On Thursday, the Washington Redskins will start a center signed a month ago and a left guard who joined them a few days later. Their most experienced running back is a rookie with two starts — and he’s backed up by two players who joined Washington a week ago.
Tight end Jordan Reed will be sidelined for a fourth straight game with a hamstring injury, and left tackle Trent Williams will try to play a third consecutive game with a bone bruise in his knee, which also has ligament damage.
And that’s how the Redskins enter Thursday’s game against the New York Giants. It’s not just about getting over a difficult loss to New Orleans; it’s also about cobbling together a lineup that can work Thursday and for the rest of the season.
“In game one of the preseason, guys are more prepared than the guys we have now,” head coach Jay Gruden said. “But they’re smart kids and can handle it. We still have enough good players in the building. It’s hard to win when they’re healthy and even harder when you’re not. We still have a full core of receivers. We still have Vernon Davis and Niles Paul and good offensive linemen and Kirk [Cousins] and Samaje [Perine]. On offense we’ll be fine. On defense we’ve been taking some hits people aren’t talking about.”
Washington has placed 15 players on injured reserve this season, including four this week. One of the four is their most dangerous running back, Chris Thompson.
Veteran Tony Bergstrom will start at center Thursday because Spencer Long, the original starter, was placed on injured reserve this week, and his backup, Chase Roullier, broke his hand Sunday. Bergstrom was signed Oct. 25, but that gives him more time here this season than guard Arie Kouandjio, signed off Buffalo’s practice squad on Oct. 28. At least Kouandjio spent the past two years with Washington before he was released this past summer.
Kouandjio is expected to start, but if he does, that could mean Williams isn’t available. If Williams can play, the Redskins could use their backup tackle, Ty Nsekhe, at guard as they did Sunday.
Gruden said the Redskins will have “seven or eight” game-time decisions. They have 11 players listed as questionable.
“We’re just trying to play out all scenarios,” Gruden said. “There’s quite a few.”
The defense has its share of issues, too, as starting end Terrell McClain won’t play. The Redskins already have two inside linebackers — Mason Foster and his replacement, Will Compton — on injured reserve. Both current inside linebackers, Zach Brown (Achilles) and Martrell Spaight (ankle), are listed as questionable. Brown has played with this injury the past two games; if Spaight can’t play, they’d likely start Zach Vigil — whom they signed last week.
It adds up to a long week trying to craft a game plan.
“Does it look like I’ve slept a lot?” Gruden said. “We have to figure it out. We have a base foundation of a core offense that we can go to that everybody’s comfortable doing. It’s just a matter of how many new wrinkles you can put in. That’s the hard part. You want to do something different for each coordinator you face. That can be a little bit tougher with all the new players.”