By Kevin Ross II
The timing of this season’s bye week is impeccable if you ask the Washington Redskins. They’re able to let the magical feeling of last week’s comeback win settle in, but more importantly they get healthy for the World Champion New England Patriots.
“I think the big thing for the players is to get their bodies healthy,” said Gruden. “I want to get them physically and mentally healthy, get some time off, spend it with their families, but really come back focused on New England.”
The Redskins will be a heavy underdog when they travel to Gillette Stadium to play the Patriots. New England seems to be in Super Bowl-like form, as they are unbeaten and hoping for another undefeated season. However, the key to beating New England remains the same. You must apply pressure to Tom Brady like the New York Giants did in both Super Bowls wins against the Patriots. Like any quarterback, if Brady is under pressure, his play suffers, and New England is susceptible to taking a loss.
Right now the Redskins are ranked 30th in sacks with an abysmal eight sacks for the season. To put things in perspective, the Seahawks lead the league with 31 sacks. Which means that if Washington is to have a chance against New England, then their pass rush is going to have to improve to say the least.
Coach Jay Gruden, Joe Barry, and the defensive coaching staff will use this bye week to figure out how to garner a better pass rush. But Jay Gruden is adamant that if the team improves fundamentally they’ll be ok.
“Well, we had some good pass rush. I think we missed three or four sack opportunities,” said Gruden. “Again, when we get back there we’ve got to wrap the quarterback up. I think Ricky Jean [Francois] missed a couple, Trent [Murphy] missed one. We missed a couple the week before. [Jason] Hatcher missed one the week before. These guys are rushing hard. I think we have the people in here that can rush, we’ve just got to do a better job of finishing plays with a sack or the forced fumble. We’re just going to keep working with them. Trent and Preston and obviously [Jackson] Jeffcoat will have to step up their game. On the inside, you’ve got [Stephen] Paea, you’ve got Hatcher, you’ve got Ricky Jean. We’ve got to make sure he gets going and let these guys go.”
Even if the Redskins are able to get pressure on Brady, they will need to score more than the 21 points per game that they are averaging so far. And to do this, the team is hoping that they will have DeSean Jackson’s help for the first time since Week 1.
Coach Gruden was asked to elaborate if he had a timetable for Jackson’s return and said, “I don’t like to project and guess. I just want to see these guys get with the trainers and progress at their rate that they’re going to progress, but expectation-wise, I have high hopes for the majority of them, really, other than the ones that are on IR, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Kevin Ross is a freelance writer covering all things Washington Redskins. His work can be found on Examiner.com.