The Washington Redskins take on the Indianapolis Colts tonight in their second preseason game. It is a good chance for the Redskins' revamped running game to build on their impressive showing from Week 1.
Tim Hightower and Evan Royster looked impressive against the Pittsburgh Steelers. More importantly, improved play by the offensive line helped the duo to shine.
Mike Shanahan's zone-blocking schemes seem to be taking hold. The front five were quick off the ball and sharp getting downfield and into their blocks.
But the one advantage the Colts may have is their tremendous team speed on defense. The Colts can use their speed to counter Washington's zone-blocking techniques.
The Colts' quick linebackers and safeties can outrun attempted blocks by the Redskins' linemen who have entered the second level.
This would allow the Colts defense to eliminate the long cutback plays the Redskins managed against the Steelers in their opening game.
One option for the Redskins might be to counter speed with speed. This could mean an increased role for fourth-round draftee Roy Helu.
The Nebraska product has deceptive quickness and is a natural one-cut runner. He has the skill set to thrive against an over-pursuing Colts defense.
The Redskins managed a lot of success on the ground against the Steelers' 3-4 front. One of the disadvantages of the 3-4 is that it can be easy for the offense to spread the defensive personnel out.
This is ideal for the mobile blocking schemes used by the Redskins, creating more room for their linemen to maneuver.
The Colts run a lot of under fronts out of their 4-3 base. Rush ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are both players who play the run on their way to the quarterback.
Finesse techniques should be ideal in using their downhill momentum against them and nudging them out of the play.
Trapping the 3-technique defensive tackle will be crucial. If the tackle is allowed to regularly penetrate the B gap he will cutoff a useful cutback lane for the Redskins' runners to exploit.
The Redskins produced an impressive rushing effort against a tough Steelers defense. It will be disappointing if they are unable to match that feat against a weaker unit.
The Redskins face a different scheme and new challenges tonight, but the team took advantage of a similar defensive system against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers towards the end of last season.
If Washington can enjoy another strong showing on the ground, it will help restore a lot of confidence in the offense heading into the regular season.