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Keys to the Game: Redskins vs Seahawks

October 6, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Protect Kirk Cousins:

-The Seahawks lack a true "sackmaster", but still generate a good pass rush with two proven threats in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Bennett and Avril do a lot of damage by just getting hits and pressure on the QB which forces rushed throws which have a way of becoming interceptions with this Seattle secondary. The Seahawks Defense works extremely well in concert together, using a strong run defense to force a lot of passing situations and a physical secondary that will press receivers and delay the time it takes for them to get open, forcing the QB to hold on to the ball. It makes it very tough to have a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush, and will force Kirk Cousins to hold on to the ball for longer than some of his other games.

That means the offensive line has to step up and maintain their blocks for longer if the Redskins are to move the football. It won't be an easy task if the Redskins were at full strength, and it is much tougher with both LT Trent Williams and LG Shawn Lauvao listed as Questionable (Lauvao probably won't play and Williams will be less than 100%). Excuses though don't matter as the Redskins have get the job done and give Cousins a clean pocket.

2. Find Balance on Offense:

-Logically the Redskins are going to want to run the ball and let their star back Alfred Morris control this game, but practically it seems like the Redskins will need to throw the ball more, given the Seahawks tough run defense and the likelihood they will be up early in this game. The reality of the situation is that the Redskins need to find balance if they are to threaten the Seahawks and steal the game. They aren't going to be able to run the ball against this defense if there isn't even the threat of a passing offense, and the Seahawks will easily crush the Redskins Defense if the Redskins can't sustain drives and use the clock. The Redskins aren't going to win a shoot out versus Seattle so they have to limit the possessions they allow the Seahawks.

3. Limit Penalties and Turnovers:

-In 4 games the Redskins have committed 45 penalties (9 have been either declined or offsetting), and committed 9 turnovers, both are unacceptable trends to continue throughout the season and a major concern facing off versus a good team like the Seahawks. The Redskins can't hope to beat Seattle if they lose the turnover battle and give up a number of free yards and first downs. They don't have the offense and defense to overcome those types of mistakes and if they continue to make them they will keep losing.

4. Blitz Often:

-It would be great if the Redskins could get consistent pressure on the quarterback with a four man rush, but that hasn't been the case thus far this season. The Redskins need to adapt and have to start blitz and being more creative in their pass rushing. It can leave some openings in the back-end, but those openings are already there when the Redskins are in max coverage anyways so it's really not going to hurt their defense.  Russell Wilson is a smart quarterback overall who limits turnovers, so blitzing might not lead to interceptions, but it could lead to some more incomplete passes and maybe a few sacks.

5. Bottle up Lynch:

-One thing that will help put the Redskins in favorable blitzing conditions is if they can limit Marshawn Lynch on the ground. Not only could this force the Seahawks to be more one dimensional, but it should help put them behind the chains in a lot of favorable 3rd and long blitzing situations. The Redskins have done a good job versus the run so far this season, but the Giants had some more success last week than backs had in the previous games. Lynch will prove to be a tough test and the Redskins defensive line still might not be 100%. For them to win this game though, this has to be a battle they win.

6. Maintain Coverage Responsibilities:

-A big issue facing the Redskins this season is the continued blown coverages they've allowed throughout the season. Weeks 1 and 2 it wasn't as noticeable given the lack of talent at QB facing this defense, but as the QB's got better these past two weeks they've been exploited quite a bit in coverage. Though he was struggling as well, the loss of corner back DeAngelo Hall, has really exposed just how weak this unit is. Between the inside linebackers, corners and safeties, the only guys who can really be trusted to maintain consistent coverage are ILB Keenan Robinson and FS Ryan Clark. Everyone has been a pretty major liability these past two weeks, and if things don't get better soon it's going to be a very long season. While some of it is just a sheer lack of talent in this group, a lot of it is just poor execution of their assignments and just outright mistakes. Now some of that will occur in even the best defenses in the league, but this is happening just far too often. It's a big reason why the pass rush hasn't been able to get home and cause pressure or generate sacks this year. Far too often at least one (and many times multiple) major coverage mistake is happening on a given play. This gives a capable quarterback a quick, simple and safe outlet to get rid of the ball. That is just making it too easy for the opposing offense, and has to end ASAP.

7. Limit Special Teams mistakes:

-The Redskins special teams remains a major issue going forward, and something that needs to be fixed. Whether it is a missed block, a long return allowed, a key penalty or simply a bad decision mistakes are happening multiple times each and every game. The Seahawks in three games have 19 total accepted penalties, the Redskins special teams in 4 games has 10 all by themselves. That is horrendous for a unit that only has maybe 15 plays a game (if that). The Redskins just can't afford these types of mistakes on special teams as it is killing them in the field position battle far too often. The Seahawks have a dangerous kick returner in Percy Harvin, so the Redskins must be extra cautious when they kick-off.

