I hope Ryan Kerrigan's ready, because the post-Brian Orakpo era starts Sunday as the Washington Redskins kick off their home schedule against the Cincinnati Bengals. Kerrigan and his defensive peers will have to push forward without their top pass rusher, which won't be easy.
Having Robert Griffin III on offense certainly won't hurt.
Let's tee up the matchup with some final thoughts and a likely-to-be-wrong prediction.
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
They can't let Carlos Dunlap and a strong Cincinnati defensive front get to Griffin, so the key might simply be to keep Alfred Morris rolling. If the 'Skins lose balance on offense, they're in big trouble.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
A lot of nickel and dime coverage. Take care of A.J. Green and Andrew Hawkins and chill out on the blitzes, as tempting as that may be without Orakpo. Force their running backs to beat you.
How Washington can lose
By over-committing to the blitz or the passing game on either side of the ball. They can't panic and become overzealous with Orakpo and Adam Carriker gone.
Five most important non-quarterbacks
Ryan Kerrigan, Tyler Polumbus, Fred Davis, Alfred Morris, Josh Wilson
Kerrigan will be the team's key pass-rushing threat for the first time in his career, while Wilson will be charged with having to limit damage from Green. Polumbus will have to deal with Dunlap and that Cincy rush, and Davis will have to help him while working as RG3's security blanket. Morris will be relied upon to maintain that all-important balance.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
As has been mentioned several hundred times this week, the 'Skins will be sans Orakpo and Carriker for the first time, so it's tough to tell how Jim Haslett will react.
Offensively, they still aren't sure if Pierre Garcon will be good to go with that foot injury he suffered in the opener. Washington could really use Griffin's favorite target and the offense's biggest deep threat against a defense like Cincinnati's, so hopefully Garcon's able to fight through the pain and make an impact.
Injury analysis, Bengals edition
Dunlap's returning from a knee injury, so there's really no telling how effective he'll be in his debut. That works to Washington's advantage because the Bengals' defense isn't the same without their top pass rusher.
Considering that they also lost linebacker Thomas Howard and defensive end Jamaal Anderson this week, Cincy's D might still have trouble with Griffin and Co.
B/R NFC East Blog prediction
I don't believe the Redskins can survive long term without Orakpo, but I do believe they'll have enough of an edge on offense—and from the crowd in RG3's home debut—to power past Cincinnati in a close game.
Redskins 27, Bengals 24
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