Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden needs to reshuffle his lineup.
Time to sit Jamison Crowder as the punt returner after three fumbles this season. Give Mack Brown a shot as the main running back after Rob Kelley’s return from injury was awful. And get ready for a new top receiver as Terrelle Pryor is now benched for Josh Doctson.
And that’s probably just the start as injuries are also eroding the defense.
The Redskins (3-3) are probably out of the NFC East race after a convincing 34-24 loss to front-running Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) on Monday. The Eagles must collapse for the Redskins to pull ahead.
But, Washington is still a potential wild card in the NFC where Green Bay (4-3) has lost quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Carolina (4-3) has been outscored this season overall. There are plenty of teams in the race and no reason why the Redskins can’t be one.
But Gruden needs to make some midseason changes that coaches are often loathed to do. Crowder is averaging only 5.8 yards per punt return, which is 3.1 yards less than opponents and 6.3 yards less than he produced last year. Even worse are the momentum-changing fumbles. Maybe Crowder is overtaxed at receiver this season, but the Redskins need someone else on special teams.
Kelley is a two-yards per carry runner no matter that his season average is 4.1 yards. Kelley opened with a six-yard run against Philadelphia, then gained 10 yards on seven carries. Despite Gruden’s surprising commitment to it, the Redskins ground game is mostly Chris Thompson’s pop as an occasional runner. Samaje Perine showed he’s not an every-down runner in two games replacing Kelley. After all, Perine was drafted to be a short-yardage banger. That leaves Brown to prove he’s can be the regular before the Redskins go offseason shopping for a back once more.
Meanwhile, major free-agent acquisition Pryor has been a bust over six games and benched by Gruden against the Eagles. Oh, he caught two balls for 14 yards in the second half, but the second was during garbage time. Clearly, Pryor is not the playmaker expected and luckily is signed for only one season.
Come March, Pryor will likely sign elsewhere and just blame Gruden for not using him effectively when instead it’s the receiver who hasn’t made tough plays. The Redskins are giving Doctson another chance to prove himself once more and three catches versus Philadelphia was a start.
Maybe Gruden will reboot come Sunday against Dallas. After all, the trio is just the next wave of changes that come steadily to this franchise.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.