This Monday night, it’s lights, camera, action for Jay Gruden and the Washington Redskins. This team has not performed well historically under the lights under Gruden’s leadership, and Monday will provide an opportunity to put those primetime demons to rest with a dominant performance.
The 2-1 Washington Redskins head into this week’s Monday Night Football battle against the 3-1 New Orleans Saints fresh off a victory against the Green Bay Packers that was followed by a much needed bye week. The Redskins defeated the Packers 31-17 in a game where we saw the offense’s ability to be explosive and dictate to the other team what they wanted to do while executing effectively. Their performance on both sides of the football were definitely something to expound upon during the bye week with hopes of carrying similar success into this week’s test against Drew Brees and the high powered Saints. The Redskins, however, are dealing with a plethora of injuries and hope that this early bye provided some key players an opportunity to rest, get treated, and recover. Starting offensive tackle Trent Williams had a minor surgical procedure done on his knee during the bye, but is hoping to be available (listed Questionable at the time of this article) Monday night. Wide receiver Josh Doctson also suffered another injury this week when he was allegedly kicked in the heel; he has been unable to practice, and is also listed as Questionable (at the time of this article). Left Guard Shawn Lauvao, and Safety Troy Apke are both listed as Out for Monday’s contest.
The Redskins got off to a fast start going up 14-0 in the first quarter against the Packers and will need to duplicate that effort against the New Orleans Saints this week. Drew Brees and the Saints are virtually unstoppable on offense at home, so in a game like this, the Redskins’ most effective defense could be keeping the offense on the field, and controlling the time of possession. That all starts with Adrian Peterson who gets an opportunity to face the team that virtually kicked him to the curb last season after he and the coaching staff didn’t see eye to eye on how he should be utilized within their offense. This year, Peterson has become the focal point of the Redskins’ offense, and will need to be that and some on Monday night. The offensive line will need to open up some holes between the tackles and will need to dominate the line of scrimmage just like any other week. The Saints defense is amongst the worst statistically in the NFL, but those numbers are skewed slightly because they are on the field so much after the Saints have scored as they average over 30 points a game. The Redskins this week will need to get back into that same attack mode they exhibited in the first half of the Packer game, and stay in it for four quarters against the Saints because Drew Brees and that offense have proven time and time again they are never out of a football game. Need a reference point? Let’s go back to week 11 last season when the Redskins were up 15 points with under 6 minutes left in the game, and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. This was a direct result of them taking the foot off of the proverbial pedal or not keeping their foot on the throat; whatever analogy suits you. The Redskins have scored a total of 15 points in 3 games in the second half this year. All field goals and 0 touchdowns. Playing one half aggressively and not scoring touchdowns in the second half won’t get it done in New Orleans Monday night bottom line. They will need to score and keep scoring until there isn’t any time left on the scoreboard.
In the words of Coach Yost in Remember the Titans, “run it up Herman...leave no doubt”.
The Redskins will need to continue to feature Jordan Reed and maybe even give him some additional looks as he is the one player the Skins have that no one player on any team can matchup against. This should help open up some things for Jamison Crowder and Paul Richardson, giving them some one on one matchups that they have to be able to win. Quarterback Alex Smith needs to continue to protect the football and just keep moving the chains. When the Redskins get redzone opportunities, they need to score touchdowns by any means necessary even if it means getting more creative. The Saints defense has some speed and they can generate turnovers, but if the Redskins execute and communicate by picking up blitzes well and recognizing pre-snap mismatches, they will be able to generate large chunks of yardage in bunches. This will ultimately demoralize an already fragile defense, and keep them on their heels the entire game.
This week will be the ultimate test for the Redskin defense. They get the esteemed opportunity to face a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees that needs just 4 touchdowns to reach 500 for his career and 201 yards to be the all-time leading passer for yardage. The Redskin defense needs to use this as motivation and challenge themselves. They were the number one defense statistically going into the bye, and if there was ever a moment to ante up and prove they are what the numbers indicate, this would be it. The defense as a whole should have a chip on their shoulder as 10 of the 11 starters were on this team last year when the Redskins squandered that 15 point lead in the final quarter. I’m sure these gentlemen haven’t forgotten that feeling and want to make a statement Monday night. Well, the key for the Redskins defensively is simple: TACKLE. Especially second year running back Alvin Kamara who must be accounted for on every down because he can catch the football in the open field and make your whole defense look ridiculous. Michael Thomas has emerged as one of the best wide receivers in the league, and the Redskin defensive backs will need to know where he is at all times. They need to bracket him with a safety in certain situations, and make sure they switch up the coverages in an effort to confuse he and Brees during some of those choice route combinations they like to run so often. The Redskins defensive line should be able to dominate the Saints offensive line by rushing 4 or 5. If they can get the Saints into some 3rd and long situations, this will enable them some opportunities to send some blitzes especially up the A gap to try and force Brees to throw over the rush. This could create some turnover opportunities for the linebackers and secondary. Not to single anyone out on the defense, but 4 games into the season, Ryan Kerrigan has 2 total tackles and 0 sacks. He will be needed Monday. Not sure if he has been banged up, or just hit a rough patch, but hopefully this bye week allowed him to rejuvenate himself because he will be vital to this defense going forward. He has to be able to generate some consistent pressure and finish plays. He has been the Redskins’ game changer in recent seasons’, and needs to get back to that starting this Monday night.
The Redskins have to figure out a way to get some larger chunks of yards in the return game. Whether in the kick return game or punt return; they need to treat these return chances like they are opportunities to score, and it just doesn’t appear as if that’s what has been transpiring. Hopefully, Redskin special teams coach Ben Kotwica is able to dial something up this week, and the Skins can generate some points. The kick off and punt coverage teams have been solid overall, and the kicking game has been feasible. Place kicker Dustin Hopkins hasn’t disappointed, but he needs to continue to build off of his current success, and be a sure thing beyond 40 yards and when the game is on the line. Punter Tress Way has to be a weapon in the field position game making Brees and that offense have to travel the length of the field against the Redskin defense.
Position for position, the Redskins can compete with the Saints across the board, but it will be up to them to execute the game plan, and be able to make in-game adjustments off of that initial script offensively and defensively. The Redskins will play with a lot of energy, and a lot of pride in a clear mission to avenge last year’s collapse as they return to the scene of the crime. The Redskins win this game 37-30 in the Superdome on Monday Night Football.