by Rick Snider

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden gets a new puzzle each week. But instead of starting with the corners, he creates a new scene instead.

Gruden unsuccessfully tried the deep game in the opening loss to Philadelphia. He returned to a run-dominant scheme for only the 14th time in 50 games to beat the Los Angeles Rams. Now Gruden needs something in between when facing the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

Like getting Mack Brown out of storage.

Running back Robert Kelley has a painful rib injury that even with a protective vest and cortisone shot leaves him diminished. And frankly, 80 percent of Kelley isn’t good enough. Samaje Perine played well for his first extended chance, but he’s not the one to break open games. No, that’s Chris Thompson, but Gruden limits the small back’s touches for fear of injury.

If the Redskins are to upset the Raiders, they need big plays. While Gruden may cough when saying “fade” to reporters, his offense has choked on the play too often to rely on it. The medium-range passes quarterback Kirk Cousins thrives on will now see the Raiders filling those lanes without fear Terrelle Pryor, Sr. can beat them downfield. And whether tight end Jordan Reed can also endure repeated hits with a sprained SC joint is doubtful. That painful injury makes Kelley’s rib look like a scraped knee.

Gruden’s return to play calling after two years by former offensive coordinator Sean McVay is forcing the head coach to create a different offense each week. While coaches do that to some degree normally, most rely more on forcing defenses to stop what the offense does well before using alternatives.

But Brown could be Gruden’s stumper against the Raiders. The second-year back only ran eight times for 82 yards last season, including a 61-yard touchdown. Brown has that burst of speed at the line that is more like Thompson than Kelley. He can surprise the Raiders even if given just a half-dozen touches.

Gruden needs to be creative against Oakland. Expect plenty of different looks.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.


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