Here's five takeaways from Redskins head coach Jay Gruden's Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, press conference at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.:
1. Two Redskins elevated their practice status on Thursday, while two others were held out.
Check out the top images from Washington Redskins' practice on Dec. 18, 2014, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Those whose practice status changed Thursday for the Redskins included:
- Left tackle Trent Williams (shoulder): He was limited in practice on Thursday after not practicing at all on Wednesday.
- Tight end Jordan Reed: He missed Wednesday's practice for the birth of his child, and returned Thursday for a full day of practice.
- Safety Brandon Meriweather (toe): He was limited in practice on Wednesday, but did not practice on Thursday.
- Safety Trenton Robinson: Robinson made his first appearance on the weekly injury report on Thursday after missing practice with an illness.
As it pertains to Meriweather – who did not play last Sunday against the New York Giants, Gruden said "he tried to go yesterday on a limited basis, and he didn't feel right about it. [His toe] was sore. You know, big toes for guys who have to backpedal are really, really, hard."
2. Gruden doesn't care "what is riding" on the game for the Eagles.
Philadelphia is coming into Saturday's game at FedExField with a 9-5 record, a game out of first place in the NFC East. They certainly need to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
But for Gruden, "all we care about is what is riding on us."
"And we need to come out and play a competitive football game and give it everything we've got," he continued. "I want to see the guys
compete and play their tails off, which I believe we will."
Gruden said one of his most important goals on Saturday is to finally get another win in front of the home fans.
"It's a chance for us to come and play a home game in front of our fans and try to right the ship and show what we are made of," he said. "Obviously we have an offense and a defense and a special teams unit that are dying to get out there and show the people that they are good football players. So it's a huge game for us, man."
3. The Redskins won't experiment with younger players at the expense of trying to earn a victory.
Gruden said the No. 1 goal for the rest of the season is still "to win football games," despite the fact there are some younger players on the depth chart that might be champing at the bit to get some more playing time the end out the season.
"I'm not going to pull a veteran out of the lineup because I want to see a young guy play if the veteran deserves to play," Gruden said. "The veterans want to play. They have earned the right to play and they're going to play unless we decide the younger guy is better."
The first-year head coach said, however, that several young players have already played key roles for the Redskins this season, which could be beneficial for the team's depth down the road.
"We've got a lot of young guys who have gotten significant reps, and we have some veteran guys that are still playing and competing and want to win this football game," he said. "I don't care how old you are. I just want the best players out there on the field."
4. The Redskins know all about the Eagles' ability to turn returns into touchdowns.
Already this season, Philadelphia has 10 returns for touchdowns, including a kick return score Week 3 against Washington at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles have been doing it all season in many different ways.
"Special teams – blocked punts, punt returns, kickoff returns. They've got defensive fumbles scoop-scores, interception returns," Gruden said. "They have got touchdowns in a lot of different ways and it's a credit to their effort and their special teams coach and the way they play on special teams."
Gruden joked he didn't know if "it's what they eat or how they sleep" that earns the Eagles more opportunities for touchdown returns.
"I just know that the guys play hard and they are very opportunistic," he said. "When the plays are there to be had, they've made them on those units."
5. Punter Tress Way is among the best at his position in the NFL.
Way, in his first professional season, is only leading the league in punting average (47.9 yards per punt), and has had 18 kicks downed within the opponents' 20-yard line.
"He's been awesome. He's been great," Gruden said. "He's got great hang time. He's been very good, very steady, very accountable, obviously, very dependable."
Way was a late addition to the roster during the preseason, and won the job over Robert Malone. Since then, he's impressed Gruden, special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica and pretty much everyone else that has crossed his path.
"He can pin the teams back and when we're backed up, he changes field position," Gruden said. "That's what you want a punter to do. If you're backed up, you need to try to change the field position, give the cover unit some time to get down there and cover and then when you have a chance to back people up, get them backed up inside the 10 and he does that."