It’s not official yet, but the assumption should be that Aaron Rodgers will suit up and play versus the Redskins on Sunday. While he might not be 100%, he’s still very dangerous and has already led his team to a comeback victory and helped ensure a tie in their two games this season. If for some reason he sits the gameplan and the keys to the game will be much different, but this article will assume he will play and at a similar level to what he has shown so far.
-The best way to stop/slow down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense is to simply keep them off the field. I know the Redskins won a shoot out game versus Rodgers two years ago, but I don’t think you can rely on doing that again. The Redskins need to find a way to sustain drives and keep the clock running. Not only will this keep Rodgers off the field more, but it can help put the Redskins defense in a more favorable game script.
The Packers will want to do more quick passing to help alleviate the pressure on a hobbled Rodgers (and risk further injury), but if the Redskins can limit their possessions and force them to play from behind the Packers will need to have a more vertical passing game which should help the Redskins pass rush. Also, the defense should be more rested, which can help them sustain pressure late in the game.
For the Redskins to control the clock, obviously they will need their rushing attack to perform better than a week ago, but they can’t solely rely on the run to move the chains. The Redskins passing attack has to be involved early in the game and on early downs. It’s important to establish the run, but the Redskins can’t hope to win if they try to run 1st and 10 every time. Too often that results in 2nd and 3rd-and-long, which puts them in a bad situation. If the Redskins want to stay on the field, they need to stay ahead of the chains. This is an ideal game to feature the short passing game. It was a point of contention with fans (with some good reason) after the loss to the Colts a week ago, but it is the right way to attack the Packers and keep the offense on the field. Chris Thompson, Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis need to be featured in this match-up, as well as quicker passes to the receivers as well.
-Passing needs to be the Redskins focal point of the offense, but at some point the Redskins are going to need to get their ground game going as well. It worked pretty well week 1 versus the Cardinals, but with the exception of a handful of plays failed miserably versus the Colts. The Redskins need to find the right balance in using Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson versus the Packers, but both players need to be involved. Peterson will handle the bulk of the work load and he’s still trying to find his place in this offense. To help him out the Redskins should try to run him more in less obvious situations and establish a passing threat first. Doing so could open up a few extra holes for the veteran and give the Redskins some semblance of a balanced attack on offense.
-Though I think the key to the passing game is the shorter passing game as mentioned above, I do believe the Redskins at least need to show that they are willing to attack vertically. Taking a couple shots early in the game (particularly off play action) could help open up both the short passing game and the running game. Right now there is still a question if teams need to respect Alex Smith as a deep thrower, and until the Redskins start to hit a couple it’s going to be an issue. The Packers have some really young corners that you might be able to get them to bite on a double-move to get a receiver open deep.
I believe overall that efficiency is key for the Redskins and I don’t want to see Smith throw deep into double coverage, but if he’s smart and takes a couple of shots it can help the overall offensive plan.
-Rodgers is not 100%, and while even at 75% he’s still one of the more dangerous QBs in the league, he is not himself and the Redskins need to find ways to attack him and keep him under pressure. Rodgers isn’t as mobile as he typically is and since he can’t put as much weight on his leg as he normally would, his throws are a bit off. If you start adding pressure to the mix and force him to throw in even worse situations, you could really start to impact his game. In addition the normal benefits of sacks, offensive line penalties and higher turnover potential for when a QB is pressured are still there.
Unfortunately there are two problems with the plan of extra pressure on Rodgers. The first issue is the Redskins pass rush hasn’t been too effective so far this season. Some of it is due to teams attacking them with short quick passes, but some of it has to do with a lack of winning battles and getting some heat on the quarterback. It’s not just about getting sacks, too often the Redskins aren’t even getting close. That needs to change this week, because if Rodgers has time he will just pick apart the defense.
The second issue for the Redskins getting after Rodgers is that the Packers understand the limitations that Rodgers is playing with and they are adjusting their offense. The Packers have really increased their usage of short quick passes, to help negate the pass rush. The Redskins have to adjust and try to take away some of those routes and force Rodgers on to his 3rd and 4th options keeping him in the pocket longer. Also this is where the Redskins offense can come in and help, by controlling the clock and putting points on the board. This could force the Packers to change their game plan some what and be less reliant on the short passing game.
-The other thing the Redskins need to do to force Aaron Rodgers in bad situations is containing the Packers rushing attack. This is something that they failed to do versus the Colts and it allowed the Colts to dictate the pace of the game. Indianapolis didn’t have massive success on the ground, but they had success in key situations that helped keep them ahead of the chains. This allowed Andrew Luck the opportunity to run a quick passing game and keep the chains moving. The Colts finished the game by converting 9 of their 16 3rd downs, which is a good number, but the key for them was keeping the third downs short. On third downs of 4 yards or less they were 8 of 9, versus 1 of 7 when they needed 5 yards or more. If the Redskins can contain the Packers early down rushing attack it will put them in bad situations and force them to get away from their intended game plan.