Redskins ground game success is key against the Eagles

September 20, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

The Washington Redskins are sitting at 1-1 in a tie for 2nd place in the NFC East division, as they head up to Philadelphia to take on the first place Eagles. The Redskins can't afford to drop too far behind the Eagles this year, as it looks likely this Eagles team will put up double-digit wins. Despite being a touchdown underdog in this game, the Redskins would love to find a way to steal this game on the road. For the Redskins to upset the Eagles a lot of things need to go their way, but the most important thing is getting their ground game going.

The Redskins offense is better at running the football than it is passing and that is regardless of who is behind center and what receivers/tight ends are on the field. Alfred Morris is one of the best running backs in the league and is a true 20-25 carry a game type of workhorse. In week 1 he ran all over the Texans, and the only thing that limited him from having a great game (and possibly the Redskins getting a win) was the fact that he was limited to just 14 carries. Morris's yards per carry weren't as strong in week 2, but he still ran well versus the Jaguars who were determined to stop Morris. Despite the Jaguars best efforts Morris still came up big with two rushing touchdowns and a number of key runs early in the game before it turned into a route. It's not just Morris who makes the Redskins a better running team than passing team, as the offensive line is clearly superior in this area.

This Redskins line isn't going to make anyone forget about the Hogs from the 80's and early 90's, but they have shown themselves to be okay in the run blocking department. There will be a few mistakes, but all-in-all they do a nice job within their zone blocking scheme. They aren't as effective when asked to power block for short yardage situations, which can be problematic, but most plays they are effective. That definitely isn't the case when they are asked to pass block, when in a number of situations you will see one or more of the OL make a mistake. This of course leads to sacks, incomplete passes and in the past turnovers.

While many pundits considered the Redskins to have an explosive offense at the start of the season, there are some questions about how much that will be true going forward (their 41 point shellacking of Jacksonville notwithstanding). The Redskins will be without starting QB Robert Griffin III for this game, which impacts the Redskins big play ability. Kirk Cousins is a very good quarterback, and has a better feel in the pocket right now than RGIII, but he can't make up for Griffin's big play potential. Griffin's mobility ideally will buy time to allow for things to open up down the field. Cousins is more likely to take the safer throw or get rid of the football, rather than trying to buy time for a receiver to get open deep. Both strategies have their merits, but when it comes to trying to win by being in a shootout, Griffin has the edge.

Griffin isn't the only loss to injury the Redskins have had to suffer so far this year. Tight end Jordan Reed has already been ruled out for this game, and wide receiver DeSean Jackson is listed as questionable. Though the Redskins last week showed they have capable back-ups in Niles Paul, Andre Roberts and Ryan Grant, there is a clear down grade from Reed and Jackson. Even if Jackson is able to play, it's very likely he won't be at 100% or play as much as he would if he was healthy. The Redskins can't hope to try to throw the ball 35-45 times on the Eagles and try to win, with question marks among the Redskins receiving weapons.

The most important reason though for the Redskins to establish a strong ground game is that it's simply the best defense versus the Eagles high powered offense. The Eagles succeed by using their speed and tempo to wear down defenses and exploit inevitable mistakes. Ideally Philadelphia wants to run 70+ plays a game and if they could get that up 85 or more. In that many plays there will definitely be holes in the defense, that the offense will take advantage of. As the plays add up, the defense wears down and those mistakes will become more frequent and more costly. The Eagles do have a quick strike capability, but they really want to wear you down and win that time of possession battle. If TOP is either even or won by the Eagles, that is major advantage for Philadelphia. This is wear the running game needs to step up and carry this team.

Unless the score gets well out of hand, the Redskins need to keep up the pressure on the ground. Not only is it their strongest offensive weapon, and best chance to move the football, but it is absolutely necessary if the Redskins want to limit this Eagles offense at all. The Redskins Defense can't hope to hold up if the Eagles are allowed to dictate this game. The Eagles have shown some holes in the run defense so far, so this could be a good match-up for the Redskins and hopefully can lead to some long drives that eat the clock and end with Redskins points.

 

Redskins vs Jaguars: Keys to the Game

September 13, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

1. Run the Football:

-Last week Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. ran all over the Texans in their 18 combined opportunities. The Redskins need to get them in the 30-35 carry range this week as this is clearly the strength of the Redskins offense right now. This has to be a bigger part of the Redskins game plan this week and if they can keep moving the ball on the ground versus the Jaguars front, it could open up some things in the passing game.

2. Protect RGIII:

-Last week Robert Griffin III was under a fair amount of pressure (some of it self-created), and the Jaguars are a team that likes to get after the QB (and are pretty good at it). The Redskins need to do a better job protecting Griffin and giving him more time in the pocket. For the Jaguars Defense to function they need to get after the quarterback, so this will be a key battle that could determine the outcome of the game.

