Team­mates an­swer call for Redskins wracked with in­juries.

Team misses 29 years of ex­pe­ri­ence

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY TOMMY CHALK

The Redskins have lost decades of vet­eran lead­er­ship to in­jury this sea­son.

Without DeAn­gelo Hall, out most of the sea­son with a torn ACL, de­fen­sive tackle Cedric Gol­ston, out since Week 2 with a ham­string, and tight end Niles Paul, out since Oct. 30 with a shoul­der in­jury, the Redskins are miss­ing 29 years of NFL ex­pe­ri­ence — in­clud­ing two team cap­tains.

But in their ab­sence, stars like Kirk Cousins, Trent Wil­liams, Ryan Ker­ri­gan and Will Comp­ton have stepped up, tak­ing on lead­er­ship roles on the field and in what is a rel­a­tively young locker room.

“I think we have strong lead­er­ship,” Redskins coach Jay Gru­den said. “It starts with the quar­ter­back. Ob­vi­ously Kirk’s done a great job, Will Comp­ton on de­fense, Trent Wil­liams, Ryan Ker­ri­gan. We have some strong lead­er­ship in the build­ing, and that car­ries over to the young peo­ple.”

Gru­den said the work ethic of play­ers like Cousins and Ker­ri­gan trick­les down to younger play­ers. Guys like rookie Su’a Cravens, who has the build of a safety and plays as a dime line­backer take note. Cravens has been a cru­cial ad­di­tion to the Redskins’ de­fense, and his ab­sence since suf­fer­ing a bi­cep in­jury against the Philadel­phia Ea­gles has been felt. An­other rookie who’s had an im­pact, run­ning back Robert Kel­ley, has bulled his way to a start­ing role in the of­fense, pow­er­ing his way to 671 yards on 156 at­tempts for six touch­downs in eight starts.

Gru­den said the lead­er­ship in the locker room gives the Redskins

con­fi­dence as they pre­pare for Sun­day’s date at FedEx Field with the New York Giants.

The Redskins must win to have a chance at the play­offs, though to get in they will also need out­side help.

To be in con­tention on the last day of the sea­son af­ter an 0-2 start, the crush­ing four-game sus­pen­sion of Wil­liams and a sea­son of in­juries to key con­trib­u­tors, Gru­den cred­its gen­eral man­ager Scot McCloughan for putting to­gether a ros­ter with a good mix of ex­pe­ri­ence and po­ten­tial. Gru­den was a fan of the Donte Whit­ner sign­ing when the Redskins’ safety unit was de­pleted fol­low­ing the Hall in­jury and a David Bru­ton con­cus­sion. He loves the ver­sa­til­ity Cravens brings to the ta­ble. He’s happy with Jor­dan Reed’s pro­duc­tion, a player McCloughan ex­tended. And he’s thrilled with one par­tic­u­lar free agent signee in Josh Nor­man. Gru­den said that he’s no­ticed a change in many of these play­ers since the be­gin­ning of the sea­son.

“I think Jor­dan Reed’s [be­come] more and more of a lead­er­ship-type guy,” Gru­den said. “De­fen­sively, you look at guys like Trent Mur­phy and [Bashaud] Bree­land and Josh Nor­man ob­vi­ously com­ing here has been a big time help. A lot of these guys that have come in here and bought into the sys­tem, and just come in here pre­pared. We’ve had some is­sues here and there, but, for the most part, they get worked out be­fore we go on the prac­tice field and be­fore we play a game.”

Even if they fin­ish out of the play­offs, the Redskins will fin­ish with their first back-to-back win­ning sea­sons for the first time since 1997, un­der then-Redskins coach Norv Turner. That’s lit­tle com­fort for Gru­den, who said he’s grown a lot in his third year as a head coach. If the Redskins don’t make the play­offs, the year will be viewed as a dis­ap­point­ment, he said, es­pe­cially since the Redskins were NFC East champs a year ago. But as he re­flects on the guys he has in his locker room, the guys like Cousins, Ker­ri­gan, Nor­man, Mur­phy and Reed, he can’t help but be con­fi­dent about the fu­ture.

“It’s just been fun to watch [these guys] grow within the pro­gram,” Gru­den said. “I think that’s what’s go­ing to make us suc­cess­ful for a long time.”

“Over­all, it’s been a good group.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Wash­ing­ton Redskins line­backer Will Comp­ton has taken on a lead­er­ship role this sea­son in a rel­a­tively young locker room.

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