At 1-4, the Redskins have all but used up their mulligans. And while they probably don’t need to win out, they certainly need to pull off a few upsets along the way. Which brings us to Sunday’s game against Jay Cutler, Devin Hester and the Chicago Bears.
Here are three story lines I’ll be keeping an eye on:
1st down - Robert Griffin III rushed for 77 yards on nine carries last Sunday night in Dallas. It was RG3’s most productive game on the ground since Week 11 of last season and his rushing total was five more yards than he gained in the previous four games combined. But Griffin couldn’t get it done with his arm, completing only 49-percent of his passes. Will this be the week Griffin puts it all together? The Redskins’ hopes could be depending on it. “It’s a matter of miscommunications, some missed throws in there, some dropped passes,” Griffin said of his completion percentage (59.8) for the season. “All that accumulates into what the stats says. It’s a long year and we have a chance to make sure those numbers do get back up. And we’ll make sure it does."
2nd down — The Redskins’ porous coverage units couldn’t stop the Cowboys’ Dwayne Harris, who took back a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and returned a kickoff 90 yards. And without special teams’ ace Bryan Kehl who suffered a season-ending knee injury, the unit’s challenge will be even more daunting Sunday as the Redskins attempt to corral three-time Pro Bowl returner Devin Hester, who is a threat to go the distance every time he touches the ball. “He’s probably licking fingers,” special teamer Niles Paul said of Hester. “It’s a great challenge for us as a special teams unit. We have to step up and be big.”
3rd down — In addition to losing Kehl, the Redskins will also be without long snapper Nick Sundberg for the balance of the 2013 season. But the team did get some good news regarding David Amerson. The rookie cornerback suffered a concussion Sunday but he said on Wednesday that his symptoms are not serious and that he felt “fine.” He was limited in practice but there’s a good chance he’ll be on the field against the Bears. That’s huge. Amerson is the Redskins’ No. 3 corner—and the Bears have four pass catchers on pace for 75 or more receptions. “He had no side effects,” Coach Mike Shanahan said. “So hopefully he’ll be okay tomorrow.”
Extra point - Wide receiver Santana Moss needs only 71 yards to become only the seventh active player to accumulate 10,000 yards in his career. The 34-year-old also needs only four catches to pass Gary Clark for third on the Redskins’ all-time list.
The Redskins have let go of two high-priced veterans as they move towards reducing their roster to 75 by today’s 4 p.m. deadline, according to multiple reports.
Released were linebacker Perry Riley, who was drafted in the fourth round in 2010 and had been a starter since midway through the 2011 season, and defensive lineman Stephen Paea, signed as a free agent in 2015. CSNmidatlantic.com was able to confirm Paea and Riley took to Twitter to announce his own release.
Paea signed a four-year, $21 million contract last year. He was expected to step in and become a starter and a force on the defensive line right away. But he struggled and spent the last part of the season on injured reserve.
This year Paea was relatively healthy but he found himself down near the bottom of the depth chart and he never was able to climb back up. He was schedule to make a $3.3 million salary. His release saves the Redskins a net of $3.4 million this year but they will face a $2.5 million dead cap hit in 2017.
Riley wasn’t able to beat out Mason Foster for the starting job this year and apparently the team figured that his $4 million salary was too much for a backup.
Riley’s release saves the team $4 million against the cap with about $1.6 million in dead cap.
MORE REDSKINS: A compressed learning schedule for Redskins' Sudfeld
The Redskins hit the practice field today, suddenly finding themselves on a compressed schedule. Their preseason finale against the Bucs has been moved up from Thursday to Wednesday and now the backups who are looking to put on a good showing to stay employed in the NFL, either with the Redskins or on another team, have 24 hours less to prepare.
Here’s what we’re looking for at Redskins Park today:
—The shortened schedule will affect Nate Sudfeld the most. Jay Gruden said that the rookie quarterback will start against the Bucs and play the whole game. Yesterday Sudfeld talked about all of the play changes and other calls he will have to make it at the line of scrimmage. He now has considerably less time to become comfortable with the calls.
—Will Josh Doctson practice? He sent out a tweet last night that made it sound like he was going to be removed from the PUP list. Today might be the day; it’s the last practice for nearly a week and they might want to get him out there, perhaps push his Achilles just a bit, and then give him a few days to recover.
—How about Spencer Long? He picked a bad time to get injured, just when it looked like he might hang on to the starting left guard job. Now Shawn Lauvao steps in and, if he stays healthy, he might not step out. As with Doctson, the timing makes it difficult. With just one practice and the possibility that Sudfeld and the backups will get a lot of the snaps, does Long press to get back today? Or rest today and get ready for preparations for the Steelers next week, even if that creates the risk that he will be preparing with the second team.
Looking at a weather forecast map that has a yet-unnamed tropical depression set to wreak havoc on the Tampa area starting Thursday afternoon, the Bucs organization called an audible. Working with the NFL and the Redskins, they decided to move the preseason game that was schedule to be played on Thursday to Wednesday.
It was really their only choice. A little bad weather doesn’t stop a football game but when things get to the point where the safety of spectators could be in danger and staging the game would tie up police and emergency personnel who would be needed elsewhere you have to make the decision to move it.
Postponing it until Friday was a nonstarter. In addition to the logistics of hotels that may be booked and possible cleanup from the storm going on, NFL teams cut their rosters to 53 by 4 p.m. on Saturday. That would leave the Redskins and Bucs coaches very little time to make their final evaluations.
When the Redskins announced the time change they also noted that their annual Welcome Home Luncheon will be held as scheduled on Wednesday. Although they haven’t yet announced their plans it appears that they will go straight from the event to the airport. They will get off of the plane in Tampa, bus to the stadium, play the game, then get back on the bus to the airport, and head back to Dulles.
This all creates a bit of a disruption to everyone’s schedule but if it’s going to happen, it’s better for it to happen at this time of year. Teams really aren’t in any sort of routine now with preseason games scheduled at varying times during the week. There is minimal concern for playing games too close together since most of the players who will participate in the game tomorrow played sparingly last Friday against the Bills.
MORE REDSKINS: Who has the upper hand at left guard?