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Adrian Peterson, Defense Must Return As Strengths For Redskins


Adrian Peterson did not have a November to remember. Neither did the Redskins defense.

As Washington has dropped three of its last four games, the Redskins have regressed in two areas that were crucial to their success: running the ball and shutting down opposing teams.

With the Redskins gearing up for next Monday's pivotal game at Philadelphia and the offense still adjusting to Colt McCoy under center, Washington is looking to re-establish its identity as a team that can dominate in the trenches.

Lately, that hasn't happened.

"When you look at the players on paper, I think we feel good about competing with anybody," coach Jay Gruden said. "Now we've just got to go out and execute and play hard and play smart. I think we've got to go back to playing very smart football. … We've got to be honed in because if you're not, you'll get taken advantage of."

This month, Peterson rushed for just 3.05 yards per carry on 56 attempts — his worst since joining the Redskins. In last week's loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Peterson had 12 carries for 35 yards.

So what's the difference? Gruden pointed to the season-ending injuries to guards Shawn Lauvao and Brandon Scherff, both of whom were hurt in a Nov. 4 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. But he added the Redskins could do a lot better, which includes sticking with the run.

In losses this year, Peterson has averaged 10.4 carries, compared to a whopping 21.8 attempts in wins. The Redskins often abandon the run when they fall behind early.

But that brings up another question: can Peterson handle the workload this late into the season?

Less than two weeks ago, Peterson told reporters he felt "amazing" and healthy after dealing with injuries in the first half of the season. But the 33-year-old suffered another shoulder injury against Dallas.

"I'm not saying he was poor running the ball, but I don't think he was quite himself and [he] is quite a dominant player over the course of his career and I think he'd probably agree with that," Gruden said. "We have to do a better job of trying to get some more holes for him."

As for the defense, safety D.J. Swearinger blasted his team for failing to execute "the simple [expletive]." Against Dallas, receiver Amari Cooper broke free for two long touchdowns after Redskins missed tackles.

Over the last four games, the Redskins have given up 429 yards per outing — 135.5 of which has come on the ground. Washington's run defense has fallen off drastically, and Ezekiel Elliott became the first running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards against the Redskins.

Swearinger said the last two losses can be pinned solely on the defense.

"You gotta do the simple things right," Swearinger told reporters in Dallas. "If you don't do the simple things right, you gonna get embarrassed on national TV."

The Redskins will get a chance to redeem themselves in prime time, given the Eagles matchup will be on "Monday Night Football."

Gruden said the more the defense is challenged, the more they'll respond.

"We've given up some uncharacteristic long runs which we will get corrected," Gruden said. "We have to in order to have a chance to win our division because we know how important the last five games are.

"It always comes down to who can run the ball and who can stop the run and we've done a good job of stopping runs for most of the year but the last couple of weeks have been a concern."

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