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Gruden likes resilience he’s seen from Redskins

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ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins are tied for second place in the NFC East and just a game behind the division lead.

But the way they arrived at that point entering their bye week still leaves plenty of questions. The Redskins have been crippled by injuries. Their running game has disappeared. Quarterback Kirk Cousins’ play has wildly fluctuated from game to game. A defensive front that was stout early in the season has begun to struggle.

After winning seven games total over two seasons, a 3-4 record is still a nice start. But can the Redskins sustain it? They return to action Nov. 8 with a game against the New England Patriots.

“I like to see the progress that we’re making. I like to see the attitude the players have,” Washington head coach Jay Gruden said. “I like to see the resilience – the ability to come from behind, to not let the outside forces get in the way of their production. I think we’ve got a long way to go, obviously, but I think there is progress being made.”

The Redskins have plummeted to 26th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game (128.4) as teams have started attacking the edges and avoided running up the middle, where nose tackle Terrance Knighton has made an immediate impact.

A even bigger concern has been the absence of DeAngelo Hall (toe) and Chris Culliver (left hamstring), the team’s top two cornerbacks, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (left hamstring), who hasn’t played since the first quarter of the season opener against Miami.

Without Jackson and tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) for two games, the offense struggled in losses to Atlanta and the New York Jets. But Cousins was brilliant in a 24-point comeback win over Tampa Bay last week. Now, the Redskins need to see sustained progress. It hasn’t happened yet this year.

“I don’t hit the panic button when things go bad and I don’t feel like we’ve got it all figured out when we win,” Cousins said. “It’s a step in the process. It’s Week 7. We’ve got a long way to go.”

The bye week should give the Redskins a chance to regain something close to full health – though that may not be possible anyway for a team with nine players on injured reserve and lost for the season, including four starters.

But there is some optimism that Hall and Culliver will return to the practice field next week and could play at New England. That is also true for Jackson, who returned to practice two weeks ago before a setback. Even linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who fractured his right hand against Tampa Bay, could play against the Patriots. He meets with his surgeon early next week.

One lingering concern is cornerback Bashaud Breeland (hamstring), who was hurt late in the game chasing down Buccaneers running back Doug Martin near the goal line – a huge play after Tampa Bay was held to a field goal, allowing the Redskins to score the game-winning touchdown.

“The way the NFC East is right now, we still have a long way to go. There’s no clear leaders in the division,” linebacker Keenan Robinson said. “The bye week comes at a great time because of the (Tampa Bay) win and the way we get time now for our bodies to recharge and refocus.”

–When general manager Scot McCloughan was hired, the emphasis was on his ability to find productive players in the draft. That’s quickly become apparent in Washington.

Wide receiver Jamison Crowder was a fourth-round pick from Duke, a smaller wide receiver at 5-foot-8. He has 30 receptions over the last five games, including a huge 18-yard catch on a wheel route near the goal line that set up Sunday’s game-winning touchdown.

First-round pick Brandon Scherff has been solid at right guard. Second-round pick Preston Smith hasn’t yet wrestled the starting right outside linebacker job away from Trent Murphy, but he’s playing plenty. And third-round pick Matt Jones (249 rushing yards) is pushing starter Alfred Morris and been excellent in pass protection.

The biggest surprise has been sixth-round pick Kyshoen Jarrett, a safety who has been forced to play slot cornerback because of injuries. He struggled against Tampa Bay, but for the most part has held up well.

“To be able to come in and learn both safety spots as a rookie isn’t easy,” Gruden said. “Then, to get thrown in there at nickel, at a spot he’s never played, I think just talks about what type of football player (Jarrett) is.”


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