The Redskins' early clinch puts them into the interesting and perhaps enviable position of resting players against the Cowboys. The potential benefit is obvious, but sitting starters, even those with various aches, bumps and bruises could stall momentum for a team riding a season-high three-game winning streak. During a conference call with reporters one day after the 38-24 win over the Eagles, head coach Jay Gruden was asked if he has considered how long starters would play Sunday:
“You know, not yet. I haven’t gotten the injury report yet, you know, they players had a day off today. They were going to come in and try to go in here with their injuries, but that’s going to be the biggest thing. We have to dress 46 obviously, and seven guys will be inactive and the injuries will be a major part of that, but the guys that play, they have every intent of trying to win this football game. It’s a big game for us to keep our momentum, but we also have to be smart about the guys that are a little bit [inaudible] and get them well for the playoffs.”
We'll take Gruden at his word regarding trying to win the game even if just for momentum's sake. A loss itself isn't a disaster as long as those playing do so with the purpose and poise needed eventually for the postseason.
Before pondering who might sit, here's what Gruden said about whether there's an argument for resting quarterback Kirk Cousins even though he's not injured. "There’s arguments for that, yes, but we’ll have to wait and see and talk about it as a staff and see where the injury report stands with Kirk and see how he’s feeling," the coach said. "But I think he is pretty injury free, but if he is injury free, a lot will depend on who’s playing around him, and go from there. We’ll make a decision on that, yeah.”
If the plan is to rest key players who are truly banged up, left tackle Trent Williams won't take the field against the Cowboys. Williams missed a game early this season with an injury and he's battled foot and ankle pain down the stretch. He's the most indispensable player on the roster and Washington will need him regardless of its opening round opponent. Green Bay, Minnesota and Seattle all rank top half of the league in sacks.
Here's where the interesting domino effect could take place. If Williams sits, can the Redskins risk exposing Cousins? Ty Nsekhe, who has looked decent in recent/limited snaps, would play left tackle. Considering the ongoing issues with the middle of the line, Washington might be better off going with Colt McCoy. The middle ground approach could be to treat this like the first or second preseason game: Play Cousins the first 2-3 series and then put him on the bench. Hopefully the offense continues the recent trend of strong starts and all can feel comfortable heading into the playoffs.
Other starters or key contributors who would be potential options for rest include:
* Safety Dashon Goldson, who played every defensive snap Saturday despite dealing with a cracked rib
* 32-year-old safety DeAngelo Hall suffered a calf injury in the win
Maybe it's because I'm a worrier by nature, but I'd side on resting players if possible. The Redskins still have four viable receivers if Jackson sits. No Reed gives Hamm, plus newcomers Alex Smith and Jensen a chance for real reps. Kerrigan, Washington's top pass rusher, Hall and Williams can put their feet up. Same for Hatcher, though only five can rest assuming Riley (ankle surgery) and RGIII remain inactive.
Kearse and Kouandijo, only active for three games this season, seems likely to join the active roster. Even if Williams stays up, good chance Gruden gives rest to another lineman. Perhaps the truly interesting scenario is LeRibeus, who continually struggles with snap counts and protection, sits and Washington gets a closer look at center Brian De La Puente just in case Kory Lichtensteiger's expected return for the playoffs doesn't happen.
One more point. Even if the Redskins start McCoy, Cousins likely remains active. There are $16.5 million reasons why.
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