Redskins Keys To The Game:
Be More Accurate With Your Short and Intermediate Throws: The good news last week was that Donovan McNabb was more accurate on his screens and short passes overall, the bad news was he was inaccurate when it really counted, on 3rd down and inside the Red zone. That I believe is a big reason why he is now riding the bench. Rex Grossman needs to be more accurate and keep drives going. I’m sure the Cowboys will be blitzing so the Redskins need a number of safe hot reads for Grossman to find.
Protect the Quarterback/Get Rid of the Ball Quicker: The Redskins once again last week gave up two sacks and a number of quarterback pressures. Overall thats not a good week and even more so considering the Buccaneers have one of the league’s worst pass rushing units. The Bucs pass rush was even worse than normal considering rookie defensive tackle Gerald McCoy played only the first couple of drives before leaving with injury. If the Bucs can get that level of pressure the Cowboys are going to have a field day.
Now in fairness it has always been the offensive line this season. Running back Ryan Torain WHIFFED on a block that would have saved one sack. And James Davis chose the wrong pass rusher on another play that led to a pressure (and a ball that was nearly intercepted). The running backs and tight ends need to do a better job holding their blocks, especially against a team like the Cowboys that will blitz from anywhere.
Although a lot can be said about the offensive line play or the failure of the backs for picking up blitzes, the quarterback needs to be better about handling the pressure as well. For as much athleticism that McNabb has, he was horrible about feeling the pressure and was notorious for holding on to the ball too long. This led to a number of sacks, fumbles and inaccurate throws. Rex Grossman has to feel the pressure better and not take needless sacks. He won’t be able to free lance like McNabb did from time to time, so Grossman has to be smarter with the ball.
Establish The Run: The Redskins will need to be able to run the ball if they have any chance of winning this game. Rex Grossman could be an adequate quarterback, but he will not be able to win the game on his own. Torain, Williams and Davis need to have a big game, by keeping drives alive and the Cowboys offense off the field. The Redskins gained about 200 yards last week and still lost, I think they will need at least 150 to have any shot of winning.
Don’t Rely on the Kicking Game: I’m not big in the Anti-Gano camp, and really don’t mind that they have kept him since his kickoffs have been excellent, but do not rely on field goals this week. There might not be any rain or muddy field, but you have a new holder, a long snapper who has struggled all year, and a field goal kicker who hasn’t looked right for a couple of weeks (I’m thinking fatigue or possibly an injury). You have to play to put the ball in the end zone, which wasn’t the case last week. While it is hard to say exactly who was to blame Kyle Shanahan or McNabb, but their play calling inside the Red zone was awful last week. Multiple times McNabb threw to receivers on third and goal to receivers who were not only well short of the goal line, but double or triple covered. If it is third and goal, you might want to consider actually throwing to a receiver with a chance to score.
Put Some Pressure On Kitna: Look the Cowboys have very good receivers, tight ends, and running backs, the only hole in their offensive game is their pass protection. If you can get some pressure maybe you can force some turnovers. If you don’t Jon Kitna will pick the Skins secondary apart. You know Brian Orakpo can get after the passer, but other than that Washington doesn’t have much in the way of a pass rush. Since the Redskins lack the skill to blitz I think they need to get creative. Send some corner blitzes, overload a side, do more stunts, basically the Redskins have nothing to lose so they mine as well show the Cowboys some different looks. Another thing I’d do is let Andre Carter play with his hand down more in your base package. I realize he isn’t a real 3-4 lineman, but he has a motor and always gets penetration. I know it goes against the 3-4 gap assignment ethos, but those have been the only times when this defense has been successful (i.e. Albert Haynesworth freelancing). Let Carter have a bit more freedom to penetrate and cause havoc for the Cowboys. If they start exploiting it maybe you change back, but again at this point what do the Skins have to lose.
Prediction: I think the Redskins will look a little better than people give them credit for but whether it is McNabb or Grossman I don’t see them going into Dallas and winning. Cowboys 27-17.