The bye week often serves as a time of self-reflection for teams. It gives coaches and players the opportunity to look at their body of work from the season and identify what they like about it, and what they don’t.
This year the Redskins were scheduled for a Week 4 bye, the earliest a team can have one. While most players want a later bye because it gives them a chance to get healthy for the playoff push, Week 4 might be a good time for the Redskins offense to get a rest.
Head coach Jay Gruden told reporters Monday that starting left tackle Trent Williams underwent a minor surgery on Monday to clean up his knee, an injury he has been playing through since the start of the season. Starting left guard Shawn Luavao missed Sunday’s game against Green Bay with a calf injury, and starting right tackle Morgan Moses left the game with a concussion in the first quarter. Starting running back Adrian Peterson is also dealing with an ankle injury he sustained against Green Bay.
All of those players should be back in time for the Redskins' next game in New Orleans, other than Lauvao, whose timetable might keep him out a little longer.
"It’s good for us now. Brandon [Scherff] needs the bye week, obviously Trent [Williams] needs the bye week, Morgan [Moses] needs the bye week. We’re a little bit beat up on the offensive line. Shawn Lauvao needs the bye week. Obviously, AP needs the bye week, so offensively it really came at a pretty good time,” Gruden said. “Defensively I think we probably could have used it a little bit later, but we’re in good shape right now on defense, but offensively it came at a good time."
The defense is healthy and rolling, as they’ve given the offense an opportunity to win in each of the Redskins' first three games. Through Week 3, the Redskins rank second in the NFL in points allowed per game at 14.7, and second in the league in yards per game at 278.0. They’ve also picked off opposing quarterbacks three times, and collected seven sacks through three games.
In their latest feat, the defense held the Aaron Rodgers-led Packers offense to 17 points. In games Rodgers has started and finished, Green Bay hasn’t been held to 17 points since Week 1 of last season.
Linebacker Mason Foster said Sunday’s performance isn’t an outlier for the Redskins defense.
“Every game is going to be a dog fight, but especially ones like this where Rodgers is gonna throw the ball, smoke the ball to receivers. There’s going to be open space, you gotta be running, gang tackling,” Foster said. “I kept saying ‘Swarm,’ all week and guys did it, we did it in practice. It was big time, big win and it shows the character and resilience of this team.”
Looking back to their Week 2 loss to the Colts, interpreting the defense’s performance starts to get a little more convoluted. On the one hand, they got picked apart by quarterback Andrew Luck and the Colts passing game -- literally. The Colts ran a number of pick plays out of bunch formations, utilizing rub routes to create space for receivers to get loose and pick up first downs. This was a big reason the Colts hung 21 points on them and came out of FedExField with a win.
On the other hand, they took the ball away from the Colts two times - both on D.J. Swearinger Sr. interceptions - and only allowed 281 total yards with an average gain of 4.7 yards per play, numbers that don’t look too bad in a vacuum.
Couple that all with a drubbing of a struggling Arizona Cardinals team and you have an impressive start to the defense through the first three games. The competition only gets tougher going forward.
The Redskins' first three opponents have averaged 16.7 points-per-game this season, but their next three, New Orleans, Carolina and Dallas have averaged 24.0. With no major injuries to their starters, and with the defense rolling on a hot streak, it’s understandable why Swearinger Sr. wants to keep up the intensity during an early rest week.
“This bye week, we need to be grinding. We need to take care of our bodies but we definitely need to be grinding,” Swearinger Sr. said. “Next couple days we need to find some New Orleans film, watch the film, and we should be more than ready to beat New Orleans. Not just play them, but beat them. We’ve got two weeks, they have one.”
The Saints have been involved in two shootouts this season. In Week 1 they were upset 48-40 by a Ryan Fitzpatrick-led Buccaneers team in a match that saw over 1,000 yards of total offense. In Week 3 they won an overtime thriller against Atlanta 43-37, another game with ridiculous offensive output. Limiting the Saints passing game will be a focus for Washington, but it’s not an easy assignment.
Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara have both been weapons in the passing game, stretching the field and hauling in a combined per-game average of almost 23 receptions a game for 229 yards.
The closest the Redskins have seen to a running back who has as much of an impact in the passing game as Kamara would be David Johnson, who has been ineffective this year on a Cardinals offense that hasn’t shown a pulse through three weeks. The matchup with Kamara will be a different story, and it will be interesting to see how the Redskins try to limit his catch-and-run ability while also keep tabs on Thomas.
Gruden said the bye week will give them a good opportunity to figure out their own tendencies and prepare for their upcoming opponents, even though it comes early in the season.
"We have three good games, especially for self-scout that is a good time to get that done,” Gruden said. “Also start to get some work on New Orleans and Carolina because Carolina will be a short week, so maybe we get a little ahead on Carolina. We have a lot of work to do, make sure we keep in touch with our trainer and make sure that these guys are progressing like we think and getting ready for the game and address personnel if we need to.”