Redskins vs. Rams: Sketching out a Game Plan for Washington

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

September 9, 2012; New Orleans, LA, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan paces the sidelines during their game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.  Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE
John David Mercer-US PRESSWIRE

The Washington Redskins blew away expectations both offensively and defensively Week 1 in the Superdome. Logically, you'd think they'd easily be able to carry that over to the much-less-intimidating confines of the Edward Jones Dome, but there's nothing logical about the week-to-week pace of the National Football League.

As the season progresses, opponents will have a better ability to adjust to Washington's revamped offense and young, aggressive defense. As a result, the game plans have to keep changing. Here's how Washington should attack the St. Louis Rams on both sides of the ball.

Return to a committee backfield and focus on Janoris Jenkins

The Redskins will undoubtedly package plays again so that Robert Griffin III can exhibit his ability to make quick reads and either throw deep, check down, hand it off or take it himself. That shouldn't change, but Washington might want to consider utilizing the backs a little differently on Sunday.

Alfred Morris should still see plenty of work against a weak St. Louis run defense that didn't get tested properly by Detroit, but I'd definitely like to see more of Evan Royster and Roy Helu, because those two have more home-run-hitting ability. 

The Rams surrendered a league-high seven runs of 40-plus yards last year and gave up a below-average 14 runs of 20 yards or more. Considering that their pass rush is at least respectable—and probably better than the one Griffin faced in New Orleans—establishing a threat on the ground will be important.

The Redskins should also consider targeting rookie cornerback Janoris Jenkins. They have the wide receiver depth to spread the field and force single coverage from Jenkins. They'd be smart to avoid matchups with Bradley Fletcher and Cortland Finnegan while looking often toward Jenkins as the first read.

Griffin did this against Saints rookie corner Corey White in the opener, beating White on all five throws in his direction, according to Pro Football Focus. The Rams are likely prepared to see Jenkins get challenged after he was beaten often by Matthew Stafford Sunday, but that doesn't mean they can do anything about it. 

Dial it up against a depleted offensive line

There's a chance the Rams will be without three starting offensive linemen Sunday, as left tackle Rodger Saffold, left guard Rokevious Watkins and center Scott Wells are all dealing with injuries. St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford completed passes on just two of his nine pressured drop-backs in the season opener, according to PFF.

Of quarterbacks who had at least 300 drop-backs in 2011, Bradford was one of only three who didn't throw an interception as a result of pressure. But his completion percentage of just 38.4 in those scenarios was near the bottom of the league. And only Matt Moore and Blaine Gabbert gave up sacks on a higher percentage of their drop-backs.

The stars are aligned for Jim Haslett's defense to have a sack party Sunday. Their strengths match up with the Rams' weaknesses. St. Louis gave up a league-high 55 sacks last season, and now that line is about to face a red-hot Ryan Kerrigan and the soon-to-be-elite Brian Orakpo, with Wayne freakin' Hunter protecting Bradford's blind side.

The Lions loaded the box a lot to stop Steven Jackson last week, and they were successful. But as a result, they only got those nine pressures. They could have had a lot more sacks had they keyed in on Bradford and let Jackson get space here and there. 

The Redskins already had a quality run defense last year, and they'll be better this season with Jarvis Jenkins healthy and Perry Riley in the mix more actively. The 29-year-old Jackson wouldn't be my primary concern. Just rush Bradford often with five or six—including some blitzes from defensive backs DeAngelo Hall and DeJon Gomes—and the St. Louis offense will be in trouble.