Jay Gruden was like how many opposing coaches have been lately prior to a game against the Seattle Seahawks.
He couldn’t sleep.
So Washington’s first-year head coach got out of bed at 2 a.m. Thursday and drove to Redskins headquarters in Ashburn, Virginia. That’s when and where he resumed working on trying to beat Seattle.
“Now I’m regretting that,” Gruden said at noon Eastern Time Thursday.
He said he was so exhausted by midday, that the couch in his office he says isn’t very comfortable was looking very inviting.
It also could have been because he’s been looking at more tape than anyone else in America this week of the Super Bowl champion Seahawks (2-1) that his Redskins (1-3) host Monday night in Landover, Maryland.
Asked where against the Seahawks’ defense his Redskins might find success, Gruden said: “I don't know. I don’t think anybody’s found it yet.”
Washington’s coach and offensive architect then chuckled. They weren’t ha-ha-funny chuckles. They were the man-why-it-have-to-be-me kind.
“I put their defense on the board today, and I talked about their key players. And I said, ‘You know, I could probably put about 18 names up here,’ ” Gruden said.
As he noted — during one of the more engaging opposing-coach teleconferences the NFL puts on before each game — the NFL’s No. 1 pass defense last season is now taking away opposing running games, too. Seattle has allowed Green Bay, San Diego and Denver an average of 2.8 yards per carry this season. That’s the stingiest defense per running play in the NFL right now.
Some of that is because of the Packers staying in shotgun and hurry-up passing sets while falling behind in the first half of the opener. And because the Broncos largely abandoned the run after trailing 17-3 at Seattle in the Seahawks’ last game on Sept. 21.
But a lot of it has to do with defensive end Michael Bennett. He has been one of Seattle’s standouts so far this season, more of an every-down defensive lineman stout against the run while speedy in pass rushing. And it’s because middle linebacker Bobby Wagner has had double digits in tackles in each of the three games.
It’s also because strong safety Kam Chancellor is back crowding the line of scrimmage and pounding ball carriers — now that he has new, mid-cut game shoes to comfort bone spurs in his ankles that almost led him to have surgery last month.
“You think if they play great pass defense you should be able to run the ball on them,” Gruden said, going back into his Lou Holtz, how-are-we-ever-going-to-
beat-these-guys talk. “But they play these eight-man fronts. Chancellor’s great in run support, obviously. And then their defensive line is playing good against the run.
“They really don’t have a weakness. … They really is not one area where you say, ‘Well, let’s attack here.’ They are sound in everything they do. I am very impressed with them.
“But that is not going to stop us. We are going to take our shots and roll, and do what we do.”
Washington may provide the sternest test yet to Seattle’s increasingly stingy run defense. The Redskins have a shifty inside runner in Alfred Morris, who gained 2,888 yards rushing in the previous two seasons. And Gruden is as committed to zone-block running as Seattle is with Marshawn Lynch. Morris is sixth in the NFL at 79 yards rushing per game, one place and one yard ahead of Lynch.
So Gruden’s Redskins aren’t as likely to go all pass, all the time Monday with fill-in quarterback Kirk Cousins. At least not as quickly as Green Bay, Denver — and to a lesser extent San Diego in the Seahawks’ loss to the Chargers on Sept. 14 — have against Seattle.
Wagner and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll both say these Redskins have a similar offense to the team Seattle rallied from 14-0 down to beat 24-14 two seasons ago in the NFC divisional playoffs. That’s even with the more-stationary Cousins starting for injured run-and-pass threat Robert Griffin III.
“Of course, I’m not expecting Cousins to run as much as RGIII,” Wagner said before the Seahawks’ practice Thursday. “But at the same time, that could be something that they put in because we are not expecting it.
“He can throw. And he’s going to want to play better than he did last week.”
That’s for sure.
After completing 30 of 48 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns in a narrow loss at the Philadelphia Eagles the week before, Cousins threw four interceptions and lost a fumble last week. Six turnovers overall, 11 penalties and the offense going 1-for-8 on third downs resulted in Washington’s 45-14 home loss to the New York Giants.
“The biggest thing with him now: he can’t be gun shy.” said Gruden, who called that defeat “kind of an embarrassing one.”
“That’s my big fear, when you throw four picks you feel like, ‘Oh, God! I let the whole city of D.C. down and I let the whole team down and now I’m afraid to pull the trigger!’ I just got to hammer it in his head that it’s a new day, each play is its own entity and he just has to recover from it.”
Wagner said the way Cousins and the Redskins got waxed last week may make Monday more of a challenge for Seattle, which is 10-1 in primetime games under Carroll.
“We understand, being the Super Bowl champions, that we are going to (get) everyone’s best shots,” Wagner said. “When you put together a bad game on top of the fact they are playing the Super Bowl champions next, everyone’s going to be fired up.
“And,” he said, “it’s Monday night.”