Ron Rivera has a list of areas he wants to address during the Washington Football Team's bye week. He didn't share that list with the media during his Monday press conference, but he did say that the team's red zone issues are on it.
"I think about the last three games you can sit there and say: 'Man, if we had scored in the red zone, we could be talking about something different,'" Rivera said. "But we can't, and that's the truth of the matter."
As glaring as Washington's struggles inside the 20-yard line have been -- the team has scored two touchdowns on 11 trips during its four-game losing streak -- its lack of personnel has been just as noticeable. Logan Thomas has been on Injured Reserve, while Curtis Samuel and Sam Cosmi, among others, have been inactive for weeks.
The hope is that these players' potential return will help correct some of these red zone woes.
"It should help us," Rivera said. "I believe it will help us. And again, it's about being able to execute and doing the things that we're capable of."
Thomas, who grabbed 12-of-14 targets for 117 yards before being placed on IR, served as one of Washington's go-to options in training camp, whether Ryan Fitzpatrick or Taylor Heinicke was playing quarterback. Both of his touchdowns in the regular season came in the red zone, and his 14-yard reception against Buffalo at the Bills' 18-yard line led to a touchdown two plays later.
Thomas was on his way to being as productive in his second season as Washington's No. 1 tight end as he was in his first, when he was second on the team in targets (110) and yards (670). It was clear he was just as reliable; his 86% catch rate is still the best among Washington's pass-catchers with at least 10 receptions.
Given that Thomas has a hamstring injury, Washington has elected to be cautious with his recovery. That said, Rivera said things were heading in the right direction on Oct. 22.
"He takes another step in terms of being able to get out there and start running," he said. "And that's the big thing, especially with the hamstring."
The Washington Football Team travels to Colorado to play the Denver Broncos in Week 8. (Photos by Emilee Fails/Washington Football Team)
Pass protection, which was one of the offense's biggest strengths, has also struggled in the absence of starters like Cosmi and Brandon Scherff, who have been out for extended time with ankle and neck injuries, respectively. In the first four weeks of the season, Heinicke was sacked just three times. Since then, he's been sacked 11 times, five of which came against the Denver Broncos.
Rivera said there are several factors that contribute to sacks, which is true, but not having Scherff or Cosmi, who has received positive reviews for his performance in his rookie season, doesn't help things.
"We haven't had the guys on the field that we feel could really help us to play better and hopefully win some football games," Rivera said. "I think it's going to be huge, being able to get Brandon [Scherff] and Sam [Cosmi] back on the football field."
Thomas, Cosmi and Scherff are only part of the list of players Washington hopes will return between now and Washington's next game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Samuel, who has dealt with a groin injury since OTAs, is also part of that equation, as well as Dyami Brown, who was inactive after briefly playing against the Green Bay Packers. Rivera didn't know about any of their statuses at the time -- he normally waits until after his Monday press conferences to get those updates -- but he did sound hopeful.
Rivera believes the team is capable of scoring more points than it has in recent weeks. The key is to carry the momentum Washington builds between the 20-yard lines into the red zone.
There are plenty of areas Washington needs to fix in the next two weeks. Having some, or hopefully all of their weapons back on the field certainly can't hurt.
"Will it help to get Logan back? Will it help to have Curtis on the field? Will it help with Dyami back there?" Rivera asked. "In getting Logan back, how does that help us in the red zone? Yes. Those are all questions that we're going to have answers for as we get out of this week and get into next week."