By: Patrick Waring
The 2-2 Washington Redskins will have a tough task on their hands when they travel to take the field against the 4-0 Atlanta Falcons on Sunday. The ground will be the key on both sides of the ball for the Redskins. Establish the run on offense and keep quarterback Matt Ryan and the Falcons’ passing attack grounded while on defense.
The Falcons are undefeated on the season and also 3-0 against the NFC East. A win against the Redskins would complete a sweep of the division.
The Redskins will most likely try to stick to the script on offense. They are looking to get the run game going, control the clock and take shots down the field when opportunities are there. The 1-2 punch of running backs Alfred Morris and Matt Jones will attempt to get things going on the ground. The Falcons’ rush defense has been pretty good, but they have given up almost 4.5 yards per carry and are going to be facing the top rushing offense in the league. Chris Thompson has also become an option for the Redskins, taking advantage of touches that haven’t been going to Jones and Morris. Passing wise, head coach Jay Gruden will be looking for the same Kirk Cousins that played against the St. Louis Rams and Philadelphia Eagles to take the field, instead of the one in the other two games. The other two were losses, showed bad judgment and had two interceptions each. Cousins has shown some signs of settling down in the offense and looked comfortable during the 90 yard drive that put the team on top of the Eagles for good last week. Cousins will have to operate without top target tight end Jordan Reed (concussion) and wide receiver DeSean Jackson (hamstring). Jackson has been unavailable since leaving early in the week one defeat to the Miami Dolphins. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder should be more involved for the second week in a row. Pierre Garçon stole the show with his game winning touchdown, but Crowder (7 receptions, 65 yards) was targeted 12 times.
The defense will need to bring pressure like they did last week. They gave quarterback Sam Bradford and the Eagles’ offense problems and were able to come up with five sacks. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones have been deadly this season. Ryan is second in the league in passing yards (1,202), while Jones is currently second in receptions (38), receiving yards (478) and touchdowns (4). Getting pressure will be key because the Redskins secondary is still without cornerback DeAngelo Hall (toe) and will take the field without cornerback Chris Culliver (knee). Culliver played the entire game last week, but was slowed with his knee and beat for two second half touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry will also have his hands full with running back Devonta Freeman. Freeman has found the endzone seven times this year, including three in each of the last two games.
Atlanta practices were probably pretty interesting this week with former Redskins. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, assistant head coach/defensive backs coach Raheem Morris, wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and right guard Chris Chester are all now employed by the Falcons. Surely tendencies and tips were shared with coaches and teammates. Hankerson has been productive in his new uniform. He recorded six receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown last week.
In order to have a chance for the upset, the Redskins will need to put constant pressure on Ryan and come up with some turnovers. To struggle on deep passes in the second half against the Eagles, a team that had no success going down the field before, is a large concern. The Redskins defense also has not recorded an interception so far this season. Keeping things grounded could set up a nice Sunday for the team.
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(Above Photo Courtesy of www.redskins.com)