Redskins, Cowboys fight to keep in sight of Eagles
LANDOVER, Md. -- At the rate they are going, the Washington Redskins probably won't run out of healthy players for at least a few more weeks.
Problem is, they have 10 games remaining.
Coming off a Monday night loss to the Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) that crippled their offensive line and likely killed their chances to win the NFC East, the Redskins (3-3) host the Dallas Cowboys (3-3) in the first of their 2017 matchups.
The winner will remain within shouting distance of the Eagles, while the loser might need to focus on the wild card.
Washington saw three offensive linemen injured against the Eagles. Left tackle Trent Williams aggravated his right knee, right tackle Morgan Moses sprained both ankles and right guard Brandon Scherff suffered a knee sprain. Center Spencer Long (knee) is also hurting.
With 13 players limited or worse, the Redskins didn't even practice Wednesday, opting instead for a walk-through. Moses was listed as limited, while the other three offensive linemen were held out. Williams' backup, Ty Nsekhe (core muscle) is also hurt.
"It's an expectation throughout the season that you're going to have to reach into your depth," quarterback Kirk Cousins told the Washington Times. "Maybe not as much as we've had to at tackle and some of our other positions, but you do expect it to happen at some point. A lot of teams deal with that."
On Wednesday, the Redskins moved to bolster that depth, signing offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who was released by the Ravens on Monday. He can play guard or center.
Washington also has a rash of injuries on defense, but might get cornerback Josh Norman (rib) back against Dez Bryant and company.
Dallas has its own injury issue with kicker Dan Bailey (groin injury) out for several weeks. Fully replacing Bailey (the most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 89.9 percent career field-goal percentage) is unlikely, but Dallas signed veteran kicker Mike Nugent, who spent the last seven seasons with the Bengals.
"You want a guy who is reliable," coach Jason Garrett said. "It's really important at that position you have a guy you can trust and count on. You want that throughout your whole team at every position, but that's a very valuable position."
The Cowboys will have running back Ezekiel Elliott on Sunday. Elliott has a court date Monday regarding his six-game suspension.
"I'm looking forward to Sunday," Elliott told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, downplaying the hearing.
Dallas is rolling on offense. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday's rout of the San Francisco 49ers. It was the third straight game for him with three touchdowns passes.
Elliott had his best game of the season with 147 yards and two touchdowns, and the Cowboys rushed 43 times for 265 yards as a team.
"I think that's what our offense should look like," Elliott told the Star-Telegram. "I think we took what we did three weeks ago (against the Green Bay Packers) before the bye and we added on to that. We've got some momentum, so we'll try to keep that rolling."
Washington's offense ranks eighth in the NFL, averaging 369.2 yards per game, but all is not well.
Free-agent wide receiver Terrelle Pryor, Sr. was benched for much of the Eagles game in favor of second-year pass catcher Josh Doctson, who caught three passes. Pryor has only 18 receptions, second among wide receivers behind Jamison Crowder (19). Tight end Jordan Reed leads the team with 26 and running back Chris Thompson has 23.
"We can't have everybody out there all the time; you can only have 11 out there," Gruden told The Washington Post. "And really, some of our best offensive stuff comes out of two tight-end sets and one back (or) three-tight end sets and one back. ... So it's going to be hard to get everybody the ball and keep everybody happy."
The Redskins' defense, ranked 12th in the NFL in yards per game, has allowed 87 points in the last three games, two of them losses. They continue to have trouble getting off the field, allowing a 39.4 percent third-down conversion rate. The Cowboys' offense meanwhile is converting 45.3 percent of its third downs, fifth best in the league.
The Dallas defense is also struggling on third down, ranked 26th, while the Redskins offense is ranked 17th in third down efficiency.
Dallas is allowing 23.5 points per game, 11th-worst in the league, while Washington is tied for seventh-worst (24.5).
The Cowboys have won four of five versus Washington, including both meetings last season. Dallas has won four straight at FedEx Field.
Against common opponents, the Cowboys routed the 49ers 40-10 one week after San Francisco lost 26-24 at Washington. The Redskins defeated the Rams in Los Angeles, while the Cowboys lost to them at home.