As if the 33-20 defeat at the hands of the hapless Carolina Panthers wasn't enough on Sunday, news didn't get any better for Redskins Nation on Monday. The Redskins also announced that Tim Hightower had suffered a torn ACL and was done for the year, and that Santana Moss had surgery on his hand, and will be lost for between five and seven weeks.
If you need to look at a depth chart, that's the number one receiver, and the number one running back, joining the starting left tackle and starting left guard on the sidelines. That's tough for any team to account for, let alone one with suspect depth. Oh yeah, Chris Cooley is also out with a broken finger, and Washington just inserted a quarterback with four, now five, games of NFL experience.
Moss underwent surgery to repair broken bones in his left hand, and had three pins inserted in his index finger. Normally a 5-7 week injury to a receiver's hands, with 10 weeks to go in a season, would mean a trip to the injured reserve list. Likely the only reason the Redskins didn't make the move, is because with eight receivers on their 53-man roster, one or two were already inactive each and every week; what harm comes from letting Moss heal and assessing the team's position as he gets better.
Rest assured that if the Redskins had a roster move to make, and needed a slot, they wouldn't hesitate to IR Moss and end his 2011 season. Even if the injury is healed in 7 weeks, do you really want to rush a wide receiver back from a finger injury? Their hands are their bread and butter. It would have to be because the Redskins were in the thick of a playoff hunt.
As for Hightower, it was pretty apparent from the original replay that his season was likely over. He was having a great day with 88 yards on 17 carries. He's worked hard since coming to Washington in the offseason, and is a bright, young man; there are no positives to losing such a player.
Fortunately, the running back position is one of the few slots that the Redskins have solid depth at. Hightower was in a mid-season battle with Ryan Torain for starting duty anyway, and Roy Helu was already getting a few looks per game. Helu will likely get even more opportunity, now that Hightower's season is done. The rookie is a perfect fit for this offense, and while time would have been a nice commodity to give the young man, Hightower's injury means that he's going to get a little more on-the-job training right now. Helu's an excellent compliment and change-of-pace to Torain; unfortunately, neither of them can block as well as Hightower does.
Running backs and their blocking might not seem like a huge deal, but taking into consideration that 3/5ths of the offensive line played their first game of 2011 at that position last week, it would be nice to count on the running backs for a little bit of blocking help. The coaching staff have praised both Torain and Helu for their work on blocking at practice.
It doesn't matter how deep your bench is, when 6 of your 11 offensive starters are different in week 8, than they were in week 1, you're in for some tough games. With Williams, Lichtensteiger, Cooley, Moss, and Hightower all injured, and Beck supplanting a benched Rex Grossman at quarterback, that's exactly where the Redskins sit. They're in tough for the next few weeks while they hope that their injury list gets shorter.
Despite the banged up roster, the Redskins will have to try to find some offensive fire on the road, to match Ryan Fitzpatrick, Fred Jackson and the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.