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At The Bye, Redskins Remain In Thick Of NFC East

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While they're 3-4 at the Bye Week, the Redskins are tied for second place in the NFC East. Down the stretch, they'll play four more divisional games.

The Bye Week comes at a time for the Washington Redskins where they remain right in the middle of a tight NFC East race.

At 3-4, they are tied for second place in the division with the Philadelphia Eagles, just one game back of the New York Giants and one win ahead of the 2-4 Dallas Cowboys.

While this week will be about rest and relaxation for the team, the stretch run will be key for the Redskins.

They still have two games to play against the Cowboys and one each against the Giants and Eagles during their final nine games.

"We are right in the thick of things," nose tackle Terrance Knighton said. "We had a few close games we wish we could have back. The Atlanta game, the Miami game, but its growing pains. [The Bye Week] came at a perfect time. Hopefully we get some guys back healthy – [Chris] Culliver and D-Jax [DeSean Jackson]. I'd love to see the type of team we have at full strength."

Indeed, the Redskins haven't had some of their best players in the lineup this season.

Jackson hasn't played since suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener. Culliver, meanwhile, had a gutsy performance against the Eagles in Week 4, clearly not at 100 percent with a knee injury. He hasn't played since.

DeAngelo Hall has also been out since Week 3 with a toe injury.

Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said the next few days off should provide some relief for guys banged up, as well as the rookies readying themselves for the most action of their careers.

"I think the big thing is get their bodies healthy," Gruden said. "I want to get them physically and mentally healthy, get some time off, spend it with their families, but really come back focused. New England plays Thursday night. I want them all to tune in, watch that game, get themselves mentally ready to go. The second half of our season, we've got nine games left. It's going to be a grind. I think it's going to be important for them just to get away — four, five days and get some rest and come back fresh and ready to roll because it's going to be a tough nine-game stretch."

A bright spot so far this season has been the collective play of the offensive line – starters and backups.

They've allowed the second fewest sacks with eight, and the right side of the line – rookie guard Brandon Scherff and second-year tackle Morgan Moses – have held their own against some of the best defensive players the league has to offer.

"I like the fact that our offensive line has done a good job despite not playing a lot together," Gruden said. "I think the right side of our line with Brandon and Morgan has been excellent as far as their growth process is concerned. The centers have done some good things obviously. Kory [Lichtensteiger] being hurt but Josh [LeRibeus] stepped in and has done some good things. [Ty] Nsekhe got some playing time for Trent [Williams]. Spencer [Long] has come in for Shawn [Lauvao] and done a good job at left guard. I think we have a lot to build off of up front."

For Scherff, a player that will continue to be under the microscope as the fifth-overall pick, the game is starting to slow down for him.

"Having the full training camp to focus on the guard position and with seven games it has slowed down quite a bit," he said. "Having Kory and Josh next to me has helped a lot."

Defensively, the Redskins must do a better job at wrapping guys up and keeping them from churning extra yards.

"We missed way too many tackles," Gruden said. "I like the effort that they're playing with. There's a lot of things we can build off of. The main thing is just tackling and finishing plays and running to the ball. I always preach on hustle plays and the fundamentals of tackling, trying to get the ball out, turnovers. Those are things that we're going to continue to work and work and work."

Defensive lineman Chris Baker, who has really taken off this season with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles, said the team must now focus on the task at hand.

"Looking at what you did so far, and just try to continue to get better each week one week at a time," Baker said. Right now we are just going to enjoy this bye week and get ready for the patriots when we get back."

The Redskins' first three games off the Bye Week are against the New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints and the Carolina Panthers.

Two of those teams -- New England and Carolina -- are currently undefeated, while New Orleans is showing rapid improvement after getting off to a sluggish start.

Then four of the Redskins' last six games are against their division rivals, which means if they continue to play well, they could be in control of their own destiny.

"Hopefully we can come out in the second half and string together some wins to stay in the thick of things and hopefully win the division," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.

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