The Seahawks, who have won four straight and lead the NFC West with a 5-2 record, host 3-4 Washington Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field. To learn more about Seattle's Week 9 opponent, we reached out to Redskins.com's Jacob Kring-Schreifels with five questions:
1. Obviously every team deals with injuries, but just how bad have things been Washington of late, particularly on the offensive line? And what will that O-line look like on Sunday?
Things have been bad to the point where head coach Jay Gruden now walks to the podium for his daily press conference and tells reporters to get their pens ready. Wednesday saw 21 players hit the injury list, 10 of whom did not participate in practice and another four who were limited. It's tested the team's depth in a multitude of areas, but none more than the offensive line. Entering last Sunday's game against the Cowboys, the Redskins were without three of their starting offensive linemen. By the time the game finished, they had lost another, plus two tight ends—Jordan Reed and Niles Paul, both of whom are unlikely to play Sunday—putting them in an unprecedented situation this week.
The biggest question mark surrounds left tackle Trent Williams, whose knee injury is prompting him to think about receiving surgery soon and cutting his season short to begin a 6-9 month recovery. He sat out against Dallas and is hoping the extra rest will give him the strength needed to play in a game, though the ramifications could be dangerous. It's unlikely that center Spencer Long will be ready for Sunday, Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Scherff is questionable, and left guard Shawn Lauvao has been ruled out. Scherff did participate in practice Thursday and Friday, which was a good sign. Combined with the noise and atmosphere of CenturyLink Field, quarterback Kirk Cousins will have his work cut out for him as he tries to get a whole group of reserves ready to play together and communicate effectively. How well they perform will likely be the key to Sunday's outcome.
One other injury transaction to note involves safety DeAngelo Hall. The veteran defensive back has a good chance of being activated from the PUP list and play for the first time since Week 3 of last season after the Redskins placed safety Stefan McClure on Injured Reserve.
2. Pete Carroll talked about how much the Seahawks liked Kirk Cousins—in addition to Russell Wilson, obviously—during the draft process. Aside from the physical traits we can see on TV, what is it about Cousins that makes him such a good quarterback?
One of the defining traits of Cousins is his meticulousness. All quarterbacks put in time studying film and preparing each week, but Cousins has developed specific ways that he has approached playing quarterback. He has an organized daily to-do list that blocks out periods of time to help him compartmentalize work life and home life and he's spent more time studying the traits and habits of some of the best quarterbacks in the league—namely Drew Brees and Tom Brady—striving constantly to get better.
His leadership skills have also developed substantially as he's gained more confidence and found more comfort in the offense as the starter over the last three seasons. If you've heard him wired up on any NFL Films highlight package, you'll know Cousins is an extremely positive, occasionally corny, person that loves sharing his personality on the field. For someone that has been playing under one-year deals for the past two seasons, he has handled the uncertainty of his future matter-of-factly, staying in the moment while garnering the respect and trust of his entire team.
3. With Chris Thompson leading the team in rushing and receiving while also handling return duties, how important is he to the team's success?
The Redskins knew exactly what they were doing when they gave Thompson a multi-year contract extension before the season began. A favorite of Gruden's ever since he took over the team in 2014, Thompson saw a limited role during his first four years in the league—a symptom of some injuries—and was mostly used on third downs to pass protect and receive passes out of the backfield.
But 2017 has been his breakout year, and it could be argued that Thompson, despite only seeing about a third of offense's snaps, is the current offensive MVP of the team. He's been extremely important primarily because of the lack of production at the wide receiver position. It is fair to say the Redskins haven't fully recovered from losing Pierre Garçon and DeSean Jackson in the same offseason, and it's also fair to say that the offensive strategy has pivoted, so as to implement their talent at tight end and running back more often.
That's particularly why Thompson has found so much success. Because of the Redskins' versatility, with tight end Vernon Davis looking ageless and persistent threats in Jamison Crowder and Jordan Reed, Thompson has been able to slip under the radar at the line of scrimmage. Cousins likes rolling out on bootlegs and using screen passes, and Thompson, who leads the NFL in receiving yards for running backs with 442, has taken advantage and given the offense a much-needed spark.
4. It looks like Ryan Kerrigan is having another great season. Just how important is he to that defense, particularly given some of the injuries around him?
Considering the defense has experienced its own share of injuries – especially along the defensive line and secondary -- over the last several weeks, Kerrigan has continued to be a crutch as a pass rusher and run fixer. Since he was drafted in 2011, he hasn't missed a game, recently eclipsing 100 straight starts, the longest such streak among active NFL linebackers.
This year he's recorded at least a half sack in six of the team's seven games, including two against the Cowboys last week in sloppy conditions that made pass rushing nearly impossible. He's been particularly valuable over the last couple of games defending the likes of Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott, mobile quarterbacks that will undoubtedly prepare him for another one in Russell Wilson this Sunday.
5. Washington is coming into the game having lost a league-high nine fumbles, how big of a concern are turnovers for this team, especially with the potential for rain Sunday?
Surprisingly, this hasn't been a major topic of concern this season. Crowder, whose chances to play Sunday seem doubtful with a recent hamstring injury, has been shaky returning punts. He has fumbled five times already, which have led to two turnovers, but still has Gruden's confidence. Two fumbles happened in slick conditions last week, products of a helmet-first hit on Thompson during a kick return and backup center Chase Roullier giving Cousins a low snap. In other words, there doesn't appear to be an epidemic or a widespread trend happening except in Crowder's case, something keep an eye on. The Redskins will likely have a better understanding of how to play in the rain after it poured for the majority of last Sunday's contest, but wet conditions, as Seattle fans know, are always capable of making things challenging.
Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Redskins as the two teams ready to face off during Week 9 at CenturyLink Field.