Mike Shanahan will not have a Plan B if Fred Davis andor Trent Williams slip up and end up with a year-long suspension for another violation of the NFLs substance abuse policy.Both Williams and Davis were suspended for the last four games of the 2011 season for violating that policy. Another violation would make them liable for another suspension, this one lasting a year. When asked yesterday if he would construct the roster with an eye towards the possibility of those suspensions, Shanahan said no.I trust both of them. Id be very disappointed if they let me down or their teammates down, he said. I really dont think along those lines.So this may throw out the conventional wisdom that, say, the Redskins are more inclined to keep Chris Cooley than the might be if Davis was not one mistake away from being gone for the year.Of course, a team has to be prepared to deal with the loss of any player at any time so there has to be a backup plan if either Williams or Davis is out due to an injury. But it is interesting to note that Shanahan says that he will not give additional consideration to the fact that those two players have a greater chance of missing a substantial portion of the season than a player without the threat of one-year drug suspension hanging over his head.
Trent Williams’ suspension ended on Monday and the Redskins did not wait to get him back on the 53-man roster.
NFL teams often request roster exemptions for players who return from suspensions that last multiple games. Such requests routinely are granted for the week leading up to the next game. It gives the team an extra player in practice while the formerly suspended player rounds back into shape.
But the Redskins apparently are going to throw Williams right into things. On Monday, they waived cornerback Dashaun Phillips and cleared a spot for Williams right away.
Yesterday, Jay Gruden confirmed what has been widely reported, that Williams will return to his left tackle spot. Leaving Ty Nsekhe, who did a solid job filling in while Williams was out, at left tackle and putting Williams at left guard is something that will remain something for fans and media to speculate on but not something that will happen on the field.
The Redskins managed to go 2-2 during Williams’ suspension. Perhaps one upside is that Williams may be fully healthy down the stretch after having five weeks off, including the bye week that preceded his suspension.
Since the Redskins inserted Robert Kelley into the starting running back spot, Washington's ground game has stabilized and improved. It's well documented that Kelley limits negative plays in the run game - something his predecessor Matt Jones struggled with.
Kelley got his first start in London against the Bengals, and he ran the ball 21 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, good for more than 4 yards-per-carry. From there, Kelley gained 97 yards against the Vikings and 137 against the Packers, both Redskins wins. And in those post-bye week victories over the NFC North foes, Kelley got the ball 22 and 24 times respectively.
Coming off the Green Bay win, it seemed obvious that getting Kelley the ball more than 20 times per game was a big boost for the Redskins offense. Against the Packers, Washington piled up more than 500 yards of offense and Kelley averaged 5.7 YPC.
The 'Skins headed to Dallas riding high for a Thanksigving matchup, and quickly got into a big hole en route to a shootout loss. Jay Gruden explained after the game that being down multiple touchdowns early in the game forced Washington to get away from Kelley and rely on Kirk Cousins' arm. The QB's performance was impressive, he threw for more than 400 yards, but Kelley got just 14 carries.
In the Cowboys game, that made sense.
Against Arizona this past weekend, Kelley again got just 14 carries. And that did not make sense.
"There’s no doubt about it, we would like to get more of [Kelley] involved," Gruden said on Monday.
The Redskins never trailed by more than a TD against the Cardinals like they did against the Cowboys. Washington even held two different second half leads in Arizona, and still, Kelley did not get the ball enough.
Further, Kelley was running the ball well in the desert. Where he struggled against Dallas - 14 rushes for 37 yards, good for just 2.64 YPC - Kelley gained more than 60 yards on 14 carries against the Cards, good for a 4.5 YPC average.
"We ideally would like to get that running game going a little bit more – more touches for Robert because he’s been very good as far as running the football," Gruden said. "We have got to make sure that we get him more involved, maintain the time of possession and stay more balanced."
Beyond a balanced offense, Cousins often throws his best passes off play action. Without a commitment to the run game, the play action passing looks struggle. Usually one of the most accurate quarterbacks in the NFL, Cousins did not play his best against the Cardinals. Some of that was missing throws, and some of it was heavy pressure from the Arizona defensive line.
Regardless of the reason for Cousins' struggles - he completed only 21 of 37 pass attempts - more run plays might have helped the Redskins quarterback get into more of a rythym, not to mention slow down the Arizona pass rush.
In six wins this season, the Redskins have run the ball nearly 28 times per game. In five losses, that number dips to 19 runs per game. The proof is in the numbers.