Teammates answer call for Redskins wracked with injuries.
Team misses 29 years of experience
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.”
Washington Redskins linebacker Will Compton has taken on a leadership role this season in a relatively young locker room.