ASHBURN, Va. -- Five questions facing the Washington Redskins as they hit the bye week:
Who will be healthy after the bye week?
Tough to say because some players have been sidelined a while, like receiver DeSean Jackson. He was supposed to be back in three-to-four weeks and he's already missed five games. So you'd think he'd be back. Ryan Kerrigan likely will play, but he'll meet with his surgeon next week to determine his fate. The Redskins need their corners to get healthy as their top three are sidelined. There's some optimism around the possibility that Chris Culliver and DeAngelo Hall would return. But neither has even been limited in practice for a couple weeks. Breeland's injury is trickier and they probably won't have a good idea on him until midway through next week. Center Kory Lichtensteiger remains hopeful about his possible return after the bye week.
It's a popular question because Morris' production has plummeted. But Jones needs to still show that he's capable of being the starter. It helps that he can also be a pass threat (he picked up blitzes well, too, vs. Tampa Bay). But Jones still needs to show more patience as a runner -- he's quick to bounce it outside. There were a couple runs Sunday that, had he been more patient, would have resulted in better gains. That's why, for now, it could remain a split role. Morris must be more productive, but Jones has a few things he still needs to learn.
Has Kirk Cousins turned a corner?
Tough to say that he has -- and we won't know for a few games. He's led two game-winning drives at home, which is terrific. But he must avoid the next-game-out-stinker syndrome. The Atlanta game was an inconsistent one -- he had completed 10 passes in a row before the interception; the Jets game was bad. Redskins coach Jay Gruden said it perfect on Monday: Cousins has shown flashes, but they need consistency. Nothing wrong with what he said and it's the truth. That's what the final nine games will be about (in part at least). I do think Cousins has shown enough to his teammates -- from on-field flashes to off-field approach -- that they understand what the Redskins are doing with him. Yes, it will be tough for him to perhaps play well vs. New England. But if you want to be a quality starter in this league, that's what you must do.
What's been the most surprising part about the first seven games?
That they're even 3-4 given the number of starters who have missed games to injuries. Entering last weekend, the Redskins were second in the NFL in missed starts by injured players. Before the season, what would you have thought if: The Redskins had struggled to run; struggled to stop the run; lost DeSean Jackson for most of the season and their starting corners were in and out? There are few people who would have predicted 3-4 given those facts. No, they're not suddenly contenders but they have shown some fight. I'm not predicting some big finish, but if they ever get healthy, they could at least have a little more fun than in recent seasons.
Can they fix the defense?
This has been one of the more disappointing developments. Not that this is a top-10 group; they're not. They need another starting safety and another quality edge rusher (Junior Galette). They've had some injuries. But there's too much inconsistent play vs. the run and some of that is just following your assignment and fitting into the right gap. Teams have exploited the Redskins against the run and that won't end until they stop it. There aren't many changes to be made, though Will Compton is close behind Perry Riley, Jr. -- but not close enough to bump him as a starter.