Jay Gruden says Redskins improving but still providing 'gray hairs'

Kirk Cousins fired four touchdown passes in a blowout win over the Saints. What can he do against the Panthers? Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

ASHBURN, Va. – The pattern continues to repeat itself: A big win precedes a crushing loss and, after that, another defeat. The Washington Redskins beat the St. Louis Rams only to get crushed four days later in New York. They beat Philadelphia on a late drive and lose two in a row. They rally to beat Tampa Bay only to play poorly the following week at New England.

They’re consistent at being, well, inconsistent.

“I am getting some gray hairs, that’s for sure,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “We haven’t been the most consistent team throughout the season.”

That’s an understatement. With the Carolina Panthers up next, it’ll be tough to gain that consistency. However, they could at least play a consistent game even in a loss. Against New England, for example, they were strong underdogs but did not help their cause with at least seven drops and poor tackling. Had they done well in both categories, they would have been in the game. Instead, they lost by 17.

Against New Orleans, they were dominant on offense against a bad defense. But the Redskins’ defense held an explosive offense to 14 points.

Gruden said it’s a growth process. They’re learning to come from behind or how to play with a lead. What they need is to win consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 19-27 last season. And that was the first time they’d done so since the end of the 2012 season.

“We talk about adversity and bouncing back from tough times through not only the season but in a game, in a quarter,” Gruden said. “It’s very important for our guys to have that tough mindset and be resilient. They’ve shown that so far, but we’re still 4-5 with a long way to go to reach our goals.”

But he’s optimistic about what he’s seen. Last week, they had their best week of practice and it carried over into the game.

“You can see the growth, at least I can. You can feel it. You can feel the confidence just breaking the huddle,” Gruden said. “You can see that they feel like they’re going somewhere every time they break the huddle. Defensively, to have success against an offense like New Orleans says a lot about their confidence and their resilience coming back from a tough loss against New England and a couple bad performances giving up a lot of rushing yards. They bounced back and had a good day.”

The Redskins know they’re not a finished product, which is why Gruden focuses as much on building a mindset as much as anything. It was needed – and it has improved. How many wins that leads to remains to be seen.

“Like I said, there’s a lot of things that we can view as progress that aren’t viewed as wins and losses, really,” Gruden said. “The accountability factor – how they come into meetings, how they work out in the weight room, how they practice – there’s a lot of things that we see positive progress in this building, really. The wins will come more obviously with the way we’re working. Hopefully they’ll come, but 4-5 is obviously not where we want to be but it’s where we are. We have a great stretch of seven games here that are going to be very, very meaningful and very important for these guys and they’re excited about it.”