Washington Redskins: 6 Things to Do to Beat Arizona Cardinals This Week
A home encounter with the Arizona Cardinals provides the Washington Redskins with a great opportunity to build on their impressive opening day victory over the New York Giants.
The Cardinals were far from convincing in defeating the rebuilding Carolina Panthers at home last week. The NFC West outfit will surely find things to be tough against a fired-up Redskins squad determined to get off to a fast start this season.
Both teams have made several changes to their respective rosters and the game will be a good indicator of each team's chances of mounting a serious push for the playoffs.
Here are six things the Redskins will need to do to avoid a demoralising upset on Sunday.
6. Show Larry Fitzgerald a Lot of Different Looks
Shutting down arguably the best wideout in the league is probably not a realistic expectation. But the Redskins defense must at least contain Fitzgerald and ensure he does the minimum amount of damage.
The best way to achieve this will be to mix up the coverages. Fitzgerald is one of the smartest, most precise route runners in the game, and the Redskins' secondary schemes must keep him off balance.
Utilising off-coverage and giving Fitzgerald a cushion may prevent the deep ball, but the cerebral flanker will still exploit the sidelines.
The slant pattern is where Fitzgerald is most dangerous and taking this option away is the 'Skins biggest priority. Some tight press coverage will turn Fitzgerald inside, where linebackers can fill the underneath lanes and bracket him.
Multiple looks will be the key to stopping Fitzgerald. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will have to vary his secondary calls. Soft and tight zones, along with selected use of bump and run schemes, should prevent Fitzgerald from taking over the game.
5. Disguise Some Coverages to Confuse Kevin Kolb
Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb may have been finally granted the starting role many feel his talents demand, but the former Philadelphia Eagles backup can be fooled by shifts in coverage.
By disguising their coverage looks, the Redskins will be able to bait Kolb into some costly turnovers. Washington's safeties can play a crucial role in this.
Given how often the Redskins like to deploy a safety in the box, they ought to be able to sneak that eighth man out into the flat and curl areas Kolb likes to exploit.
An off-coverage look on the safety side might encourage Kolb to try some quick slants and outs, which could be undercut by the late dropping safety.
Haslett could also use the advanced safety to present Kolb with a man-coverage look, tempting him to try the deep ball. The safety could then bail out at the last moment and convert the defense into either a Cover-2 or Cover-3 look.
4. Run Some Stunts and Twists with the Line and Linebackers
In recent seasons the Cardinals have struggled mightily along the offensive line. Slow reactions have plagued the unit the most.
One way to take advantage of the ponderous technique of the Arizona front five is to run some stunts and games.
Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are both powerful players. The duo can use their initial quickness and straight-ahead strength to twist inside the defensive ends and attack the guard-tackle gap.
This sort of interior pressure will confuse the Cardinals blocking schemes and speed up Kevin Kolb's decision making, which should lead to some big plays for the Redskins' defense.
3. Trent Willliams Must Get the Better of Joey Porter
Love him or hate him, Joey Porter is still a dangerous edge rusher out of a 3-4 front. Second-year left tackle Trent Williams will need to maintain his concentration to keep the aggressive veteran at bay.
Williams needs to bounce back from a disappointing opening day showing against the Giants. He must be more aggressive and decisive at the point of attack. The speed of his footwork and the proficiency of his hands technique will be tested by the quickness and smarts of Porter.
If Williams cannot sufficiently subdue the 34-year-old outside linebacker, then it might be time to start worrying about the long-term potential of the fourth overall pick from 2010.
2. Force Adrian Wilson out of Position in Coverage
Exposing Adrian Wilson in coverage will be key for the Redskins. The victory over the Giants showed that Washington now possesses a variety of potent weapons in the passing game and Kyle Shanahan should make Wilson a prime target.
Wilson is one of the league's finest blitzing safeties and plays a lot like Troy Polamalu. But like Polamalu, Wilson can be fooled and moved out of position by a smart quarterback and well designed passing attack.
Quarterback Rex Grossman needs to use his snap count and look off Wilson, to force the strong safety into unwittingly declaring his coverage position early.
The Redskins need to flood Wilson's zone with multiple receivers running a variety of patterns. Allowing Fred Davis to attack the vertical seams, could leave Wilson matched up with either Santana Moss or Jabar Gaffney on underneath, crossing patterns.
1. Run the Ball Away from Adrian Wilson
They may be able to attack him in pass coverage, but Adrian Wilson can still cause the Redskins plenty of problems closer to the line of scrimmage.
Wilson's instincts and takeoff speed make him a very disruptive force player against the run. The Redskins should incorporate some counter plays into their zone blocking schemes in order to use Wilson's downhill pursuit against him.
If the Redskins can quickly get a linemen on Wilson, their running backs can reverse direction unhindered and attack the back side of the Cardinals defense.
The Redskins are presented with a legitimate opportunity to notch a second straight victory. But the Cardinals have dangerous play-makers on both sides of the ball and coach Mike Shanahan must do everything he can to prepare his team.
A letdown in a winnable game would deflate the early season optimism surrounding the Redskins. But an accomplished victory will provide further proof that the Redskins are closer than ever to a return to respectability.