Desperate times call for desperate measures
Redskins fans need to be prepared for anything today.
Most people expect the Redskins to lose to the rival New York Giants, extending the Redskins losing streak to 4 games behind recently signed Mark Sanchez — the Redskins’ 3rd starting quarterback of the season — and a patchwork offensive line.
Jay Gruden, this week, has sounded a bit like a man with little to lose, ready to push his chips to the middle and roll the dice.
There’s no benefit to playing it safe today, so expect Jay Gruden to tap into his “Riverboat Ron” persona that we don’t normally see.
In today’s one o’clock game against the Giants, anything could happen.
The offensive line
Let’s start with the Offensive Line.
Jay Gruden had some interesting things to say about the OL in his press conferences this week. Consider this:
We’ll figure ... out [the plan for the offensive line], but we have... to get our things tied down with who’s going to be in there communication-wise. It could be a rotational type thing. There’s no law that says you can’t sub guards in and out in between series and check out some different guys in different spots. We like to stay consistent but we have different flavors of guards. We have the mammoth guards we can put in there; we have the more athletic guards we can put in there. Right now, we’re leaning one way but we’ll hunker down tomorrow.
A reporter, literally, asked a question about playing 4 tackles across the offensive line against the Giants — a suggestion that would normally get a questioner laughed out of the room. Gruden didn’t laugh:
They’re big, they’re good pass protectors. We get some movement so we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the way we go. It will be a huge line, there’s some merit to that, but there’s also some merit to have more athletic guys that get out in space, get up to the next level in screens and all that stuff. It’s just a matter of how we go.
I think the style of runs could change depending on who is in there. The passes might change a little bit, but for the most part, if you want to be a physical football team, you want to have physical people in there, but we’ve had success with the pulling type guard plays also. So, the most important thing is making sure whoever is playing guard they know what the heck to do and then we’ll figure out athletically what’s best, what run concepts are best, protections and all that.
So, let me just recap the offensive line plan for today’s game.
- The Redskins could line up 4 tackles, two on either side of the Center (who will be Chase Roullier if he’s healthy, but could be a backup — presumably Demetrius Rhaney — if Chase can’t go).
- Alternatively, the Redskins could line up quicker, more athletic guards that might be more reminiscent of a Mike Shanahan o-line.
- And Gruden has held out the possibility that they could substitute guards from one series to the next.
So, truly... be ready for anything.
When one reporter asked Gruden if switching guards in and out during the game would hut the ‘chemistry’ of the line, Gruden quipped that they were all new anyway, so there was no chemistry to ruin.
Tackles starting at guard? A rotation throughout the game?— NBC Sports Redskins (@NBCSRedskins) December 8, 2018
That O-line could be quite a sight on Sunday. https://t.co/RpX8AaSJ9i
Mark Sanchez doesn’t really know the offense. He’s got a limited amount of the playbook in his grasp.
That means that the Giants, once they figure out what Sanchez is doing, can start to read and anticipate him.
That sounds bad — almost like a recipe for offensive disaster.
But then, look at this almost footnote-like report from John Keim:
This week, they’ve had to throw waves of information at Sanchez. They also wanted to get Johnson ready to play; Gruden said they’ll “have a package of plays for Josh possibly and maybe throw him in for a series or two, try to utilize both of their skill sets.”
Let’s just unpack that a little bit.
The Redskins have a quarterback in Mark Sanchez who has a limited amount of the playbook mastered, and just a few days to get him ready.
They sign a 6’3”, 219 pound quarterback — Josh Johnson — known for his athleticism and running ability. A guy who was out of the NFL last week, but who has played for Jay Gruden before and who, like Sanchez, really has nothing to lose.
While Mark Sanchez is on one practice field with the offense learning dropbacks and timing with receivers, Josh Johnson is on another, smaller practice field, learning a package of 15 or 20 plays.
On Sunday afternoon, just as the Giants defense looks like they are starting to anticipate what’s coming, Sanchez trots off the field and Josh Johnson trots on. He runs a couple of plays from his ‘package’ and secures an important first down to keep a drive alive, or perhaps scores to finish a red zone drive.
Think that sounds unrealistic?
Google, “Taysom Hill”.
Winning & losing
The Giants come to FedEx Field today. In many ways, the game has a funereal feel to it.
But maybe it shouldn’t.
That seems like a big deal. https://t.co/3xbXoN2cwd— Matthew Paras (@Matthew_Paras) December 8, 2018
The Giants have been playing good football lately, but they are, after all, a 4-8 team that is coming to the Redskins home field without their star wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr.
The Giants are 5-12 in the 17 games Odell Beckham Jr. has missed in his career, and they're only averaging 16.9 points per game in those games.— Evan Kaplan (@EpKap) December 8, 2018
The Redskins defense hasn’t looked good for several games now, but they’re mostly healthy. Aside from Quinton Dunbar, who went to IR this week, this is, basically, the same unit that spent the first 7 games of the season in the NFL’s top-5. They are not talentless.
Jay Gruden’s teams have often found a way to surprise when they appeared to have no chance of winning.
And the Giants don’t have a great history of winning when OBJ is out of the game.
Who knows how Mark Sanchez will respond to a pressure-free environment? Nothing is expected of him but failure; perhaps with a week of practice as the starter he can bring some magic.
The Redskins might be ready to quit on the season.
There were reports that players were unhappy about having a full practice following the Monday Night Football game against the Eagles this week.
But players and motivation are funny things. Teams often rally when they start to feel that no one believes in them — especially when they have something to play for. Remember the “underdog” masks the overachieving Eagles wore last year during their playoff run to the Super Bowl?
Here’s Jay Gruden:
We do have a lot to play for.
It’s my job to make sure I challenge these guys and let them know that we still have enough talent in here to be successful. It might not be pretty. We might not throw for 500 yards and lead the league in offense or what have you. We might throw for a hundred and rush for a hundred and win the game 7-3. Who knows?
I know that we have enough talent in here where we can still do some damage and compete with anybody on our schedule.
Looking ahead, slightly...
I note that Gruden didn’t say that his team had the talent right now to compete with anybody in the league — he said, “with anybody on our schedule.”
Who’s next on the schedule?
Why, that would be the Jacksonville Jaguars.
They were in the AFC conference championship game last season. They were many people’s preseason pick for the AFC champion and Super Bowl participant this season.
They opened this season 3-1 and looked like they were on a playoff-bound march.
Then, they lost seven straight games, and eight of the last nine.
They scored 9 points last week and 6 points the week before.
The Offensive Coordinator was fired recently.
The Jaguars appeared to have ‘quit’ when they appeared on Thursday Night Football against their division rival Tennessee Titans this week.
They appear to be in complete disarray.
They may be the team most likely to lose to the Redskins, and they are up next on the schedule at 1:00 on 16 December.
Perhaps the Redskins players will consider the possibility that they could come away with a win next week when they are warming up for today’s game against division rival, Giants, who will be without one of their biggest offensive playmakers.
Giants without Odell...bad Jaguars team.....— michael phillips (@michaelpRTD) December 8, 2018
If you squint, and have very poor eyesight to begin with, you can see the path....
The division standings and division rivals
Gamblers betting on a game without a point spread would likely plop their money down on the Cowboys to win at home today against the Eagles.
But think for a minute what the division standings would look like if Philly walks into Arlington, Texas today and hands the Cowboys a loss, while the Redskins get the victory at home against the Giants.
- Dallas 7-6
- Philly 7-6
- Washington 7-6
- New York 4-9
It’s not inconceivable that the Redskins could enter Week 16 either tied or in sole possession of first place in the NFC East. Again.