Redskins vs. Rams: Previewing the Matchup
Considering each team's performance in Week 1, the Redskins seem to have the upper hand. Looking at the matchup on paper seems to indicate the same thing.
But, the NFL is nothing if not unpredictable, and every fan knows that anything can happen on any given Sunday. With that in mind, here is how each team stacks up against the other, position by position.
Sam Bradford has a slightly larger NFL pedigree than his counterpart Robert Griffin III, but after each youngster's respective performance last week, it appears that the Redskins have the upper hand.
Bradford was solid, if unspectacular, against the Detroit Lions, going 17-of-25 for 198 yards and a touchdown. Griffin was superb in his debut, throwing for 320 yards and two touchdowns.
Even if Bradford had thrown for 400 yards against the Lions, I'd still give RGIII the advantage. This is simply because he's a more potent offensive weapon with his ability to run and to pass.
RGIII also has a superior supporting cast, and the Rams have a suspect secondary, so there are many reasons to believe that the Redskins' signal-caller will upstage the former Sooner.
If he had played the majority of his career with a better team, we could be talking about Steven Jackson as one of the better running backs in recent memory. As it is, Jackson has been overshadowed for his entire career because the teams he has played for have been very unimpressive.
The Rams, though, believe that Jackson is a key cog in improving a team that went 2-14 last season.
The Redskins, on the other hand, face a very different situation. Alfred Morris was the surprise performer of the week with 96 yards on 28 carries. Mike Shanahan is notorious for rotating his backfield in unpredictable ways, so there's no assurance that Morris is starting this week.
Even if he is, the Rams have a clear advantage. Jackson is in a different league from Morris, Roy Helu and Evan Royster. Clear advantage for St. Louis.
There may be no bigger mismatch across the board than the one that exists between the receivers of the Redskins and the Rams. The Redskins have a very solid receiving corps while the Rams have a group of pass-catchers that is less than adequate. It's just that simple.
Pierre Garcon may not play due to a foot injury, but Washington would still have better receivers in his absence. The combination of Josh Morgan, Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson trumps the non-threatening group the Rams have.
The only mildly dangerous receiver on St. Louis' roster, other than the running back Jackson, may be former New York Giant Steve Smith. But, Smith only had one catch last week and only 11 in nine games in 2011.
Danny Amendola can also play some ball, but we're being picky here.
Did I say that wide receiver was the most lopsided matchup? That might be incorrect, as the two tight ends in this game are very far away from each other on the pass-catching spectrum.
The Rams will start Maine product Matthew Mulligan, a former Jet who is known more for his blocking than his receiving. The 27-year old Mulligan has six career catches.
Washington counters with Fred Davis, who has as much skill as any tight end in the league. Davis hasn't played to the fullest of his abilities yet (and had a drug-related suspension last year), but he has over 130 career catches and looks to be the safety valve for his rookie quarterback.
There's nothing special about either of these units, but the Redskins get the nod here mostly because they're not as bad up front.
Now, I may not be giving the Redskins' line enough credit. They protected RGIII pretty well against the Saints and opened up a few holes for Alfred Morris here and there. It was a performance that could be described as "solid." The run blocking needs to be better, though.
The Rams' offensive line has been pretty bad for a few years now, and Sam Bradford has taken more hits than nearly every other quarterback in the league. He was sacked four times against the Lions, and the Rams only mustered 77 yards on the ground, averaging three yards a carry.
Turning over to the defensive side of the ball, we see two units that aren't very close in terms of talents and depth-and that's despite the Redskins using a three-man front.
Defensive end Chris Long is the only threat along the Rams' line, while the Redskins have solid run stoppers in Adam Carriker, Stephen Bowen and Barry Cofield. This Redskins line may be one of the best three-man fronts in the entire league.
Expect the Redskins to pressure Sam Bradford all day and bottle up the running game with their big men up front.
The Redskins may have a top-five linebacker corps with their spectacular set of men in the middle.
London Fletcher (a former Ram) is still going strong in his late 30s, Perry Riley is an upcoming star and Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are two of the best young defensive players in football today. As far as overall team units go, this is unquestionably the strongest that the Redskins have.
The Rams have a base 4-3 defense, so they counter with a trio of backers. James Laurinaitis is a beast in the middle, and former Redskin Rocky McIntosh is still playing well, but this is more about the Redskins simply having more talent at the position than the Rams.
Washington's young guys on the outside will give Sam Bradford fits all afternoon, and the Rams will find it difficult to move the ball.
Each team has issues and strengths in the defensive backfield. The Rams had three interceptions in their Week 1 loss but still allowed over 350 yards passing. The Redskins forced two interceptions and allowed over 330 yards (but many of them came with the game somewhat in hand).
No one will mistake these secondaries for the 2000 Ravens. Let's be honest. But, there are playmakers—Cortland Finnegan can change a game for the Rams, and DeAngelo Hall can switch momentum in a heartbeat.
The Rams have more experience and depth at safety. The Redskins will be forced to use Reed Doughty and Madieu Williams due to multiple injuries and a suspension to Tanard Jackson. Still, the depleted secondary had a very good game against Drew Brees.
In the end, there's no real advantage for either team at this position.
If the Redskins can perform slightly better on special teams than they did last week, they won't lose many games because of them. Billy Cundiff kicked four field goals, and while Sav Rocca had a punt blocked, he's still as solid as any punter in the league.
The Rams have two rookies at kicker and punter. Greg Zuerlein was 3-of-3 in his NFL debut but is still unproven. Johnny Hekker had a good game in his debut, averaging 48.2 yards per punt.
The biggest issue for either team will be snapping, as the Redskins are replacing long snapper Nick Sundberg with Justin Snow after Sundberg broke his arm in New Orleans. Snow is a veteran, but still, there might be a few sloppy plays if the chemistry between snapper and punter is off.
Brandon Banks is a dangerous return man for the Redskins, and unproven rookie Isaiah Pead will return kicks for St. Louis.