For the first time, Jay Gruden looks like a defeated coach.
The Washington Redskins are 0-4 after a blowout loss to the New York Giants and staring down a potential 0-5 start with the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots coming to town.
"Nobody saw this coming like this — I sure didn't — but here we are," Gruden said. "So, reality has set in the last few weeks. I know our guys are hungry, they're great guys, they want to play well, they want to do well, they're going to work at it, we're going to coach hard at it and we're not going to give up. We're not going to quit. We're going to come out and give New England our best shot."
The Redskins bristled at preseason predictions that labeled them as one of the worst teams in the NFL but have done nothing to disprove them. Only three offenses and six defenses are worse than Washington's units so far, first-round pick Dwayne Haskins flopped in relief in his pro debut and the calls for Gruden and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky to be fired will only get louder.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
Penalties, injuries and an ineffective offense remain debilitating problems. The defense that was supposed to be the saving grace has been a turnstile.
The most immediate concern is at quarterback, where Case Keenum on Sunday was benched for Haskins, the quarterback of the future who was 9 of 17 with three interceptions in his first NFL action. Missing injured tight end Jordan Reed and top receiver Terry McLaurin didn't help matters, and the banged up offensive line missing two starters couldn't protect well enough or open lanes for the running game.
"I think we are all frustrated in this locker room," Keenum said after a benching that surprised him. "We all have to play better. It's a tough league. Every week. Everybody is really good and you can't do what we did on third down, have penalties, turn the ball over and expect to win. It just is what it is."
The Redskins' 48 penalty flags are second in the league.
"To me it dates back to last year," running back Adrian Peterson said. "They're still holding a grudge against the Redskins? Deep grudge? It's ridiculous. Markers were flying everywhere. I can't even explain it."
And the defense is allowing almost 400 yards and 30 points a game. Opponents are converting at a league-high 62.96 percent on third down against the Redskins. Hard to win in the NFL like that.
"Nothing I can put my finger on," safety Landon Collins said. "Just go back to the game tape and figure it out — what works best for us, what plays we got off the field with on third down and push that issue."
Longtime backup Colt McCoy just returned to full practice after being bothered by the lingering effects of a broken right leg. His stock is up because he's healthy, is Gruden's guy and didn't throw an interception against the Giants.
It wouldn't be at all surprising if McCoy starts against New England and the Redskins join the New York Jets as the only teams to have three quarterbacks see action in the first five weeks of the season.
Haskins is the future, but Gruden knew the 15th overall pick wasn't ready yet and justifiably held off on playing him. Keenum's foot injury precipitated the change this time, though it should be no guarantee this is now Haskins' turn to be the starter.
"He's got to earn that right first," Gruden said. "I don't care when you're drafted. You have to earn that. He's got to come in here and perform when he's asked to perform."
Starting center Chase Roullier (knee), right guard Brandon Scherff (ankle), Reed (concussion) and McLaurin (hamstring) all missed the Giants game. Linebacker Josh Harvey-Clemons injured a hamstring and cornerback Fabian Moreau injured a knee in the loss.
One, as in only one team in NFL history — the 1992 Chargers — made the playoffs after starting 0-4. This is probably what Gruden means by reality setting in.
Healing up as much as possible and figuring out who starts at QB against the Patriots are first up. Then, the Redskins have to hope they can magically pull off one of the biggest upsets so far this season.
AP Sports Writer Tom Canavan contributed to this story.