As Rob Kelley began feeling some pain in his sprained right ankle, he thought about all the injuries his teammates were playing through.
”Everyone hurts,” Kelley said. ”So what are you going to do, keep playing or keep whining?”
Kelley and the Washington Redskins have played through plenty of pain in recent weeks, so banged up that they didn’t have 46 healthy players to make active at Seattle. But after surviving being without four-fifths of their starting offensive line in an emotional 17-14 victory against the Seahawks, their top priority is returning to as close to full health as possible with the NFC North-leading Minnesota Vikings coming to town on Sunday.
Left tackle Trent Williams continues to try to tolerate pain in his right knee, left guard Shawn Lauvao is improving with his stinger, center Spencer Long will test his sprained knee in individual drills this week and Brandon Scherff will increase his workload as he works back from a left knee injury.
Considering a line of T.J. Clemmings, Arie Kouandjio, Chase Roullier, Tyler Catalina and Morgan Moses played in the Seahawks game, the Redskins are feeling pretty good about their potential at 4-4.
”It shows that we can play in this league and we are just as good as anybody else,” Kelley said. ”Just imagine what we can do when those guys get healthy.”
Coach Jay Gruden believes his team ”showed flashes” early in the season. Washington ran all over the now 6-2 Los Angeles Rams on the road in Week 2 and followed that up by crushing the Oakland Raiders at home.
Then the injuries piled up, from Kelley’s ankle and the problems along the offensive line to cornerback Josh Norman’s broken rib, rookie defensive lineman Jonathan Allen’s Lisfranc sprain in his left foot, kicker Dustin Hopkins’ hip strain and tight end Jordan Reed’s and wide receiver Jamison Crowder’s hamstring strains. Gruden said Reed and Crowder are improving and tight end Vernon Davis should be OK after bruising a hand.
Newly signed defensive lineman Arthur Jones’ shoulder dislocation could cause him to miss some time, and wide receiver Brian Quick is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. But getting back to normal along the offensive line should do wonders.
”We’re hoping that some of them come back,” Gruden said on a conference call Monday. ”It would be great to get at least one back, maybe two, maybe three would be outstanding. And I know when they are all back and healthy, we’re a little bit better offense than we are without them, that’s for sure.”
The Redskins rushed for a total of 100 yards over the past two weeks behind a patchwork offensive line, and quarterback Kirk Cousins had no choice but to move around the pocket and get rid of the ball quickly. He did so in such a way that he engineered a game-winning, four-play, 70-yard drive without two of his most reliable passing targets.
If Reed and Crowder can play against Minnesota, it will help, but Gruden’s first priority is getting back to what worked well on the ground earlier in the season.
Third down back Chris Thompson has been Washington’s best offensive player, though Gruden knows he has to mix in rookie Samaje Perine with some carries.
”We need to have more success running the ball,” Gruden said. ”Hopefully the touches will come later on down the season when the weather gets worse and worse and worse and we’ll get some of our guys back offensively.”
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