By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) – Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins leads the
NFL with eight interceptions. He had three in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s
loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Cousins and his ineptitude to protect the football begs the question on when
franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III will return from a dislocated ankle.
That won’t happen when the Redskins return home Sunday to host the Tennessee
Titans at FedEx Field.
Redskins first-year head coach Jay Gruden said Griffin will partake in
practice drills as soon as this week to knock some rust off.
“We’ll get him out there, do some individual drills, maybe throw some balls to
the wideouts,” Gruden said. “(Practice drills) will be the first step, and
then obviously next week we’ll try to get him maybe into practice situations
and see where he is.”
Griffin went down in the team’s only win of the season, a Week 2 defeat of the
lowly Jacksonville Jaguars.
But for now the Redskins have to ride the wave of Cousins, whose three
interceptions in the fourth quarter of a 30-20 loss were coupled with a fumble
by wide receiver and former Cardinal Andre Roberts. The Redskins were trying
to string together a big drive at the end, but Rashad Johnson stepped in front
of a Cousins pass and picked it off, returning it 28 yards for a touchdown.
Cousins completed 24-of-38 passes for 354 yards with two touchdowns and the
three late interceptions. He has four career 300-yard passing games, including
two this season, and four multi-touchdown games since taking over for RG3.
“We were just unable to convert and make plays,” Gruden said afterward. “It’s
a broken record every time I stand up here.”
The Redskins have lost four in a row since that win over the Jaguars and
Gruden still has confidence this team can turn it around.
“For whatever reason, we are just not getting it done at this point but
tomorrow is a new day and we will try to beat the Titans,” Gruden said.
Washington is last in the NFC East, but at least it got tight end Jordan Reed
(hamstring) back in the lineup. Reed caught eight passes for 92 yards and saw
his first action since a Week 1 loss at Houston. Reed was bothered by an ankle
injury and is focused on moving on to the Tennessee game.
“After a loss, you always got to just keep moving forward and go to next
week,” Reed said. “And that’s what I plan on doing … just keep moving
Unlike the Redskins, Tennessee was able to halt a four-game losing streak with
Sunday’s thrilling 16-14 victory over the winless Jaguars.
The Jaguars were lined up for a potential game-winning field goal, but Titans
nose tackle Sammie Hill got a hand on Josh Scobee’s 55-yard attempt and
celebrated the victory.
“There is no feeling in the world right now that I can say makes me feel good,
or any better, than just getting the win today,” Hill said. “Forget the block.
Just win. That’s the biggest part for me. I don’t care how we did it as long
as we did.”
Tennessee was coming off a tough 29-28 loss to the Cleveland Browns the week
before and tasted victory for the first time since Week 1 against the Kansas
City Chiefs. Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey had two of the team’s six
sacks, but there was one defender who wasn’t happy afterward.
Titans safety Michael Griffin botched an onside kick attempt by Jacksonville
and it would have set up a kneel down for a win. Instead, the Jaguars got in
position for a game-winning field goal and Hill bailed out Griffin, who leads
the team in tackles.
“We’ve been making excuses all season,” Griffin said. “There’s no excuses. It
was on me. I need to make those plays. I almost cost my team the game. I’m
glad for the win for the team, but for myself that’s not good enough.”
The Titans did not commit a turnover for the second consecutive game and
quarterback Charlie Whitehurst was forced under center for the injured Jake
Locker. Locker was inactive with a right thumb injury and Whitehurst completed
17 of his 28 attempts for 233 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
It was Whitehurst’s second start of the season for Locker, whose status for
Sunday against the Redskins is unknown.
“When you ask Jake, he says it is getting better,” Titans first-year head
coach Ken Whisenhunt told the Tennessean. “It is really going to come down to
when he can grip the ball and throw it and not have issues.”
Locker was limited in practice on Wednesday and is still trying to get
strength back into the hand.
Whitehurst said he feels comfortable and confident about taking the snaps for
another game if Locker isn’t fully ready. Rookie Zach Mettenberger was the
second quarterback against the Jaguars.
“We brought Charlie in here with the idea that if he had to play he could do
that,” Whisenhunt said. “We knew his familiarity with the offense would help
that and we feel like he’s performed how he’s supposed to in those roles.”