3. Challenge the Jaguars Secondary:

-The Jaguars have some good solid corners, but their safeties are young and inexperienced. Last week there were some break downs in coverage that can be take advantage of if the Redskins are willing to take some shots down the field. Not only were there some big plays that the coverage broke down for the Jaguars, but there were some opportunities in the intermediate (15-20 yards) area as well. The Redskins need to have more success in this area and need to rely on their talented receivers to make some plays here.

4. Eliminate the Turnovers:

-Not counting the blocked punt, the Redskins had two big turnovers last week. Though much of the focus is on those turnovers being inside the Red Zone, the biggest issues is that they happened in general. The Redskins averaged just over 2 turnovers a game last year, and were among the league's worst teams last season. Turnovers were a big contributing factor to the Redskins 3-13 season a year ago, so they have to eliminate them if they want to start getting in the win column.

5. Sustain Drives and convert on 3rd down:

-Last week the Redskins just couldn't sustain drives and only managed just 2 drives inside the Redzone. Last year the Redskins averaged 3.1 red zone drives a game and that was considered below average. Not only did the Redskins managed only 2 drives inside the Redzone, but they only had one additional drive that got into FG range (note this doesn't count the big Niles Paul catch). The Redskins need to convert more 3rd downs and continue to move the ball down the field. Of course it would be nice to get some big plays, but one of the best measures of an offense is how they can sustain drives and their red zone opportunities.

6. Get Pressure on Chad Henne:

-Last week the Redskins really didn't generate a lot of pressure on the quarterback and it made it harder to get some big plays on defense. Now the Texans did a great job gameplanning for the Redskins, but that can't be an excuse for the defense. The coaches have to come up with a better game plan to generate pressure which will hopefully lead to turnovers and some big plays. The Redskins pass rush took a hit with the loss of Barry Cofield as he would do a nice job pushing the interior pocket, but they still have a good group of Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Jason Hatcher that have to get going this week.

7. Eliminate the big plays allowed on defense:

-Last week the Redskins did a nice job on defense overall, but they gave up one big play that resulted in a TD and it put the Redskins in a hole that they couldn't get out of. Now obviously the Offense needed to put more points on the board, but the Redskins Defense can't afford to give up big plays like that TD versus the Texans. The Jaguars will surely take a couple shots down the field, so the Redskins need to be ready on the backend.

8. Eliminate the Special Teams miscues:

-Far too often in recent years special teams mistakes have doomed the Redskins, and that happened once again last week with two major errors. The Redskins aren't a good enough team to overcome those mistakes, so they need to do what it takes to eliminate them. This week it might not be blocked kicks/punts, but it could be giving up a big return or missing a key FG. The Redskins just can't afford errors and need to play a clean game on ST.

Things to Watch in Redskins' Preseason Opener

August 4, 2014 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

Here's what I'm looking for in the Redskins Preseason Opener:

Washington Redskins v Dallas Cowboys

1- There is not much to see in the first preseason game from the starters usually.  Maybe a series or so depending on how things play out.  But would like to see how Griffin looks compared to last season’s debacle.

Watching him drop back and just look confident in the pocket will go a long way to build my confidence that he can be back to 2012 form.  It would be nice for him to hit DeSean Jackson on something early to show that they can quickly get on the same page.  But if not, then hopefully in preseason weeks 2 and 3 then.  Although I don’t expect to see much of anything this week a solid opening drive would start the new Gruden offense off right.

 

2-  All I have heard the past few days is about the emergence of David Amerson in year two compared to last season.

As I discussed before the Redskins and their coaches are very good at talking up their schemes and talent so I need to see it on the field.  Remember when Haslett called Cofield the league’s best nose tackle yet they will tell you they haven’t had the talent to succeed?  Amerson becoming a legit starting corner can change this whole defense especially with the continued huge question marks at safety.  Even with the addition of a guy like Ryan Clark coming back no one can be confident in what Washington is going to put out there at safety to start.

 

3- I think the most exciting part of the these games if you do stay up for the second half are the guys at the running back and wide receiver positions.

We know Alfred Morris won’t need much work and Roy Helu probably doesn’t either.  So watching guys like Chris Thompson and Lache Seastrunk try to break off big runs could be the best thing you got going. Either or both of these guys could be factors this season so everyone should have them on their radar.  As for the receivers in camp the additions of DeSean and Andre Roberts have bolstered the talent on the roster and have left spots tough to come by.  Ryan Grant has been talked about a lot so far so it will interesting to see if he can move past guys like Aldrick Robinson or even Santana Moss.

 

4-      Finally, the Special Teams!

I will want to see these guys in action.  And check out and see if they can get a return past the 25 or a punt return of more than 5 yards.  Not sure if the normal coverage teams will get a lot of action but if they do it will be a major focus this preseason.

