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Redskins talk: Les Carpenter, Washington Post

Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) takes the hand off from quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) during the first half of an NFL football game New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Washington Redskins running back Adrian Peterson (26) takes the hand off from quarterback Mark Sanchez (6) during the first half of an NFL football game New York Giants, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2018, in Landover, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

JACKSONVILLE – senior writer John Oehser each week during the 2018 regular season will speak with a writer or media member covering the Jaguars' opponent.

Up this week:

Washington Post Redskins writer Les Carpenter on the Redskins' matchup with the Jaguars at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville Sunday at 1 p.m.

Question: The Redskins (6-7) have lost four consecutive games since leading the NFC East with 6-3 record, a slide that has them on the cusp of being out of the playoff chase. Not at all where the Redskins thought they would be a month and a half ago …

Answer: Six weeks ago, they were on top of the division. They were talking playoffs: "Did you think they would play Minnesota and [former Redskins quarterback] Kirk Cousins again?" They were thinking if there was a first-round matchup, who would they play at home? Now, everybody's talking about who's going to get fired. It literally has come to that. The bottom has dropped out completely. It's not the fault maybe of anyone; just a lot of really unfortunate injuries. It's a disaster right now.

Q: Injuries at quarterback aren't the only reason, but first Alex Smith, then Colt McCoy out for the season. It's tough to overcome that.

A: Alex Smith was a big part of why they had been so good. His numbers weren't huge, but he had brought real good leadership. He really brought stability to that team (after being acquired in an offseason trade with Kansas City). They had been unstable for so many years that it was kind of nice to have somebody who didn't get rattled in the bad moment. There's a lot there that they lost. Now, you're on your fourth quarterback, literally picking up a guy (Josh Johnson) who was playing pickup basketball a week ago. It's not like at this point you're even competitive.

Q: Where have they been hurt the worst outside quarterback?

A: Guard – and offensive line as a whole. They're on their third guard at each guard spot, and one of the guys who was lost – Brandon Scherff – was a very high-level player on the left side. With Trent Williams at left tackle they were a formidable line – especially on that side. Now, you have guys who have come off the street who are starting. You're starting them with a quarterback who's off the street. It's hard to get any kind of continuity. They've had to throw away a lot of the playbook.

Q: How good were they before all this hit?

A: They were a really solid offense. When things got going and they could build a lead, they could really ride [running back] Adrian Peterson for a good 100 yards a game. He had a lot of really good, solid games. They were able to control the ball. They have a very good punter, Tress Way, who was able to pin opponents down deep in their zone. Then you're essentially playing a ball-control, time-control game with a really solid defense. The other thing that really has happened is the defense has fallen apart, too.

Q: Is that because the offense just hasn't been able to do anything?

A: I think some of it is that. Players have talked about the defense is being forced to be out there too long, but I think overall the defense is just worn down. They have some very good young defensive players up front – defensive end Jonathan Allen, nose tackle Daron Payne, defensive end Matt Ioannidis. It's a very solid front three, but those guys were playing almost every down. I think they wore down once the offense wasn't able to keep up any longer. They were forced to be out here over and over and over again. I think the injury to Alex Smith and some of the injuries on offense have the defense in a tough position as well.

Q:Is there a formula for the Redskins to win right now?

A: It's hard to say. They were a team that could control the ball, but now you're essentially down to third-string guards so it's hard to run the ball. You can't really control the ball much on offense when your quarterback is brand new. Now, they're looking at more injuries. It's safe to say their star tight end, Jordan Reed, may not play this week and may not play the rest of the season. Then, the defense has been worn down so much. I suppose there's a formula if the defense can finally get back to the way it was playing before – play the gaps better, tackle better, take better angles when running backs break open … They could probably hold teams down a little and maybe generate enough points. If there's a bright spot it's that Josh Johnson, who had not thrown a pass since 2011, did look awfully good against the [New York] Giants when he came in Sunday in the second half. It was 40-0 when he came in, but he did look OK. So, maybe there's something there. He's mobile. So, maybe they can get something going that way.

Q:How safe is Redskins leadership going forward?

A:Well, you have an owner (Dan Snyder) that has fired people before. Jay Gruden is the longest-tenured Redskins head coach of the Snyder era. It's his fifth season. He only has one playoff appearance, although the past two years are probably not his fault with some of the injuries. So, there are questions there. There are probably some questions with Bruce Allen, the team president, given the way the organization the fans have stayed away this year. And even if those guys are intact, I think you have to look on the defensive side. It started off well, but it has fallen apart so much I would say defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is also facing questions about his job.

Q:How real are the concerns about the fans?

A: It's real. It was probably a little overstated to say there had been this long sellout streak. Anyone who went to games at FedEx Field probably looked around and said, "Ah, I'm not sure this is a sellout today." But at least you saw people in the cheaper seats you would think needed to be sold. Club seats didn't always get sold, but now there are just huge gaps of empty seats. It's nothing like what it used to be. The fans have stayed away in droves.

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