ASHBURN, Virginia — Ask head coach Jay Gruden to assess where things stand with his Washington Redskins halfway through the season, and you'll hear a bit from "Positive Jay" and a bit from "Negative Jay."
The latter answer was longer than the former on Wednesday, which makes sense, given that the team is 3-5.
"There's a lot of positives we can build (on). If you're talking to 'Positive Jay' here," Gruden began, tapping himself on the chest, "I'll say our pass protection's been outstanding. (Quarterback Kirk Cousins has) done a good of improving."
That took about 7 seconds, and then he offered about twice as much analysis while shifting to the persona he referred to as "Negative Jay."
"On offense, our running game," he said, then paused to search for the right words before resuming, "has done terrible the last four games, quite frankly. And we had a lot of drops. Defensively, we haven't stopped the run too well and haven't got off the field consistently on third down."
Heading into Sunday's game against the visiting New Orleans Saints (4-5), the Redskins have the same record that they did after eight games a year ago, Gruden's first as an NFL head coach.
They wound up going 1-7 the rest of the way to finish at 4-12.
There have not been a whole lot of signs that this club is necessarily ready to do a lot better.
"We have a long way to go. We have enough talent to get to where we want to go. We have to put some full games together as an offense and a defense and special teams," Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams said. "One unit can't have a good game and the other be lacking. You're not going to have success."
Gruden and his staff are contemplating some lineup changes, including more playing time for middle linebacker Will Compton, who could wind up starting in place of Keenan Robinson. At safety, Jeron Johnson could take Trenton Robinson's place.
"Most important thing (is) we have to coach our guys up, be positive, build off the things we've done well and then obviously fix the things that we need to be fixed. I still have confidence in this football team, no question about it," Gruden said.
"It's going to take a lot of guys stepping up — not just coaches, but players. We've got to step up and play better. We've got to step up and coach better and good things will happen."
Notes: DT Terrance Knighton returned to practice Wednesday; he missed Sunday's loss to New England because of migraines. "On a (scale of) 1 to 10, the pain is about a 50, but it's something I've been dealing with since 10th grade," he said. "It's just something I've got to be able to tolerate." ... Gruden said LB Jackson Jeffcoat "had back spasms, or something like that, so he had an injury settlement." The team promoted LB Houston Bates from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. ... Robinson missed practice because of an injured shoulder and neck.
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich