Redskins are unraveling amid four-game losing streak
By STEPHEN WHYNO
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) The Washington Redskins have lost four in a row, are down to their fourth quarterback and are mired in criticism from several players.
A once-promising season has gone off the rails thanks to injuries on the offense and blown assignments and missed tackles on defense. The finger-pointing is well underway on a team that has fallen to 6-7 and there is plenty of blame to go around.
Defensive backs Josh Norman and D.J. Swearinger were outspoken after the latest loss, linebacker Mason Foster vented his frustration in a private social media message that came to light and it's becoming clear there's a disconnect between players and coaches. While the 2017 season could be written off for injuries, everyone from team President Bruce Allen to coach Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky could be in danger of losing his job.
"If anyone's going to have to take the fall, it's going to have to be all of us - everyone in this building," tight end Vernon Davis said Wednesday. "Everyone is just going to have to take accountability for it."
Gruden said his "job is in jeopardy every week," so his focus is getting the team ready to face Jacksonville on Sunday. He and some players were quick to point out Washington is only a half-game out of a playoff spot, so the season is far from over.
That itself is remarkable.
The Redskins' defense that ranked first in the NFL early in the season is now 20th, Alex Smith and Colt McCoy each suffered broken right legs and quarterback Josh Johnson is making his first start since 2011. Injuries have again played a role in this freefall, which points to personnel decisions made Allen, Gruden, senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams and the rest of the front office.
And even though he got an extension through 2020, Gruden is the eighth coach to work under owner Dan Snyder and is on the hot seat after just one playoff appearance in his first four seasons.
"Sometimes it's hard not to think about it because of course you're going to get asked about it," said running back Chris Thompson, who expressed his support for Gruden and the rest of the coaching staff. "I really don't want to think about that too much. We got three more games to go and at this point anything could happen and then the decisions that are made upstairs, we can't really control that stuff."
The Redskins can control their practice habits, an area Swearinger has been critical of the past two seasons. He has raised questions about the team's lack of preparation, a problem that has bubbled up and caused inconsistency.
"I can't tell you what needs to be changed. I ain't the coach," Swearinger said after a 40-16 loss to the Giants on Sunday. "We ain't executing. We ain't getting the job done. That's the answer they want me to give."
Norman said he wasn't going to blame the injury-ravaged offense or make excuses for the four-game skid. And it's impossible to pinpoint one source of all the losing.
"There's a lot of things when you're talking about losing a football game," Gruden said. "If we had it narrowed down to one thing, we'd fix it and be OK. Sometimes it's defense, sometimes it's offense, sometimes it's special teams, sometimes it's coaching. It's a combination. So it's a matter of all of us having to step up in some key players' absences and playing better and we haven't done that."
Foster cursing the team and its fan base in a private message on Instagram was just the latest development in a quickly unraveling season. Gruden and Foster's teammates brushed it off, citing the veteran's contributions on the field.
The bigger problem is the defense as a whole isn't getting the job done.
"I know for me personally the wear and tear and the grind of the season, mentally you start to just lose a little bit of focus and it's natural," defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. "It's a long season, so naturally you're going to fall off in certain areas, and that's the goal to not fall off."
Beating the Jaguars and getting help around the league could put the Redskins in position to still challenge for a playoff spot. In the midst of all the frustration, veteran running back Adrian Peterson wants everyone to realize the season isn't over.
"We're only half a game out," Peterson said. "When they show the playoff picture on ESPN, we're there."
NOTES: TE Jordan Reed (right foot/ankle), WR Josh Doctson (concussion protocol) and DL Matt Ioannidis (shin) were among the players who didn't practice Wednesday. ... Gruden shortened practice to under 90 minutes amid his team's injuries.
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Updated December 12, 2018