Ailing Redskins limp into Tampa Bay
The NFC East-leading Redskins (5-3) were shellacked 38-14 by the Atlanta Falcons at home last Sunday. On Monday, they put three offensive starters on season-ending injured reserve: outside receiver Paul Richardson (shoulder) and guards Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral muscle) and Shawn Lauvau (torn ACL).
In addition, left tackle Trent Williams (thumb), and third-down back Chris Thompson (rib/knee) are probably out at least another week, and the status of wide receiver Jamison Crowder (ankle) and starting tackle Morgan Moses (knee) is uncertain for Sunday.
"The big thing I think is on the road, crowd noise, against a good D-line. I think those things, all the calls, all the communication that has to take place -- run, pass, third down," quarterback Alex Smith said regarding the challenge of integrating new players on offense. "All the different looks, the thousands and thousands of reps that we've had, you try to condense into a few days to get ready."
The Redskins' offense hasn't topped the 20-point mark in the past three games. Washington is 25th in the NFL with an average of 343.9 yards gained per game despite ranking 10th in rushing.
While injuries have hindered the passing game, Smith has struggled as well, producing a passer rating of 89.8 that would be his lowest since 2013. While Tampa Bay's Ryan Fitzpatrick leads the NFL with 9.75 yards per attempt, Smith is 28th at 6.81.
Smith should improve those numbers Sunday's against the NFL's 29th-ranked defense, which is giving up 414.3 yards and an NFL-worst 34.4 points per game.
The Redskins have been front-runners thus far, never trailing in their victories nor leading in their defeats.
"Yeah, you can probably count on one hand how many comeback wins we've had since I've been here, and that's something that we have to do a better job of and just keep grinding," fifth-year Washington head coach Jay Gruden said. "It's just a mindset really."
The Buccaneers (3-5) remain on the fringes of the playoff race.
Fitzpatrick earned another start after he completed 24 of 40 passes for 243 yards and four touchdowns last week against the Carolina Panthers. He rallied the Buccaneers from a 35-7 deficit to make it 35-28 in the fourth quarter, but threw costly interceptions in the first and fourth quarters in a game Tampa Bay wound up losing 42-28.
Despite the Redskins' dud last week vs. Atlanta, Washington's defense is still ranked 10th in the NFL, allowing 343.5 yards per game, and just 89.4 on the ground, resulting in 21.5 points per game.
"You look at all of it and they look pretty darn good to me," Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said of the Redskins' defense. "Again, the score is the score from last week's game, but these guys look really good on defense to me. I think they are top 10 in the league in like five defensive categories."
Tampa Bay is generating 446.8 yards per game (2nd in the NFL). But leading rusher Peyton Barber is averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, so the burden Sunday will fall to Fitzpatrick and his receiving corps, including Mike Evans and former Redskin DeSean Jackson.
Jackson has averaged just 50 yards over the past four games, three of them losses, but he said he was frustrated with the team's recent results and not his role.
"It's just knowing what's in this locker room, knowing the players we have all across the board, and knowing how talented it can be," Jackson told reporters. "It did show early on. That's the frustration."
Evans (knee), Barber (ankle) and tackle Demar Dotson (knee/shoulder) were limited in practice Thursday, while defensive end Vinny Curry (ankle), running back Ronald Jones (hamstring) and cornerback M.J. Stewart (foot) sat out.
--Field Level Media
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