SEATTLE – If the Washington Redskins handle the crowd noise here well, they can partially thank one band: Guns N' Roses.
That was among the selections they played at practice this week in preparation for what is considered the NFL’s loudest venue. Folks in Kansas City might argue that distinction and there might not be a big difference anyway. The Redskins already played at Kansas City and handled the noise just fine, despite losing on a late field goal.
On Thursday, the Redskins practiced outdoors, using music during team drills – a time when they typically would have silence. They moved indoors Friday to create an even louder environment when using music.
“They played a little Guns N’ Roses,” coach Jay Gruden said. “They didn’t play any country for me or anything exciting, but it was all right.”
He prefers music rather than recordings of crowd noise.
“I don’t like the crowd noise thing,” he said. “It always sounds like static and hurts everybody’s ears so the music is good enough just to go with the process of the cadence and all that stuff.”
The issue will be having a new left side of the line. In some cases they’re just inexperienced – center Chase Roullier will make his second start in place of Spencer Long. Regardless of who starts at left guard he’ll be inexperienced: Arie Kouandjio, who worked there this week, has played 142 snaps in his first three seasons; Tyler Catalina was an undrafted rookie who started in place of right guard Brandon Scherff last week. T.J. Clemmings is experienced with 31 career starts but struggled vs. Dallas last week – in part because of a lack of familiarity with those around him, but also due to his own techniques at other times.
All of that could lead to issues working in sync thanks to the noise. Roullier played at Wyoming but had road games at places such as Nebraska, Texas and Oregon. He understands how to communicate protection calls in loud venues.
Left tackle Trent Williams, listed as doubtful, said if players are prepared – and, if they’re new, spent extra time working together during the week – they can overcome the noise.
“It makes everyone focus in because it takes away one of your senses, which is being able to hear somebody,” Williams said. “You focus in and pay more attention and you’re on screws a little more on the road than at home. ... It brings out the best in you. You don’t want to get embarrassed.”
Sprinkle's size can help Redskins
Rookie tight end Jeremy Sprinkle’s role obviously will increase with Jordan Reed (hamstring) and Niles Paul (concussion) sidelined this week. The Redskins kept Sprinkle on the active roster before the season more because of what he could do in the future than what he showed in camp. Also, at 6-foot-6 and approximately 260 pounds he offers size the Redskins didn’t have at the position. But he’s also had to adjust to blocking at an NFL level.
“It’s a little different as far as footwork I take on certain blocks, whether to take a long step or a short step and the way you influence guys on certain blocks. Technical things,” he said.
The coaches have stressed to him how critical technique is in the NFL. They don’t all reach this level by using great technique.
“They’ve done it the way they’ve done it,” Redskins tight ends coach Wes Phillips said. “Then they start to realize that these are great athletes and they’re using technique so I better be on point with that.”
Also, he’s asked to move differently on certain blocks than he was in college, from the angle he must take to the footwork. In camp, it was evident Sprinkle had a ways to go. He’d lose blocks, sometimes because of leverage or the way he stepped – or didn’t step.
“We’re trying to change habits and that takes time,” Phillips said. “But mentally he’s sharp. He knows all the tight end positions. ... I keep telling him how long he is and how big he is. He just has to understand. He’s a large man. He’s 265 pounds and he can get movement on guys and he can come off and strike people and they will move. Not all these guys get movement.”
He’s a different receiving threat than the other tight ends, too. He’s not going to shake a linebacker the way Reed might or run past them like Davis does. But the Redskins hope that his size makes a big difference here, too.
“Guys can’t play through him and get to the ball,” Phillips said. “He’s like a wall you try to get around to get a hand on the ball.”
I spy something mobile
The Redskins have had plenty of work vs. mobile quarterbacks this season, having faced Alex Smith, Carson Wentz (twice) and Dak Prescott. Each time they predominantly used a linebacker to spy the quarterback; more of the same is expected vs. Russell Wilson. One player, when asked about this strategy, simply pointed to linebacker Zach Brown and said, “When you have that guy ... ” Yes, Browns’ speed helps here. Wilson is shiftier than the other quarterbacks they’ve faced so Brown’s athleticism will be a factor, too, when Wilson decides to run.
“He’s like Houdini when he gets out of that stuff,” Gruden said of Wilson, “and every coach that has ever played against him says you have got to contain him, you have got to keep him in the pocket and nobody ever does. So he will get outside the pocket. We just have got to minimize the damages when he does.”
Don't worry, be happy
The Redskins might be a walking-wounded team, but they’re not walking around feeling defeated. Players privately expressed confidence in what they could do Sunday vs. Seattle, with one veteran proclaiming people will be surprised by what they see. So they’ve remained upbeat – just like their coach.
In Gruden’s first year, he walked around with a hang-dog look after losing linebacker Junior Galette to an Achilles injury shortly before the 2014 season began. Now? He’s taking the injuries in stride. Clearly, no coach would be happy about all the health issues, but Gruden hasn’t looked or sounded defeated.
“I’m just a happy guy. I am going to stay upbeat and I have got a great group of guys who are all paying attention and practicing hard,” he said. “The guys are going to be given a great opportunity. ... We’ve got great leaders in here still available to us. They are going to have to carry the way, pave the way for us. We’re in good shape.”