The Redskins will have a new punter thisseason so that could be an adventure.  And the kicker battle is one to watch also.  Honestly I thought Kai Forbath has been pretty good as the Skins kicker.  Great in 2012 and OK in a lost 2013 season so I was kind of surprised they used a draft pick on Zach Hocker.  Kickoffs will most likely also play a huge role in who wins the job.  Hopefully the Redskins offense can move the ball the next 4 weeks and give both some shots in real games.

 

 

Redskins vs. Eagles Preview & Prediction

November 14, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

Five thoughts on Redskins NFC East battle this Sunday and my prediction:

 

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Courtesy of ICON SMI

1. The defense was awful versus the Vikings.  Let me say it again the defense was awful versus the Vikings.  And now comes the Eagles who after a couple weeks of not being able to score have found their rhythm now with Nick Foles.

And we all can remember what happened in the opener versus Mike Vick especially in the first half.  The Redskins Defense showed signs before the Minnesota game of improvement but last week was horrible.  Washington's defense has to make major adjustments from the week one debacle in stopping now Foles and once again McCoy and Jackson.  I think we should see more of Rob Jackson this week that only saw 9 snaps last Thursday.  This team needs guys who are going to make plays now and Jackson has in the past.  Working him in for Brian Orakpo would be a good idea that Haslett must look at.

Having Meriwether this time actually could help also.  You need to scare DeSean Jackson and Meriweather is certainly a guy who can do that.  I remember a game where London Fletcher lit up Jackson and completely took him out of his game.  Foles has been impressive but it seems like most of his touchdowns are pretty similar.  Defense doesn't get a good rush, Foles has time and steps up, then lets a deep throw go where his receiver adjusts to the ball better than the defender, touchdown.  Riley Cooper (who probably supports the Redskins name) has had a monster month, as has DeSean Jackson.  So simple, Washington needs to get pressure (which they haven't recently) and their defensive backs have to make plays (which they kinda have) or it could be a long day.

 

2. As bad as Jim Haslett is getting it for his defense, Kyle is not far behind even though his stats would back them as a good offense.  But they could be better and will need to be better by playing a complete game.

We all remember how bad the first half was week one, that can't happen.  And even though last week they started stronger the second half needed to be better.  How much we talk about Griffin this team's success has a lot to do with Alfred Morris.  Morris can run on anyone and the Eagles shouldn't be any different.  They need to keep Morris going and going to set up the offense.  They couldn't do this week one and must Sunday.

This team has three offensive weapons playing at pro bowl levels going into Philly.  Morris is running as good as any back right now.  Pierre Garcon is coming off two huge games and Jordan Reed has become a huge option in the offense over the past month.  Minnesota showed no signs of stopping them until the second half when the pass protection broke down and gave up a bunch of sacks.  As for Griffin I think the most important aspect I want to see from him is to just connect on the crossing patterns to Garcon or Moss and the seam passes to Reed.  All of these the past few weeks could have gone for huge yards but he missed them.  I would love to that happen Sunday finally.

 

3. I hate talking special teams because in the past it was really all about when will the replace Brandon Banks.  Now it's all about when will they replace everyone?

Coverage teams are the most important concern, we know it and obviously the coaches do as they pooch kicked versus the Vikings several times.  I found that embarrassing.  Sav Rocca needs a big game Sunday if the offense cannot move the ball and he is forced to punt. Because DeSean Jackson could kill them on punt returns.

Finally they have Niles Paul returning kickoffs which was 5 weeks too late but he is there now and should help.  Interesting to see if they chose to use Nick Williams on any returns also.  Josh Morgan is a daredevil back there by refusing to fair catch with guys all around him and I expect him to one of these times make a crucial error.  Forbath needs to make kicks also because what we saw coming in as a positive had not been and he needs to get it on track.

    jordanreed2

4. The Eagles have been horrible at home and the Redskins have been horrible on the road.

So something has to give.  How bad are the Eagles at home?  DeSean Jackson asked the fans to support them and not to boo.  Their last two home games they failed to score an offensive touchdown.  And the Redskins on the road?  Blowout losses in Green Bay and Denver, escaped Matt Flynn in Oakland and poor performances in Dallas and Minnesota.  Washington won last season in Philly barely against a down Eagles team in Andy Reid's final home game.

Washington needs guys to step up Sunday.  It has to start with their leaders, Robert Griffin and London Fletcher and go on down.  Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan need big games especially with Jason Peters suffering from multiple injuries.  I feel like we say this every week but that could be just the talk of a struggling team trying to get things going right.

 

5.  Prediction-

Courtesy of ICON SMI

Courtesy of ICON SMI

I just have a hard time with this NFC East seeing the Eagles sweep the Redskins.  Although Philadelphia is due at home I am not as worried about Nick Foles as some may be.  I was about Rodgers and Manning on the road but not Foles.  He could light us up being that Ponder looked pretty good last week for once.  Or McCoy could have a field day like week one and Foles may not matter.  But I look back to the Cowboys shutting them down and think it can be done.

