New Orleans Saints vs. Washington Redskins: What's the Game Plan for Washington?

Marcel Davis@@Mar_CelDavis24Correspondent INovember 14, 2015

NEW ORLEANS, LA - SEPTEMBER 09:  Will Smith #91 of the New Orleans Saints tries to get around   Niles Paul #84 of the Washington Redskins during the season opener at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on September 9, 2012 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Redskins defeated the Saints 40-32.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

Having failed to end their road losing streak the previous week, the Washington Redskins return home with a mandate to win in Week 10 against the New Orleans Saints

As it stands, Washington trails the NFC-East leading New York Giants by two games in the win column. Losers in 11 of their last 12 road games, the Skins can ill afford to let a home contest slip away against a sub-.500 opponent. 

Washington prevailed the last time it was under such circumstances in Week 7 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Can it replicate that performance?

Let's find out. Here is the Week 10 game plan for the Redskins.

Offensive Game Plan

To match New Orleans' offense, the Redskins will need success on the ground.
To match New Orleans' offense, the Redskins will need success on the ground.Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

The offensive explosion against the Buccaneers aside, Washington has struggled to put points on the board in 2015. At 19.8 points per game, its offense is No. 28 in the league in scoring.

A lack of big plays through the air and a non-existent running game are the main culprits for this ranking. The team has mustered just 172 yards on the ground the past four weeks. Through the air, Kirk Cousins has just one completion of 40 yards or more.

Given the Saints' shortcomings on defense, now is as good a time as any for the Skins to reverse this trend.

New Orleans surrenders, on average, 4.7 yards per rush.

Washington's struggles on the ground can be traced back to its injured and inexperienced offensive line. Starters Shawn Lauvao and Kory Lichtensteiger currently reside on injured reserve, and opposite star left tackle Trent Williams are first-year starters Morgan Moses and Brandon Scherff. 

Upon closer examination, though, you'll find the schedule played a large part as well. The Atlanta Falcons, New York Jets and New England Patriots stand atop the NFL in run defense. And while the Bucs rank No. 15 in yards allowed per game, they only allow 3.7 yards per rush (T-3rd).

Against a Saints defense surrendering 122.6 yards per game, now is the time for Washington's dormant rushing attack to show life. 

In the passing game, Cousins will need to move away from the methodical approach he has used this season. Believe it or not, but New Orleans' NFL-worst defense (in total yards) is one of the best defensive units on third down. 

Opponents are converting 32.7 percent of third downs against the Saints, fourth in the NFL. To avoid playing into this strength, Cousins will need to connect on his throws downfield. To date, per ESPN.com, he's only completed 3 of 22 passes thrown more than 20 yards through the air.

Knowing New Orleans has allowed an NFC-high 38 completions of 20-plus yards, in addition to 11 receptions north of 40 yards, Cousins will have an opportunity this week to improve in this area.

Defensive Game Plan

Pressure is Washington's key to slowing Brees.
Pressure is Washington's key to slowing Brees.Bill Haber/Associated Press

Slowing Drew Brees will be a focal point of defensive coordinator Joe Barry's defensive game plan. But before it can concern itself with Brees, Washington first has to right its leaky run defense. 

The team is No. 30 in yards per carry allowed (4.8) and No. 29 in yards per game (132.5). New Orleans isn't particularly known for its rushing attack, but throughout the season the play of Mark Ingram has been the measuring stick for success. 

In contests in which Ingram averages north of 4.0 yards per carry, the Saints are 3-1. In the one win not accounted for here, he posted two touchdowns. With the running game churning out yards, New Orleans can avert Brees' struggles on third-and-long. 

According to ESPN.com, his accuracy drops from 69.6 percent overall to 57.6 percent on third down. Stopping the run would not only put Brees outside his comfort zone, but it would enable the Skins to blitz. 

Against the blitz, Brees is a 61-percent passer. Furthermore, of his 21 sacks on the year, 10 have come via additional pressure. 

The secondary has gained reinforcements in Bashaud Breeland and Chris Culliver in recent weeks, but for all intents and purposes, Washington's defense rests on the front seven playing to its talent.

With the likes of Ryan Kerrigan, Jason Hatcher, Keenan Robinson—if he plays, that is—and now Will Compton up front, the Skins have the horses to overwhelm the Saints up front. 

Key Players and Matchups

WR DeSean Jackson vs. CB Brandon Browner

In need of big plays, the Skins need the 2014 version of Jackson to resurface,.
In need of big plays, the Skins need the 2014 version of Jackson to resurface,.Winslow Townson/Associated Press

If Washington wants big plays, this is the matchup to turn to.

Injuries have limited him in 2015, but it was just last season that DeSean Jackson led the NFL in yards per catch (20.9). He had 16 receptions of 20-plus yards and an NFL-high 13 receptions of 40-plus yards.

Cousins has had his struggles throwing downfield accurately. But when throwing at Brandon Browner, an attempt itself is all that's needed to garner a big play. Browner, per NFL Penalty Tracker, leads the NFL in penalties (15) and penalty yards (154).

Following Jackson's quiet return to the lineup, head coach Jay Gruden should make a concerted effort to get him touches this week. 

TE Jordan Reed vs. New Orleans Secondary

With Jackson occupying the defense's attention down the field, Jordan Reed will have ample room to do damage in the short-to-intermediate passing game. 

Even with Jairus Byrd and Kenny Vaccarro to call upon, the Saints have struggled mightily to match up with opposing tight ends this season. 

According to Football Outsiders, New Orleans, on average, yields more than seven receptions and 77 yards per game to tight ends.

Given Reed's standing as Cousins' top target on third down and in the red zone, a big day from the 25-year-old tight end would spell a productive outing from Washington's offense. 

LB Will Compton vs. Saints Running Backs

John Bazemore/Associated Press

There isn't a featured receiver in New Orleans' passing attack. Nine players have north of 10 receptions and six have multiple receiving touchdowns. 

Of this group, though, three happen to be running backs. In addition to the screen game, the Saints like to flex out their backs on the outside to exploit matchups with opposing linebackers.

With Robinson's playing status up in the air and Perry Riley demoted to the second unit, the onus will fall on Compton to limit this position group's impact in the passing game. 

In covering C.J. Spiller and Ingram, it'll be important for Compton to keep everything in front of him. The duo has 514 receiving yards on the year, the majority of which were accumulated after the catch.

Prediction

If you like defense, this isn't the contest for you. Over the course of the season, and of late, defense has been an afterthought for these teams.

Washington can't stop the run or get off the field on third down (No. 25 in the NFL). When it comes to New Orleans, well, the end zone is familiar to its opponents (No. 31-ranked scoring defense).

In what's poised to be an offensive game, the better offensive team will win out. And that's the Saints by a landslide. The team is first in total offense and sixth in scoring. Washington on the other hand, is No. 29 and No. 28 in the respective categories.

New Orleans' porous defense will make this contest interesting. But by forcing the Skins to settle for field goals in place of touchdowns, the Saints will keep their playoff hopes alive and exit with a victory.

Prediction: Saints 31, Redskins 26

Injury Statuses courtesy of CBSSports.com.

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