Redskins coach Jay Gruden: 'We've got to turn up the heat'

ASHBURN, Va. -- Their record suggests they still have a chance in the NFC East. That’s the good news for the Washington Redskins. However, they can’t keep counting on other teams losing to keep them in the divisional race. Which is why they can’t afford more sloppy outings.

The Redskins are 3-5 at the midway point of the season. In some ways that’s to be expected. They weren’t considered a contender before the season began, and they've had lots of injuries.

However, after Sunday’s 27-10 loss to the Patriots, the Redskins are back in a familiar spot: awaiting a home game against the Saints, considered a must-win if they want to enter December with any hopes of the postseason.

“Things are in our grasp, but if we don’t play better, then nothing is in our grasp,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We’ve got to make sure we turn up the heat a little bit, challenge these guys, try to get more out of them. Hopefully we play better because we are in the thick of things as far as the division is concerned.”

The Redskins are a game and a half behind the first-place Giants and one game behind the Eagles. But the real issue isn’t where they stand in the division, it’s getting them to play better in certain areas -- like stopping the run and running the ball.

In the past four games, Washington ranks 31st in yards per carry against (5.34) and dead-last in rushing yards allowed per game (187). That’s 31 more yards per game than any other team in this span. Meanwhile, in the same period they’re averaging an NFL-worst 2.29 yards per carry and 43 rushing yards per game -- that’s 27 fewer yards than any other team, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Offensively, the Redskins rebuilt their line, but that’s also what Gruden says is leading to some inconsistency. They knew there would be growing pains on the right side, where rookie guard Brandon Scherff and second-year man Morgan Moses are new starters. They lost left guard Shawn Lauvao to a season-ending injury in Week 3 and center Kory Lichtensteiger has missed the past three games. Gruden also pointed out that they have a rookie running back (Matt Jones) and a tight end who was acquired via trade in August (Derek Carrier), who is considered more of a pass catcher.

“We aren’t exactly a cohesive unit, a finished product yet,” Gruden said. “We’re going to get to that, but we still have some things we’re going to work out from a youth standpoint, working together, playing together, and they will work on that. I don’t anticipate us being a finished product for a little while, but we’re going to keep grinding and good things will happen.”

It adds up to missed blocks, missed holes and lots of frustration.

“It’s somebody different all the time,” Gruden said. “It might be the center, it might be the left guard, might be the right guard, might be the tight end. Quite frankly, at running back, we’ve got to do a better job if the hole is not there, we’ve got to make one. We’ve got to run through some tackles from time to time. Four weeks in a row we’re not very good and we have to improve.”

The same is true defensively. Gruden said there are “thoughts to everything” when asked if he might consider starting Will Compton ahead of Perry Riley Jr. Compton played in several different packages Sunday, which had been predetermined before the game.

“We like Perry a lot, we like Will a lot,” Gruden said. “They’re both good linebackers.”

But the run defense is not good and there have been issues at linebacker, though the problems are certainly not limited to this area.

”It’s a group effort,” Gruden said. “You can’t put it all on the line although they want to take all of the blame. Can’t put it on the linebackers; they want the blame. The good thing is they feel accountable for it. Sometimes it’s going to get pushed to the safety’s gap or the corner’s gap and he’s got to make a tackle and they don’t make the tackle. It’s a team effort. We’re in the right places, we’ve just got to finish some plays.”

And that would help them to finish strong. It starts Sunday against the Saints.

“They’re all urgent right now,” Gruden said. “There’s no question about it. This is a big game for us.”