I got Washington 20  Philadelphia 16

 

 

Redskins vs. Vikings Gameday Preview & Prediction

November 7, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

 

1. The game features two teams that have been far from good this season but will feature two of the league’s top two running backs.

One is averaging 5.2 yards per carry while the other one is at 4.6 yards per.  But you would Adrian Peterson is the 5.2 guy but he isn't.  Alfred Morris is and leads the league's running backs in that stat.  The only reason he is not leading the league in overall yards is a lack of carries.  Washington got back to feeding Morris the ball last week against and Chargers and just like 2012 they won.  This must keep up tonight and continue through the second half of the season for the Skins to be successful.

As for Morris as a player, I think the DC area knows how good he has been in his first season and a half, but the rest of the league is still learning.  Alfred Morris is great and should be considered in the league’s top 3-5 backs no question.  Morris in games has started the first couple series slow but after that he is able to break off runs with ease.  Do I wish he was more of a pass catcher?  Yes, but that may be more of the system's lack of throwing to the backs in the early downs.  Every week I see myself watching the games and saying Morris is awesome.

 

2. As for the Vikings running back we mentioned before Adrian Peterson, he is still the game’s best.

And if anyone wanted to question that all you need to do is check last week’s game versus Dallas.  It is obvious that Washington will have to keep Peterson in check and not allow him to take over the game.  He did it early in the meeting last season but overall did not dominate the Redskins like he does to most teams.  Washington has had success against Peterson in the past including being responsible for injury him in 2011.  No one wants to see that but we do need to see him slowed down.

Because if the Vikings can get Peterson rolling it could open up things for Christian Ponder and the Vikings struggling pass attack.  Washington needs to force the Vikings into obvious pass downs and let their ball hawks have chances to get takeaways against the shaky Ponder.  Ponder can move and takeoff especially in the red zone so Haslett must have his guys ready to look for that.  And it would be huge for London Fletcher to do what he did last season which was pick up his play in the second half.  The true leader has been very quiet so far and it would nice if he could make some noise.

 

3. The Washington special teams put together their best outing two weeks ago in Denver but last week once again was a struggle.

Usually it's the coverage teams we are cursing each week but last week they threw us a curve ball.  Kai Forbath had two kicks blocked including a chip shot after a long impressive opening drive.  This cannot happen no matter how good or bad a team plays.  Shanahan blamed the blocks on Forbath's low kicks which have to concern everyone since we thought we had a solid kicker finally after many years of struggling to find one.

Forbath also must in an indoor situation get his kickoffs out of the end zone.  I don't want to give the Vikings and Cordarelle Patterson a chance to burn us.  He has been the best in the league this season so please don't even chance it.  Washington needs to make Ponder go eighty yards as much as possible tonight.  As for the Redskins return game I don't even know if it’s worth discussing or hoping they can get something out of it.  Maybe Shanahan goes to Niles Paul on kickoffs and Santana on punts to try to make some things happen.

 

4. The Vikings are 1-7 and the Redskins need to win this game versus a bad team.

But just like having Peterson on offense and not much else, the Vikings have Jared Allen on the defensive side that can change a game.  The good news is that he should face Trent Williams which will help the Skins although Allen got to Griffin last season.  Amazingly that is my first mention of Griffin so far?  But Allen is great and Brian Robison and Kevin Williams are vets who can also cause some disruption.  And I wouldn't be a true Terp if I didn't mention Erin Henderson in the middle which I am impressed with his career after not being drafted out of Maryland.

So if Silverback can contain Allen and give Griffin pocket time we should see better results in the pocket passing game than the past weeks.  Mainly because the Vikings secondary is bad and not only bad but hurting as well.  If Griffin cannot take advantage then we should have some concern about this passing game like we did after the Denver game.  But then again they should be able to continue to kill teams with the read option post to Garcon all day if they can run the ball.

 

5. As for the game prediction.

Washington has to go into Minnesota and win if they want to have any chance of making a playoff run.  I think the offense will play another complete game much like versus Chicago and San Diego and the defense will hold Peterson in the first half, resulting in a lead that forces Ponder to throw and Peterson to be less of a factor

I got it as, Washington 27  Minnesota 13

 

 

5 Keys to the Game: Redskins vs Packers Week 2

September 14, 2013 in Redskins Personnel, Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

Here are my 5 keys to Sunday's Game:

 

1. Get Griffin Going Early:

I want to see the Redskins come out with basically the same game plan they had in Griffin's first game last year versus the Saints. Now I don't think Griffin is going to be as mobile and able to do some things with his legs, but I want to see him in the Pistol formation or shotgun and peppering the Packers with a variety of screens and quick hitters. Not only can this help get Griffin and the Redskins offense in rhythm. But it builds confidence and could help silence the Packers crowd if it can lead to a quick score or two. These are throws that won't be affected by Griffin's mechanics as much if he's still having issues in that department. Also, they are not throws that Griffin is really going to have to think about too much, so there can be no second guessing as he's getting into rhythm. The other big benefit is these types of throws make it almost impossible to have any sort of positive pass rush, which helps negate the threat of Clay Matthews Jr.

