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The 5 O'Clock Club: Injury-related updates from Jay Gruden on Monday

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere...

NFL: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 5 o’clock club aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

On Mondays, Jay Gruden meets with reporters to answer questions about the Sunday game. There is usually a heavy focus on injuries, questionable coaching decisions, odd penalty calls, or post game comments from players or the coach himself that seem to need clarification.

I’d like to focus on Jay’s comments regarding injuries; on Monday he announced significant injury news about three key players:

1. Montae Nicholson is in concussion protocol

Once a player is in concussion protocol, then Jay’s practice —- actually a practice of every head coach that is mandated by the league — is to offer no additional comment other than to confirm that he is in the protocol, and to announce that he has been cleared only after he’s been cleared, so — unsurprisingly — Gruden offered no further details about the safety’s health status.

He did, however, talk about Nicholson’s skills and development.

“He’s coming along great. He can run. He can hit. It’s just, 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. I think 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.”

Gruden has a phrase that he uses in nearly every press conference when he talks about player injuries and development. He used it again to talk about Montae Nicholson:

“That’s number one. Let’s get him well and then get him back on the field when he is well and we’ll go from there.”

Gruden went on to discuss how the Redskins will adjust the roster to deal with Nicholson being in the concussion protocol. With Nicholson still taking up space on the active roster, but inactive, it is difficult to promote or sign a replacement due to the number of other injuries and question marks across the board for the team.

“Well, we have… Fish [Smithson] is here already on the practice squad and we have [Deshazor] Everett and D-Hall [DeAngelo Hall] and D.J. [Swearinger], so we have three for sure that are active and ready to go. [Kendall] Fuller can also play safety, so that may not be a position we have to address right this second, which is good. 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.”

So, with so many injured players on the 53-man roster, the ‘Skins ability to cut someone (say, Tyler Catalina, who played against the Saints) to make room for a replacement safety is limited. They may have to make due with Fuller as an ‘emergency’ safety, if such a thing exists.

2. Terrelle Pryor will have surgery performed by Dr. Anderson

Much more surprising was the lack of followup by reporters about Terrelle Pryor’s medical situation. It’s a sign, I think, of how far Pryor has fallen, that Gruden can announce that he is getting surgery and get just a single followup question from the journalists present.

No one asked for clarification on the nature of the injury. When one reporter did ask about Pryor’s status, Gruden gave a succinct response, “He’ll go to IR.”

That’s it.

It’s unimaginable to me that this kind of news could have been met with such a lack of interest any time during the preseason, or the first two months of the season.

At this point, Pryor has become a non-story... the forgotten man.

So ends Pryor’s short Redskins career. Seemingly.

Move over Terrelle, we need the roster space.

3. Chris Thompson is going to have surgery, and it should be scheduled soon, though Gruden was unsure of the date

Now, this news generated a lot of interest from reporters. Thompson, after all, left Sunday’s game as the Redskins leading rusher and receiver. Not for the game — for the season. So, he was the leading rusher and receiver for the season, and his injury will put CT out for the season.

NFL: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Last time I checked — which was a few weeks ago, I admit — CT was producing about a quarter of all the Redskins’ offensive output.

The first question, unsurprisingly, was to ask Jay whether the Redskins would be signing another running back to replace Thompson.

“Yes, we will do that. Obviously we have [Byron] Marshall in here right now, so we have two for sure. We have a practice squad [player] we can bring up, but we’ll have to wait and see where the spots may be and we have...other positions of need also. The problem that we’ve had here as of late is — with all the offensive lineman injuries — we’ve been heavy offensive linemen on our roster and practice squad… so we’ve been light everywhere else.”

That, of course, raises the question of whether Byron Marshall is ready to step up and play in place of Chris Thompson. One thing I think a lot of people have glossed over is that the Redskins had to execute the final minutes of the tough game against the Saints without CT — meaning that they had to rely on Perine and Marshall — a running back they had met for the first time on Wednesday.

Gruden and Cousins had to have had questions in their minds about whether either of the two backs would be reliable pass protectors, whether they could get lined up properly, or whether they could run a route and catch a pass with the same accuracy and skill as Chris Thompson. We got at least a partial answer to that on the final offensive play of the short drive that ended when Perine couldn’t haul in a pass from Kirk Cousins. The pass was high and difficult, but I have to imagine that the play would have looked a lot better, and been much more likely to succeed, if Chris Thompson had still been in the game at that time.

So, will Byron Marshall be ready to step up and play this week? Gruden smiled broadly as he answered that question, “We shall find out, now won’t we? He’s a bright kid. He’s bright-eyed and willing to learn. I think he’s not going to have much of a choice. He’s going to have to.”

But it’s clear that the Redskins can’t go into Thursday’s game against the Giants with just Perine and Marshall. They’ll need a third back, and given the short week, they may need to rely on a practice squad player, but Gruden wasn’t ready to fully commit to a specific personnel decision at the press conference.

“Yeah, I think we will probably get one of them up. I would think with Chris going on IR, I think we would get our third one up and ready to roll. That’s the only option we have. We have to go with three.”

As far as I know, the Redskins only have one running back on the practice squad. He is LeShun Daniels Jr. (#46), UDFA from Iowa, listed at 5’11” and 225 pounds, who spent training camp with the Patriots, and who spent two weeks with the Sean McVay-led Rams practice squad in October.

