s leading receivers to date. Pryor has 18 receptions for 223 yards and one touchdown; Doctson has eight receptions for 130 yards and three touchdowns.
If Pryor were on the market, former NFL general manager Charley Casserly, now an analyst for the NFL Network, believes he would draw interest.
“He has proven he could be productive,” Casserly said. “It hasn’t clicked yet in Washington. But there was interest in him in free agency by other teams. Money probably was a deterrent then, but now probably money doesn’t mean a lot if a team needs a receiver and has an injury. It would be a half-season rental job. But I like Pryor; I think he has got ability.”
But with the Redskins’ tight end corps battered, Gruden acknowledged Monday that he needs to get his wide receivers more involved in the offense.
At the moment, the team’s top two receivers are running back Chris Thompson (31 catches, 442 yards) and tight end Vernon Davis (17 catches, 312 yards).
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder ranks third (28 catches, 272 yards), but he, too, was injured Sunday en route to a season-high nine catches for 123 yards. As a result, he is among the 13 Gruden listed as questionable Monday, with a hamstring injury and lower-leg contusion.
“Without Crowder possibly and without Jordan [Reed], I think Chris Thompson will still have a major workload, and, obviously, the receivers are going to have to step up,” Gruden said. “Ryan [Grant] had some clutch catches again. Obviously we have got to get [Josh] Doctson going and Terrelle [Pryor]. Maybe it is [Brian] Quick, whoever it is.”
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