Washington Redskins: Four Things to Expect in Week 2 vs Rams

Colin Kennedy@ColinKennedy10Featured ColumnistSeptember 13, 2012

Washington Redskins: Four Things to Expect in Week 2 vs Rams

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    Washington's shocking Week 1 upset of the Saints in the Superdome left Redskins fans everywhere begging for one thing:

    More RGIII. 

    The rookie's impressive debut instantaneously energized one of football's most dedicated fan bases, and even started a new trend. After Robert Griffin III became the first visiting quarterback to escape New Orleans with a victory in more than a year, fans of the Burgundy and Gold have been seen "Griffin-ing" on the streets of D.C. 

    But as we count down the hours until Sunday's 4:05 p.m. kickoff in St. Louis, it's important that we remember that this is the NFL. And rookie quarterbacks don't just flirt with perfection week in and week out. 

    They struggle at times. They throw interceptions. And just like every other quarterback in the league, at some point they fail. 

    So while we drift slowly back into reality, we must contain our expectations. We must understand that our 22-year-old quarterback hasn't even seen the surface of what NFL defenses have to offer. 

    And hopefully he won't have to. At least not yet. 

    The good news for the fans in Washington is that RGIII wasn't the only impressive takeaway from the Redskins' Week 1 victory in New Orleans. It was a well-rounded team effort that silenced a sold-out crowd in one of the league's toughest places to play. 

    Alfred Morris and Mike Shanahan's zone blocking scheme helped balance the offensive attack perfectly. And Jim Haslett's defense performed much better than the numbers indicate against arguably football's most lethal offensive unit. 

    The Rams won't make the mistake of underestimating a Washington team that dropped 40 points on the Saints. But after losing a heart-breaker to Detroit in the final seconds of Week 1, St. Louis will have their hands full again with the Redskins in town. 

    Here are 5 things to expect from the week 2 matchup.

Balanced Attack

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    If you told me seven days ago that the Washington Redskins would total the most offensive yards in Week 1 of the NFL season, I would have called you insane. A unit that ranked 16th out of 32 teams a season ago stood no chance at deterring the league's best home-field advantage with a rookie quarterback making his debut.

    Or so we thought. 

    459 yards later, the Burgundy and Gold stand atop the leader boards in terms of total yardage. And it was all thanks to a brilliant game-plan. 

    Now, of course, the players had to execute the strategy. And they did so almost flawlessly. But the Redskins' balance on offense surprised the Saints' personnel and spectators nationwide. Their ability to mix and match the run game with play-action passes kept the chains moving and Drew Brees on the bench. 

    Washington had possession of the ball for nearly two-thirds of the game–39 minutes and 10 seconds to be exact. A stat that also ranked first in the NFL last week appears somewhat insignificant on the surface. 

    But when you're playing a team like the Saints, the best defense is a good offense. And that's what the Redskins had in week 1. 

    Alfred Morris combined with four others (including RGIII) to rush for 156 yards in New Orleans. And while fellow rookie Andrew Luck needed 45 attempts to eclipse the 300-yard mark, Robert Griffin III was able to do so with just 26. 

    With a week to prepare and more talent than the Saints had defensively, the Rams should pose better opposition to the Redskins and their rookie quarterback in Week 2.

    But don't expect the Shanahans to implement much change in the overall game plan. 

    In order to succeed at this level, you have to keep your opponents guessing. And as long as Alfred Morris and the boys up front can keep the ball moving at a decent rate, look for a similar result in St. Louis. 

Defensive Dominance

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    OK, so maybe I shouldn't go that far. The Redskins did surrender 358 total yards—good for 19th in the league in Week 1. 

    But that was the Saints. And this is the Rams. 

    Two entirely different animals compose the first eighth of Washington's schedule, and Jim Haslett should be thrilled he has already faced the tougher end of it. 

    St. Louis ranked dead last in points-per-game a year ago. And through one week in 2012, there is little reason to believe Sam Bradford and company have turned it around. The Rams totaled just 250 yards of total offense against a Lions defense which ranked 23rd overall in 2011. And if it wasn't for their +3 turnover margin, they might have been blown out in Detroit. 

    This week, Washington comes to town. And matched up against a stingy defense that tends to bend but not break, St. Louis will have their work cut out for them on Sunday. 

    Only the Eagles' defense was stronger on third down than the Redskins in Week 1. Jim Haslett's group stopped New Orleans on nine of their 11 third down tries and their relentless pass rush forced Brees into two interceptions. 

    The Rams may have some extra energy in their home-opener, but don't expect Sam Bradford to one-up the single season passing leader in Drew Brees. 

    Look for Washington's defense to be the backbone this weekend in St. Louis. 

Imperfection

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    After witnessing arguably the greatest rookie quarterback debut of all-time a week ago in New Orleans, it may be tough for fans to contain their excitement on the streets of D.C. But Robert Griffin III is a rookie. He is still just 22 years old. And it would be ludicrous to suggest that he will continue the pace that he set in week 1. 

    His 19-26 performance was overly impressive, even against a depleted Saints defense. But like Cam Newton did a year ago, RGIII may have set the bar a little too high. 

    Regular season game film will give defenses across the NFL a chance to adjust to the league's newest superstar. Weeks of preparation will allow the world's best defensive minds to design complex schemes to throw at the rookie. 

    As a result, he will make mistakes. 

    Much like their Week 2 opponent, the Rams' defense was the backbone of their 2011 team. And there is no question that St. Louis poses a stronger threat to Washington's offense than did the scandal-stricken Saints.

    In-game adjustments will be key for the first year player out of Baylor. After burning New Orleans' blitz packages in Week 1, expect a more conservative approach from the Rams in Week 2. 

    Fewer pass rushers will mean more coverage. And while St. Louis figures to challenge the rookie to beat their secondary, don't be surprised if Robert Griffin III picks up his first career interception this weekend. 

    Overall, I think RGIII has showed the poise and composure to deal with adversity. After winning in one of the league's most hostile environments in his NFL debut, there isn't much left he can do to surprise us. 

    But everyone makes mistakes. And though some fans in D.C. have jokingly labeled their QB "R-Jesus," Robert Griffin III isn't perfect. I expect a slight drop-off statistically from RGIII against the Rams in Week 2.

    But I've been wrong before.

2-0

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    It seems like every other year that the Redskins jump out of the gate with two or three wins, giving their faithful fan base a false sense of hope for the playoffs. By year's end, the lack of talent surfaces, and the losses pile up. But finally, the 'Skins have some true potential. It is still far too early to make any sort of predictions; however, a 40-point-performance hasn't happened in Week 1 since 1991. 

    The very same year they last won the Superbowl.  

    No, I don't think the Burgundy and Gold will run the table behind a rookie quarterback and questionable offensive line. I'm not even suggesting the Redskins will make the playoffs.  But I think Dan Snyder may have finally put together the team that warrants his outrageous beer prices. 

    It will certainly be a learning process in Washington. The Redskins haven't transformed into the league's best team overnight by any means. Gaps in the secondary and injuries to the offensive line could prove challenging over the course of a 16-game season, and mistakes from RGIII are simply inevitable. 

    But with a solid defense and finally an able quarterback, don't be surprised if the Redskins are in contention come December. 

    The Rams should present a sturdier defensive challenge for the Redskins this Sunday, but I don't expect St. Louis to explode offensively. Look for Washington to continue pounding the running game, and for the Burgundy and Gold to improve to 2-0 on the year. 

    Prediction: Redskins 28 - 17 Rams 

    HAIL