Daniels was signed to the Redskins practice squad last week -- probably due to his familiarity with McVay’s system, which would give him a jump start as a late-season practice squad addition. He may become a late-season regular roster addition this week, and if he does, is almost sure to be active on game day against the Giants. Heady stuff for a player who spent the previous month unemployed!

Potential new Redskin running back: former University of Iowa running back LeShun Daniels, Jr.

Recognizing that the team would be putting the running game in the hands of three young players: a rookie, a recently signed player with 4 NFL games worth of experience, and — probably — a practice squad player who’s been in DC for just a week, Gruden admitted that it would be a challenge, but added, “Well, you just have got to teach them. Randy Jordan’s the greatest running back teacher of all time, man. He is just going to have to get his chalkboard out and get his little markers out and his eraser and teach them. He will, [he’s] done it before.”

The play of Samaje Perine in Sunday’s game in New Orleans should give Jay a certain level of confidence, though, and maybe offer some opportunities to craft a winning game plan despite the loss of Thompson.

“Yeah, I thought [Samaje] ran well; I did. I think he had good contact balance. He was patient on some of the runs. He ran through some tackles. It’s really good to see him get more than five or six carries to see how he does in the course of the game. We are going to have to lean on him quite a bit.”

Nov 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints Linebacker Manti Te'o tackles Washington Redskins running back Samajie Pernie in the NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/Daily Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2017; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Saints Linebacker Manti Te'o tackles Washington Redskins running back Samajie Pernie in the NFL game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Scott Clause/Daily Advertiser via USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

Perine ended up with 23 carried for 117 yards and a touchdown, as well as one reception for 9 yards.

I note that Andre Ellington was released by the Cardinals today. He can be claimed off of waivers for the bargain basement price of $275,000 for the remainder of the season. I wonder if he could be in a Redskins uniform by Thursday?

The cumulative effect of so many injuries in a single season

The IR list looks almost like an NFL roster:

  • Phil Taylor NT
  • Will Compton ILB
  • Mason Foster ILB
  • Arthur Jones DT
  • Jonathan Allen DT
  • Trent Murphy DE/OLB
  • Rob Kelley RB
  • Keith Marshall RB
  • Chris Thompson RB
  • Terrelle Pryor WR
  • TJ Clemmings OT
  • Dustin Hopkins K

In addition, Jay identified a bunch of players who are not on IR, but are nicked up, creating uncertainty about their playing status. Some key names from that list:

  • Jordan Reed TE
  • Spencer Long C
  • Shawn Lauvao G
  • Trent Williams OT
  • Montae Nicholson S
  • Martrell Spaight ILB
  • Terrell McClain DL

Jay addressed the issue of how so many injuries can affect a game and a season.

“Yeah, it’s a big challenge with the injuries that we have, for sure, then trying to get people ready from our practice squad, we will probably have to promote three or four guys from our practice squad to get them ready for the game, I would think. When it is all said and done, that’s the biggest challenge, not knowing who is going to be available. Where’s Jordan Reed? How do you game plan if he is in or not in? Is Spencer Long going to be able to be a backup center? Is Trent Williams going to play? Is Shawn Lauvao going to be OK? We have so many question marks. [Montae] Nicholson, [Martrell] Spaight, the list goes on and on and on, McClain. 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.”

When Thursday rolls around, for at least the second time this season, the Redskins will almost certainly be fielding players who have been on the 53-man roster for between one and eight days (the first time was the infamous game against the Cowboys in which 5 of Washington’s top 6 offensive linemen were unavailable to play in the game). That’s obviously not an ideal situation in a sport that is so team-oriented, and with Gruden’s timing-based offense.

Who are some of the newcomers that may be called upon to play on Thursday?

Probably Byron Marshall, signed last week from the Eagle’s practice squad. He’s still introducing himself to his teammates.

Possibly Fish Smithson, UDFA safety who has spent the season on the ‘Skins practice squad.

Almost certainly Deangelo Hall, who made some good plays in his first game back from a year-long injury rehab against Seatte, but who has looked slow, rusty, and ready for retirement in most of his on-field work as Montae Nicholson’s backup.

Potentially Tyler Catalina, UDFA offensive lineman who lined up on the wrong side of the formation during the crucial 4th quarter drive on Sunday.

Maybe Robert Davis, the Redskins’ 6th round pick in this year’s draft, who has spent the season thus far on the practice squad.

Probably Maurice Harris, who made a circus catch for a touchdown to open the scoring against Minnesota a week ago.

Seemingly, LeShun Daniels Jr. (#46), the UDFA from Iowa.

What, me worry?

Matt Ioannidis is back, having played against the Saints with one hand wrapped in a club.

And as long as Colt McCoy is holding a clipboard on the sidelines, I know the Redskins have a chance to win.

Poll

What’s the likely effect of the Chris Thompson injury on the Redskins?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    None, really. Next man up. Did the Eagles falter when Darren Sproles went out for the season? Did the Vikings fold when Dalvin Cook was lost?
    (16 votes)
  • 33%
    It’ll slow the offense down some, but the coaches and players will adjust.
    (74 votes)
  • 28%
    This is significant, and will cause the Redskins to struggle in games that they should win easily.
    (63 votes)
  • 30%
    Including its impact on the Redskins offense in the 4th quarter of the Saints game, this injury will cost the Redskins any chance they had of making the playoffs.
    (66 votes)
219 votes total Vote Now