Now obviously the Redskins can't do this for the entire game (though John Beck may disagree with that assessment), but it can build confidence for the team, and if it's working, the Packers will need to adjust to it. When that occurs it could open some things up down the field with some of those intermediate and deeper routes. At that point the passing attack should be back to full effectiveness, if Griffin can exploit those holes in the defense.

 

2. Establish the Running Game and use it heavily:    alfredmorris

The Redskins rushing goal shouldn't just be to get 100 yards rushing or average 4.2 yards per carry like some teams, it really has to be about dominating opponents on the ground. Robert Griffin III having 49 passing attempts is bad for this team's chances of winning and that simply can't happen again. The Redskins really want to get to that 150-200 yard rushing level, where they know they can beat opponents and control the tempo of the game. To do that, the Redskins want to get to that 30+ rushing attempts mark per game. With Griffin not a major threat to run, it falls on Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. to handle the load.

The Redskins need to get both of these guys involved early on in an effort to help wear down the Packers Defense. Helu offers a better option to run the football on third downs as well as run some more stuff to the outside. Morris should be once again the bell cow with 20+ carries, mainly running between the tackles in this zone blocking scheme.

It won't be easy, as the Packers bottled up the 49ers zone read attack last week and that was with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and a healthy option QB in Colin Kaepernick. The Redskins have to be more persistent in their attack and find some ways to disguise what they are doing to get some extra running room. Not only is this crucial for the Redskins offense to function, but a steady and strong rushing attack helps keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.

 

3. Dial Up the Pressure:

The Redskins secondary is a poor match-up for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game, so the only real option is to put enough pressure on Rodgers to where his level of play returns to normal human levels. Rodgers is better than most quarterbacks when under pressure, but he does see a drop in his level of production, and that is how you beat him.

To do this, the Redskins are in a good situation as the Packers offensive line is a major work in progress, starting essentially three new starters this year, including a rookie at left tackle. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the Redskins need to get this going early and often. Not only should the team rely on their talent and experience superiority, but the Redskins should look to add a variety of blitzes to help confuse the Packers line. This is the perfect opportunity to use the Redskins new nickel defense with rookie Brandon Jenkins coming on to the field and Ryan Kerrigan slipping inside to rush from a DT position.

Rodgers will still win some battles, but this is really your only chance to stop this passing attack and win this football game.

 

4. Got to Stop the Penalties:

Enough is enough. The Redskins are committing more penalties than the Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot. They are killing big plays and stopping drives in their tracks. The Redskins were able to overcome it last year, to an extent, but this year they can't count on that happening again. Now penalties weren't the main reason why they lost last week, but it will be the culprit in a couple losses going forward if they don't change this ASAP. In a week where you are on the road, and an underdog, penalties can be a killer. The Redskins can't afford to hamper themselves at all if they want to beat the Packers, and you absolutely can't give Aaron Rodgers any free yards or plays if you want to stop that offense.

 

5. Don't Play for a Field Goal:

Not only should you not be playing for field goals in general, particularly when you are going up against a high powered offense like the Packers, but that is especially true for the Redskins this week. Kicker Kai Forbath is questionable with a groin injury and might not be able to go this week. If he can't kick, the Redskins will sign John Potter who was with them in camp. Potter's reputation is that of a kick-off specialist, not a true place kicker.

In fact in the preseason the Redskins didn't even have him attempt a single field goal (he did obviously in practice though). The Redskins' options are going to be either a kicker with a sore groin, or a kicker who hasn't attempted a field goal in a game situation since at least last preseason (possibly longer). And both of them will be doing it on the road in an unfamiliar stadium. The true effective range for both kicker options is going to be pretty limited, and this has to change how the Redskins call this game.

The Redskins may decide to punt or go for it in some certain situations, and on some third and long situations the goal won't be just to pick up a couple yards or center the ball for a field goal, but to actually get the first down. The Redskins are going to have to be really careful here, and hopefully they won't be put in a situation where a field goal will decide this football game.

Redskins vs. Eagles: What to Watch

September 7, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

Here are my keys to the game and what to watch for in the Redskins vs. Eagles Monday Night divisional showdown:

 

1. How will Robert Griffin III play in his first game action?

Not many quarterbacks step into week one without taking a single preseason snap but Griffin will do that on Monday.  Griffin did not get much preseason action as a rookie and played tremendous week one in New Orleans.  Much like the Saints, the Eagles come to DC with a defense many think will struggle.  I am not really concerned with Griffin's lack of game action and think he will do just fine.

