Mistake-prone Redskins are uneasy with McVay Rams up next
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By STEPHEN WHYNO
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Looking around at all the problems in their Week 1 loss, the Washington Redskins know they're not in the preseason anymore.
Exhibition sluggishness could be excused, but not now.
The Redskins have good reason to be a little uneasy after three turnovers by quarterback Kirk Cousins, porous offensive-line play, an almost nonexistent running game combined with missed tackles and familiarly bad third-down defense on Sunday against Philadelphia. Even usually optimistic coach Jay Gruden was critical of several aspects of his team Monday before turning his attention to facing former offensive coordinator Sean McVay's Los Angeles Rams.
"I am not up here to bash any individual," Gruden said. "We know that as an offense that we have to play better. Line has to play better, tight ends have to play better, backs have to play better, our receivers have to play a lot better, our quarterback has to play better."
Taking over the play-calling from McVay, Gruden must establish Robert Kelley and the run game more than he did against the Eagles, when Washington attempted to pass on 72 percent of its offensive snaps. It would certainly help if tackles Trent Williams and Morgan Moses are 100 percent after ankle injuries, but even Gruden was surprised at how much the offensive line struggled.
"Unfortunately it was a combination of everybody," he said. "It's not like each individual played terribly. It's just they all had mistakes or poor protection things at inopportune times. They will work at it. They will get better and they have to."
When Cousins is tied as the leading rusher with 30 yards on four carries, it's not a good sign. Kelley averaged 3 yards on his 10 tries.
The necessary next step is to make L.A. defensive coordinator Wade Phillips' defense respect the run, which should help Cousins, who acknowledged he needs to be more accurate.
"Our offense is always going to hum along at a much more efficient rate when we're running the ball well and we can keep the defenses unaware if it's going to be a run, pass, or a play action," Cousins said after he was 23 of 40 with an interception, two fumbles and four sacks. "If you can honor the run, then you can hopefully open up some windows in the pass game."
McVay knows all about the Redskins' strengths on offense, which makes Gruden's job even more difficult as he tries to integrate Terrelle Pryor and second-year receiver Josh Doctson into the offense better. Doctson wasn't targeted once during his 20 snaps in the opener, and Gruden said the 2016 first-round pick has to earn his playing time.
The Redskins need Doctson to produce, but he's not among their most glaring problems. Allowing Philadelphia to convert on 8 of its 14 third-down attempts is a continuation from last season, when Washington was worst in the NFL in that category, but at least Gruden has singled out specific concerns already this year.
"We have to get better with our four-man rushes ... (and) we have to get better with our blitzes," Gruden said. "We have to tackle the quarterback when we have him in the grasp. We had four sacks, and we let him go."
Cornerback Josh Norman said after the loss that the Redskins are "not hitting the panic button." Of course after seeing McVay's Rams beat up on the Indianapolis Colts 46-9, Gruden expects Sunday to be a significant challenge.
"They've got enough weapons they can hurt you," Gruden said. "We have a good idea of what (McVay) likes to do, but you just don't know when he's going to do it."
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Updated September 11, 2017