Rookie tackle and first-round pick Taylor Lewan cracked the lineup and the
line gave up three sacks and too many hits on Whitehurst. Tennessee will have
to defend Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan, who has seven sacks in past four
games at home. He has 6 1/2 on the season.
The Titans’ line contributed to just 70 yards rushing, as rookie running back
Bishop Sankey ran for 61 yards on 18 carries. Whisenhunt hopes the offensive
line can become more cohesive because they, according to the coach, haven’t
“been together very long.” He said it’s a work in progress and Lewan became
the latest face to be inserted up front with Michael Roos nursing a knee
injury. It takes continuity and experience for a line to jell.
“We’ve got the right pieces in place. We’ve got to get time and continue to
improve together,” Whisenhunt said.
Tennessee leads the overall series with Washington, 6-5, but lost the last
meeting by a 19-16 score in overtime on Nov. 21, 2010. The Redskins haven’t
beaten the Titans’ franchise at home since a 16-13 triumph over the Houston
Oilers on Nov. 3, 1991.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Redskins have struggled running the football this season. They are 23rd
with just 99.3 yards per game, a far cry from last season. In 2013, Alfred
Morris and the Redskins were fifth in rushing with 135.2 yards per game.
Morris was sixth with 1,275 yards and is currently 16th with 386. He hasn’t
hit the 100-yard mark yet and hasn’t scored a touchdown in the past two games.
Morris ran for 41 yards on 13 carries in the loss to Arizona and Gruden said
Washington’s issues come from more than one area.
“It is a little smorgasbord of things that we have to work on and improve on,
it is not one area,” Gruden said. “It is the quarterback, it’s the running
game, it’s the pass protection, it’s the wideouts and their blocking, it’s the
defensive line pass rush, it’s the coverage, it’s the linebackers, it’s the
special teams, it’s a little bit of everything.”
Washington’s secondary came out of Sunday’s game banged up, as cornerback
David Amerson left with what appeared to be a concussion. Amerson will go
through the league-mandated concussion protocol to see if he can play Sunday.
Chase Minnifield and E.J. Biggers could be thrust into action.
Safety Brandon Meriweather also left Sunday’s game to be monitored for
concussion-like symptoms but was able to come back. Meriweather is third on
the team with 31 tackles. Safety Ryan Clark is bothered by an ankle sprain
and is expected to be limited in practice for a second straight week. Clark
had seven tackles against the Cardinals.
DeAngelo Hall is already done for the season with a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
Tennessee has two dangerous pass catchers in tight end Delanie Walker and wide
receiver Kendall Wright. Walker leads the team with 29 catches for 421 yards
and is tied with Wright with three TD receptions. Wright has 26 catches.
The Titans will try to pressure Cousins up front with Casey, who leads the
team with four sacks on the season. Casey suffered a foot injury and it
shouldn’t cause him to miss Sunday’s game.
“Jurrell Casey up front is as good of an interior defensive lineman as there
is. He’s very, very disruptive. That’ll be a challenge for us,” Cousins said.
“On the back end, they’ve got a great safety, Michael Griffin. They’ve got
players, they’ve got playmakers. We’ve got to really have good attention to
detail and have great preparation this week to have a chance on Sunday.”
Linebackers Shaun Phillips and Kamerion Wimbley have been able to disrupt
opposing quarterbacks at times this season.
While it’s still up in the air who will start Sunday’s game at quarterback for
the Titans, the Redskins hope a legendary QB can inspire their current one
when Mark Rypien is inducted as the 46th member of the team’s Ring Of Fame.
Rypien won a Super Bowl with the ‘Skins in the early 1990s and could be a
mentor to a struggling Cousins. Cousins has been plagued by turnovers in
recent weeks and needs to read defenses better until Griffin is ready to
return. Cousins said he wants the team in good hands when he passes it off to
RG3, but so far things haven’t gone as planned.
Maybe it’s Rypien returning for a personal honor or the threat of Griffin’s
pending return that will ignite Cousins and the offense. He already has
established a solid rapport with DeSean Jackson and just needs the run game to
get it going again. Tennessee is allowing 127.7 rushing yards this season.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Redskins 27, Titans 23