It will be interesting to see the game plan used and more importantly the decisions Griffin makes with the ball to protect himself better.  I think Washington will run the same offense that was highly effective in 2012 with the read-option, pistol, etc.  But will Griffin play smarter?  That is a huge question we will have to wait and see.

 

2. To me one of the biggest matchups on Monday night will be Ryan Kerrigan facing off versus Eagles rookie Lane Johnson.          ryankerrigan

Johnson was highly drafted and to no one’s surprise will be put right into the lineup by Chip Kelly.  It will be interesting to see how Johnson plays after darting up draft boards in April to go 4th overall.  Many see him as a perfect fit for Kelly.  With three offensive tackles in the top four picks, odds have to be that at least one ends up not being the dominant tackle their team expected.

As for Kerrigan, this is a huge game.  Everything is in his favor to have a monster season and Monday night would be a good time to start.  His buddy Brian Orakpo will once again line up on the other side from him.  The preseason showed some interesting wrinkles added to the Redskins pass rush as Jim Haslett used Kerrigan, Orakpo and rookie Brandon Jenkins effectively to get pressure.  I would expect that to continue versus the Eagles.  Although Orakpo is the one in the contract year, it would be nice for Kerrigan to get off to a quick start.

 

3. Last season Washington gave up way too many big plays on defense.  And everyone remembers what Mike Vick did to them last time they played Monday night at Fedex.  So it will be a must that the Redskins limit and prevent this from happening again.

For starters, Laron Landry isn't there to start crap before the game thankfully.  The Eagles suffered a huge loss when Jeremy Maclin went down with an ACL but DeSean Jackson is still there.  Even though he fears going over the middle near London Fletcher, he can still get behind defenses.

With Brandon Meriweather a huge question mark due to health, the Redskins will be putting a lot on rookie Bacarri Rambo.  Even though the Eagles have major questions at receiver without Maclin, Washington still has major questions with their cover guys heading into week one.  What will help?  The pass rush we discussed in #2.  Vick struggled last season but so far has got solid reviews running Kelly's offense.  Washington has to do what they did last season and force turnovers on Vick.

 

4. Speaking of turnovers Washington thrived in that category in 2012 and hopes to continue that into 2013.

What Griffin did last season was remarkable only throwing 5 interceptions in the 15 games he played in.  I don't think he gets enough credit here even if a lot of the passes were short.  Then again I believe he did lead the league in yards per attempt.  But, the Skins must not turn it over and give the Eagles a chance.  Tyler Polumbus cannot be a turnstile at right tackle.  Hankerson and Robinson cannot have drops.  And new punt returner Chris Thompson has to protect the football first before looking for the big return.

Success in 2013 starts by winning the turnover battle each week.  It worked last season and will this one.  Although they won the turnover battle, the penalty situation is a different story.  Washington continued to pile up penalties and many were of the 15 yard kind.  This needs to stop.  We are not the Detroit Lions.

 

5. Simple one.  Make Fedex Field the home advantage it was down the stretch in 2012.

This needs to keep up this season.  Even though the air was taken out of the stadium when RG3 went down at the 5 versus the Seahawks, I expect the crowd to be back Monday night going strong.  It will be nice to send the Eagles fans wearing their Mamula and Freddie Mitchell jerseys back up 95 losers.

 

 

5 Keys to Redskins vs. Bills Preseason Game

August 23, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

Here are 5 things I'm looking for in the Redskins' 3rd Preseason Game against the Bills:

 

1.  Keep everyone healthy.

The Redskins cannot afford any more injuries to players who will make the 53 man roster.  So far it has been tough and the Steelers game didn't help.  I don't expect Mike Shanahan to play his starters anywhere near as much as the usual third preseason game.  I have this feeling the Shanahan's are at a level that the offense will be ready week one to make noise.  The defense not so much, but keeping everyone on the field should outweigh finding better chemistry.

2. Opportunity for Back-up OLine         tylerpolumbus

As I mentioned the Shanahan’s know how to run an offense.  They also know how to adapt to the talent they have.  My only spot of concern (having faith in the QB's health) is still right tackle.  Tyler Polumbus has not improved and most of the first two preseason games has struggled.  Saturday is a huge opportunity for a Tony Pashos, Jeremy Trueblood or a Mo Elewonibi to step up and take the right tackle spot.  I was joking on Mo.

3. Washington needs to figure out what they are doing at safety this week.

All signs seem to be pointing at Baccari Rambo and Reed Doughty week one, but that is far from a lock.  Philip Thomas is out, DeJon Gomes has struggled worse than Polumbus, and most importantly no one knows what is going on with Brandon Merriweather and his knee.  I think it’s time to have as much faith in Merriweather being a factor as Tanard Jackson.

