ASHBURN, Virginia -- The Washington Redskins’ challenge this week was already tough enough, having to come back from a difficult overtime loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Then consider that Washington must try to get back on track with a roster that continues to be depleted by injuries.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden is assembling a game plan while constantly checking medical reports to see who will be available. Tight end Jordan Reed, for example, has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. The Redskins still aren’t sure whether he’ll play Thursday vs. the New York Giants. Washington will conduct only walk-throughs this week in preparation.
“That’s the biggest challenge -- not knowing who is going to be available,” Gruden said. “That’s the biggest thing, to find out what healthy bodies we actually do have and then finding the ones that are going to play and getting them ready.”
Here’s a look at their situation:
Left tackle Trent Williams remains a weekly decision, based on how bad his right knee feels as the bone bruise there -- in addition to ligament damage -- continues to give him problems. Playing on a short week will be difficult. Guard Shawn Lauvao, who missed one game with a stinger earlier this season, couldn’t finish Sunday. Starting center Spencer Long returned vs. Minnesota but couldn’t finish and did not play Sunday.
“It’s still pretty banged up,” Gruden said of the line.
Rookie Montae Nicholson continues to show he can play. He also continues to get hurt, leaving the secondary in a bind. He suffered a concussion Sunday. If he can’t play, the Redskins do have three healthy safeties: D.J. Swearinger, DeAngelo Hall and Deshazor Everett. Hall played in place of Nicholson on Sunday but struggled at times -- whether getting beat in coverage or guessing wrong on a play. Everett has had his issues as well. Nicholson’s speed was missed Sunday.
“He can run. He can hit,” Gruden said. “He’s had issues with his AC joints on both shoulders and now the concussion. So, it’s unfortunate because we love him as a prospect without a doubt. He’s going to be an excellent safety. We just got to try to keep him out of the hot tub, and obviously this concussion thing is a concern, so just got to get him well. That’s No. 1.”
The Redskins could promote Fish Smithson off the practice squad if they want another safety. In a pinch, they can use Kendall Fuller at safety. They consider the second-year defensive back a smart player and quick learner.
“That may not be a position we have to address right this second,” Gruden said Monday. “Looking at the injury report that we have right now, we have other positions that we might have to address here in about 20 minutes.”
The Redskins have to make a move here considering they have only two healthy backs on the active roster: Samaje Perine and Byron Marshall, who signed a week ago. They also have LeShun Daniels on the practice squad. Or they could look at other backs they’ve worked out in recent weeks.
It’s a bad spot, considering Marshall will need to be something he’s never been: a third-down back in the NFL. He has the skills to do it, but he’s inexperienced.
Matt Ioannidis played with a club over his left hand Sunday, but having him on the field was a plus for the Redskins. But the team is already without Jonathan Allen, and now Terrell McClain is dealing with a foot issue as well. Regardless of the impact he was making, McClain was a part of their rotation.
The Redskins do have second-year player in Anthony Lanier, an athletic lineman who has shown more potential as a rusher than vs. the run. So he can help in some nickel situations. They have promoted nose tackle A.J. Francis to the active roster.
As a result of the shuffling, Washington has needed to use players more than the coaches would like, whether that's Ziggy Hood having to take on double-teams as a nose tackle then rush the passer in nickel. Or Stacy McGee, who starts at end in base and occasionally plays some nose tackle.
“We could use a little help to spell them from time to time,” Gruden said. “We just don’t have that luxury right now.”
With Terrelle Pryor’s season over after ankle surgery -- and it’s hard to imagine him returning next season after his one-year deal ends -- the Redskins have a need at receiver. They do have rookie Robert Davis on the practice squad as well as Keenan Reynolds. But the latter is more of a returner and has a ways to go to become a viable receiver option for Washington.
They also have Brian Quick, who was inactive last week after suffering a concussion two games ago. If Quick plays, whoever is promoted off the practice squad likely would be inactive. Fortunately for Washington, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Jamison Crowder and Maurice Harris are healthy.