ASHBURN, Va. — Give credit to the Washington Redskins, what's left of them anyway.
The NFC East leaders — by just one game after last Sunday's 38-14 thrashing from the Atlanta Falcons — seem to be adopting a sort of gallows humor as they try to regroup after losing not only ground in the standings, but three offensive starters to season-ending injuries.
"It's a tough week as far as that kind of news. You don't want to see anyone go down long-term like that," quarterback Alex Smith told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday after a walkthrough. "Tough. I think you're better just compartmentalizing it, can't worry about all that stuff. Can't try to make up for it.
"It's one of those things — you're gonna be laughing or crying — how do you choose to view it? It's such a tough break. … Laugh or cry, you gotta keep moving."
Washington's methodical offense, ranked 25th in the NFL and heavily reliant on the Adrian Peterson-fueled ground game, will be without starting guards Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral) and Shawn Lauvao (torn anterior cruciate ligament) the rest of the way. Speedy receiver Paul Richardson is also on the shelf, requiring surgery on an injured shoulder.
But the O-line is the main concern. Among the 13 players on Wednesday's injury report were starting tackles Trent Williams (thumb) and Morgan Moses (knee).
The Redskins went into scramble mode Monday, signing veteran linemen Luke Bowanko, Jonathan Cooper and Austin Howard to fill the open roster spots. Rookie tackle Geron Christian is another option. Asked if it was too early to project a front five for the upcoming contest at Tampa Bay, Washington coach Jay Gruden seemed to restrain a smirk.
"Yes," he said in a clipped response. "It is. Quite early."
Gruden conducted the walkthrough in order to get his new players more mental reps as they get familiarized with the plays and teammates. He said a walkthrough provides roughly 80 reps while a standard Wednesday practice typically provides about 35.
Moses and Bowanko started next to each other at the University of Virginia before going pro in 2014 and could provide some element of instant chemistry on and off the field. Bowanko was surrounded by reporters in the locker room when Moses ambled over to crash his interview.
"Just telling them how handsome you are," Bowanko quipped.
Moses walked away grinning.
Gruden seemed hopeful Moses could return against the Bucs while signalling Cooper, a sixth-year journeyman, will likely plug in at left guard.
"Just a matter of hitting the ground running, getting in that playbook, staying in the film room, staying after (practice) on the field and just trying to get as much done as quickly as possible," said Howard, who has started 88 NFL games, of the crash course.
The Redskins even seemed to get a little sympathy from the Buccaneers — if only a little.
"I think the closest thing is when I was in Atlanta one year, we lost three O-linemen in a game and we played the whole fourth quarter with a tight end at right tackle. I think that's every coach's worst nightmare, especially on game day where you only have 46 guys up and usually only seven O-linemen," said Tampa Bay coach Dirk Koetter. "That's crazy as an offensive coach, I've been in their shoes and it's not fun.
"I think the kind of guys that they signed — guys that are veteran players who have started at other places. I've seen it done before and I think based on who you are signing and what kind of experience they have, it can definitely be done. Not ideal, but it can be done."
With three straight contests against division foes beginning in Week 12, the Redskins sure hope so.
Follow Nate Davis on Twitter @ByNateDavis
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