4. Stop the penalties.  And especially the big ones.

It’s bad when even London Fletcher is picking up the 15 yarders.  Washington is starting to look like the Raiders or the Lions.  The game has changed due to the commisioner's move to a safer game so the coaches need to get through to the Redskin players.  What bothers me is these penalties are happening early when the first two strings are in.

5. Find out who will make up the special teams.

The coverage teams have looked shaky so they need to find who can step up for Lorenzo Alexander.  Reed Doughty and Niles Paul need some help.  One way to help would be to keep John Potter on kickoffs but I am not sure that is worth the 53rd spot.  I am fine with Niles Paul on kickoffs and Richard Crawford on punt returns.  Crawford could be battling for a roster spot but I feel his return skills make him a lock.

 

 

Redskins Keys to the Game vs. Seahawks in Playoffs

January 4, 2013 in Washington Redskins Keys to the Game

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Playoffs are here for the Washington Redskins, so here are my keys to the game and what to watch for in Sunday's Playoff battle against the Seahawks:

1. This matchup brings us the two hottest teams in the NFC.

The Redskins have won seven games in a row while the Seahawks have won their last five.  Both teams win streaks have come against solid opponents as well.

The Skins used their win streak to capture the NFC East crown while the Seahawks just missed out catching the 49ers and are the wildcard.  Seattle has dropped Washington in their last two playoff appearances but those games were in Seattle.  I think this plays a major role Sunday.  Earlier in the season Seattle struggled on the road but their recent play has shown them to be a much better road team.

Good news for the Skins is that both Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch have had much better statistical performances on turf than grass this season.  And we all know by now that the FedEx Field surface is far from turf.  This could play a major factor Sunday.

2- The key matchup all of the NFL world will first look at is between the two rookie quarterbacks.

Both Robert Griffin and Russell Wilson deserved Pro Bowl nods as rookies.  RG3 made it and Wilson didn't, but if it went the other way around it would have been hard to argue.  Both quarterbacks have shown poise in big games and have produced in big games.  Much will be made about Griffin's knee, but I think he is better than most feel.  I have confidence in him in the pocket and he showed last week he could still be a running factor as he ran for over 60 yards.

Unlike last week’s game versus Dallas I cannot see quarterback play being such a huge factor in who wins Sunday.  I don't see either Wilson or the Seattle game plan putting him into situations to make mistakes like Tony Romo did.

3- One of the biggest factors why the Redskins have won seven in a row is that they have not faced any top notch defenses during that stretch.

Philly, Dallas, New York, Cleveland and Baltimore were far from stellar on the defensive side of the ball.  Seattle is a different story.  Up front they can get after the quarterback and on the back end they have two corners who can man up on receivers.  "Drip cup" Sherman and Brandon Browner are the best corner pair Washington has faced all season and will challenge Redskins receivers like Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan to get open.

Griffin will need his mobility in this game to make time for his guys to break open.  Browner and Sherman, as well as Earl Thomas are very opportunistic so RG3 must protect the football as his has done all season.

4- Both teams like to run the football and both teams have shown they can run the football.

Seattle has been successful when they go into "Beastmode" with Marshawn Lynch and the Redskins cannot let him get going Sunday.  It could be a long day for a defense that has played much better recently if Lynch can move the ball down the field.

They have to get Wilson into 3rd and longs and not 3rd and shorts so stopping Lynch will surely benefit.  As for the Redskins, once again it will be key for Alfred Morris to pound an opposing defense.  The Skins ran well against the Seahawks last season without the force that is Alfred Morris.  Sunday they must continue to ride Mo' Diesel like the Gibbs teams did on their first runs.  Morris has not hit any kind of rookie wall and seems to be getting stronger like Riggins did in the past.  We have to like that.

5- Finally special teams have a couple concerns for me.

Cobra Kai finally had a miss last week, but I am still confident in him as our kicker.  I am worried about the Seahawks being able to block a kick especially with Red Bryant in the mix.  He got us last year and it’s a concern for Danny Smith's crew.

Also, as I have mentioned in the past I really wish the team brought in a kickoff specialist and this week one is clearly needed.  Leon Washington is dangerous and I would rather not give him the opportunities to break one.  Forbath's kickoffs will give him the chance to burn the Skins.  And I was very happy with Niles Paul last week on kickoff returns.  When Dallas had the momentum, Paul came up with a great return that put the Redskins at a good starting point.  He and Richard Crawford need to do the same again.

This is the toughest opponent the Redskins will have faced since going on the streak, but I am confident not only our game plan will work but our quarterback and others can win this game.  Good news is that the last draft has put us in great position for years to come, but I still would love to see this team go far this year.  I see it being a battle and the Skins coming out victors, 17-16.