- The Washington Times
Monday, September 24, 2018

ASHBURN — Depending what side of the ball you look at, the bye week is coming at either exactly the right or the wrong time for the Washington Redskins.

The offense, for example, will use this time to heal after Sunday’s 31-17 upset over the Green Bay Packers — with Trent Williams, Morgan Moses, Brandon Scherff and Adrian Peterson all banged up. The defense, however, isn’t ready take a break, not after dismantling Aaron Rodgers all afternoon.

“Early in the season, you don’t really want to take too much time off because we’re right into a stretch,” safety D.J. Swearinger said. “You kind of just want to stay on point, stay active.”

It’s fitting, with a team as up or down as the Redskins, that even the bye week would be a debate.

After three games, it’s not easy getting an accurate read on the Redskins.

They are 2-1, and are somehow they seem as likely to lay an egg as to smack another team in the mouth.

Identity crisis? Just give it time, says coach Jay Gruden.

“I know we are talented,” Gruden said Monday. “We are going to have to play extremely hard to win every week. Every team has their talent, but I feel good about where we are with skill. … I think it’s just — continue to jell. It’s a process of getting guys to play together and communicate together.”

There are signs this team is a contender. Alex Smith, the team’s prized acquisition, has been as advertised — using his intellect to extend plays and displaying an impressive accuracy. Peterson, too, has been an unexpected boost, and the defense has been solidly consistent through three games.

And there are signs this team is a pretender. The Redskins have yet to score a touchdown in the second half. And in their two victories, Washington has been able to dictate the flow of the game because they jumped out to a lead. What happens when they trail, as they did against Indianapolis?

Swearinger said work ethic is the key to determining which team the Redskins really are.

“We can’t get complacent,” Swearinger said. “Complacency should never be in this building. It should always be hard work. It should always be grind, grind, grind. This bye week, we need to be grinding.”

When the Redskins return next week, they face a loaded schedule.

First up is a prime-time Monday night matchup on the road with the New Orleans Saints. Then a short turnaround to face the Carolina Panthers before dates with two division opponents, the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.

And that’s just October.

The Redskins look to be better than a year ago, when they also started 2-1.

But health will be a factor. At the moment, the Redskins are dealing with a number of short-term injuries. Williams underwent a minor knee procedure Monday, but is expected to be ready for New Orleans. Peterson (ankle) and cornerback Josh Norman (hamstring) should be fine.

The Redskins want to prove they are a different team this year.

Against the Packers, they did just that. Even as the offense stalled after halftime, the defense kept Rodgers and the Packers from coming back.

The defense may even be the type of unit that can carry a game.

“We want to take the ball away and give our offense chances,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “The weapons we have on offense, we’ve got to keep continuing to take the ball away. … That’s what we want to be. That’s the defense we’re trying to be, we’re working to be.

“The way guys are focused, I believe that we can be that.”

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