RICHMOND — Washington Redskins Coach Jay Gruden reveled in the depth of his roster at the outset of training camp late last month, eagerly anticipating the battles for starting jobs that would produce the strongest 53-man group for the Sept. 10 season opener.
But after just one preseason game — Thursday’s 23-3 trouncing by the Baltimore Ravens — the Redskins were back in patchwork mode when they regrouped for practice Saturday afternoon, particularly at outside linebacker.
Trent Murphy was placed on injured reserve, signaling the end of his fourth NFL season after a Ravens fullback slammed into the back of his left knee, tearing the two major ligaments. Rookie Ryan Anderson, the team’s second-round draft pick and one of the few bright spots in a dismal defeat, suffered a stinger in the game and was withheld from practice. And Junior Galette will sit for another six or seven days with a hamstring strain, Gruden said, providing a rundown of the injured and ailing before the penultimate practice at the team’s training camp in Richmond.
But with the regular season four weeks away, the Redskins were back in pads Saturday.
“We need work, and that showed Thursday night,” Gruden said. “Everything we need to work on in pro football can only be practiced with pads on and challenging them in that regard. We’ve got to do the best we can to push them, but also it’s our job and the trainers’ job to make sure we keep them healthy somehow. But there is no substitute for practice.”
The troubling injury news that followed the poor preseason debut was leavened by a bit of good: Safety Su’a Cravens suffered no structural damage to his knee during the game, Gruden said; tight end Jordan Reed has been fitted with orthotics that ideally will expedite his return from a toe injury; and third-round draft pick Fabian Moreau, a cornerback from UCLA, practiced with the full team for the first time after suffering a chest injury on the eve of April’s NFL draft.
Gruden didn’t attempt to put a positive spin on the performance of his starting offense against Baltimore’s blitz-happy defense. The unit was on the field for just six plays, failed to get a first down and netted minus-one yard. And the coach acknowledged shortcomings in every position group: an offensive line that wasn’t physical enough, running backs who didn’t attack openings forcefully enough, receivers who didn’t get open and quarterbacks who didn’t “let the ball fly” when opportunity presented itself.
“It was a learning experience for everybody,” Gruden said. “I’m glad they got out there and got beat around a little bit, took a few hits and played against a physical defense. Now they know what to expect next week.”
The flip side to injury in the NFL, of course, is opportunity.
And Saturday’s practice represented that for third-year player Deshazor Everett, who continued in Cravens’s stead at safety, conferring with defensive backs coach Torrian Gray between plays to make sure he knew his run fits.
“I just want to show coaches that everything he’s looking for when I get out there, I’m going to do it and do it well,” Everett said afterward. “They know I’m going to play physical and I won’t be afraid to stick my nose in there.”
The thin ranks at outside linebacker presented opportunity for Lynden Trail, the 6-7, 277-pound former Norfolk State linebacker who worked as a UPS driver before being signed to the Redskins roster last December. With Murphy, Galette and Preston Smith sidelined, Trail stepped in with the starters in 11-on-11 drills, paired with outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
“The game of football is a very dangerous sport,” Trail said after practice. “We all know what we sign up for at the end of the day. Unfortunately, Murph went down, but we work in a system where you have to be ready to go at any given time.
Trail said he texted Murphy on Friday, the day after he was helped off the field at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium, to say he was praying for him and wishing him a speedy recovery.
“I understand I got some shoes to fill,” Trail said. “But I put the work in, and, Lord willing, I’ll be ready.”