Santana Moss and Fred Davis hope to keep the offense rolling
The Washington Redskins have their hands full today with the undefeated Atlanta Falcons and their high-flying offense. Matt Ryan has an array of weapons at his disposal and, for a Redskins secondary that has failed to stop any receiver with the slightest hint of talent, today could quickly turn into a nightmare for the 'Skins 27th-ranked defense.
Many things will have to go right for the Redskins to complete an upset over the Falcons, who were seconds away from being shocked at the hands of the Carolina Panthers last week, but crazier things have happened, right?
Here are five keys to a Redskins win.
Keeping the offense on the field will be critical
Through the first quarter of the season, the Redskins defense, specifically their secondary, appears incapable of stopping just about anyone.
They’re 31st in the league in passing yards allowed, giving up a bloated 326 yards per game.
After beginning the season with a respectable performance in Week 1 against Drew Brees and the Saints, they've been dominated by the likes of Danny Amendola, A.J. Green, Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams in consecutive weeks.
The only way they can possibly limit Matt Ryan’s presumably easy targets to stud-receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White is to keep them off the field completely.
The Falcons defense has been porous against the run, and knowing Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s preferred style of play, he’ll be targeting that area. Utilizing Evan Royster, newly-acquired Ryan Grant and Alfred Morris—who is fifth in the league in rushing with 376 yards—will be the key in order to keep the lethal Falcons offense off the field.
Cundiff has been less than spectacular through four games
The Redskins allowed a blocked punt in the first two weeks of the season, one of which proved vital in a loss to the St. Louis Rams. Just when many figures in D. C. were questioning special teams coach Danny Smith's competence, the Redskins signed him to a contract extension.
The punting unit has improved since then, but the kicking game is another story.
After cutting kicker Graham Gano in favor of bringing in veteran Billy Cundiff, the new leg for the Redskins has been anything but impressive. He doesn't possess the leg required to kick anything in the neighborhood of 50 yards and after missing his first three attempts last week, he barely converted the game-winner, narrowly tucking it inside the post.
To this point, every Redskins game has been decided by eight points or less, so missing out on precious points like in last week's case is unacceptable. Cundiff must improve immediately. If he doesn't, don't be surprised to see Graham Gano back in burgundy and gold in the near future.
These two have their hands full today
It'll be hard to improve in a week when they're going against two top-tier receivers, but to have any hope of limiting the Falcons to 30 points or less—a feat that would be considered a monumental accomplishment given the events of recent weeks—cornerbacks Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall must rise to the occasion.
The Falcons are averaging 31 points per game through four games, good for third in the NFL. The Redskins, meanwhile, surrender 30.8 points per contest. This isn't exactly a recipe for success entering today's game and it'll be on the shoulders of the secondary to alter that trend of mediocrity.
The tackling of the Redskins secondary has been just as horrid as their coverage, consistently giving up large chunks of yards in each game to this point. In order to maintain even the slightest hope of an upset, the aforementioned corners as well as safeties Reed Doughty, DeJon Gomes, and Madieu Williams have to limit the big plays over the top while executing even the most basic fundamentals of tackling.
Can RGIII play cornerback?
Keeping RGIII on his feet is critical
Before last week, it seemed as if the stud rookie was well on his way to becoming a candidate for weekly defensive tackling and hitting drills. After left tackle Trent Williams went down with an injury in the loss to Cincinnati, the rest of the line perfected their best scarecrow imitation, kindly standing in place as ferocious defenders dished out hit after crushing hit on the talented quarterback.
Williams played through the knee injury last week and arguably had one of the better games of his brief career. The rest of the offensive line must continue to improve in order to keep the recently-awarded NFC Offensive Rookie of the Month on his feet.
Griffin constantly earns well-deserved praise for his poise, which was on full display as he marched down the field against Tampa Bay for a game-winning drive, but no one wants to see that poise tested any more.
His health is the key to the future success of the Redskins. The pass protection and play-calling need to reflect that sentiment.
Kerrigan will have to lead the way yet again
Matt Ryan isn't the type to be rattled easily, but in order to help out the Redskins porous secondary, Ryan Kerrigan and company will have to have a big game. Rob Jackson and Chris Wilson have filled in admirably for the recently-injured Brian Orakpo, who was lost for the season with a torn pectoral muscle, and they'll have to have their best game to this point.
Last week the Redskins defense only had one sack and one hit on quarterback Josh Freeman, both coming from linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. That won't cut it against this talented offense.
The entire front seven will have to consistently be in the face of Matt Ryan in order to force any bad throws.
It's a simple formula.
The less pressure they generate, the easier it will be for Matty-Ice to sit back and pick apart the liability of the Redskins defense.