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Week 10: Keys to the Game Washington Redskins vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Washington Redskins seem to be in the business of keeping its fans, and football prognosticators guessing about just what football team is going to show up each week. Last Sunday, the Redskins squandered an opportunity to seize complete control atop the NFC East division as they lost 38-14 to the Atlanta Falcons. Once the Falcons hit 20 points on the scoreboard, it seemed pretty much a foregone conclusion that an “L” was imminent. Well, the Redskins not only suffered an “L” record wise, but they also lost multiple players via injury to include Brandon Scherff with a torn pectoral muscle, Paul Richardson (AC joint), and Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL) who are all out for the season.

The Redskins matchup this week with a schizophrenic Tampa Bay Buccaneer team that has struggled to put wins together, but has the ability to put a lot of points on the board. That seems to be the Washington Redskins’ kryptonite so to speak as they have scored under 20 points in all 3 of their losses; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come into this week’s game averaging 29 points per game. On the flipside, the Bucs’ defense is surrendering a whopping 34 points per game, and seem to be very vulnerable defensively. The Redskin offense has been everything short of spectacular this season and has shown no signs of a possible breakthrough. They are 9 games into the season, and the Redskins have scored over 20 points in just 3 of those games, and over 30 just once. Despite that, they still hold a game lead over the 4-4 Philadelphia Eagles who now seem to have the inside track to the NFC East title. The 5-3 Redskins have not lost 2 games in a row this season and look to add one in the win column this week as they enter Raymond James Stadium against the 3-5 Buccaneers.

The Washington Redskins flat out laid an egg offensively last week. We can conjure all the excuses we like as to why, or how that happened, but they stunk as an offensive unit against one of the worst defenses statistically in the NFL. Everything from the play-calling, to the blocking up front, to the dropped passes, down to the miscues. They just didn’t do anything to make a Redskin fan optimistic that this team has the ability to score any significant points under any circumstances. All that said, the Redskins have yet another opportunity this Sunday to gain momentum offensively against the worst scoring defense in the NFL. This is yet another week where the Redskins will need to score significant points in order to win because the Bucs are capable of putting up 30 easily. I know in past weeks establishing the running game has been a necessity for this team, but I’m going to go against the grain this week and say we need to spread the offense out and use a quick pass attack. With all of the injuries to the offensive line, Tampa Bay will be expecting the Redskins to rely on the running game heavily.

Head Coach Jay Gruden and the coaching staff this past week have had their hands full putting proverbial bandages on an offensive line decimated by injuries. It’s clear that cohesiveness could be an issue this week with so many new faces up front, but there are ways to combat that schematically. Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis should be used as receivers in typical running formations. Adrian Peterson should be used in some screens, and dump off passes, especially with the absence of running back Chris Thompson who is still recovering from a rib injury. Misdirection will also be key as the Redskins will need to keep the Buc defense guessing so they can’t just flow to the football. The Buc defense is not good against the run, and they are putrid against the pass. It’s time for the Redskins to attack a team’s weaknesses aggressively, and that starts with the Tampa secondary. Work outside in, and mix in some read option and running back draws. As long as the Redskins do not be “typical”, they will move the ball and ultimately score points this week with virtual ease. Main thing, stay aggressive, and dictate to the defense. Don’t let the defense dictate to them.

The Washington Redskin defense allowed 38 points last Sunday to the Atlanta Falcons, who they knew coming into the game had one of the best passing offenses in the league. This Sunday, the Redskin defense faces another tall task as they face the high scoring Tampa Bay Buccaneer offense. The GOOD news about facing the Buccaneer offense this week is Ryan Fitzpatrick is their starting quarterback. The BAD news about facing the Bucs this week is that Ryan Fitzpatrick is their starting quarterback; or as I like to call him “Mr. Feast or Famine” in the flesh. If the Redskins are going to have any chance this Sunday at slowing down the Bucs, they will have to get constant pressure on Fitzpatrick and make him rush his throws. If they allow him to make throws from a clean pocket, it’s going to be a long day again this week for the Redskin defensive backs; very similar to last week. The difference this week is the Redskins have to be able to cover the entire football field because at receiver former Redskin Desean Jackson and pro bowler Michael Evans are capable of running pass, and through the secondary on any given down.

Communication in the secondary will be beyond critical throughout this week’s game. The Redskins should tighten up on third down, and press some more on the receivers to disallow them to get into their routes so easily. They will also need to pay special attention to tight end O.J. Howard and account for him off the line of scrimmage. Disrupting their timing, and making Fitzpatrick hold onto the football longer could go a long way in helping the defensive line get to him. In addition, they should mix up some of their coverage to give Fitzpatrick the impression he has certain areas of the field open, but at the snap switch things up and make him adjust on the fly. If they do these things, Fitzpatrick will throw the football directly to defense instead of to his receivers downfield. Tampa Bay has proven consistently that with this offense, they are never out of a football game, so it will be imperative that the Redskins continue to pressure them and never take the foot off the gas giving them hope. The Bucs have shown that once they get into an offensive rhythm, it is almost impossible to stop them. The defensive line must be active and disruptive, the linebackers must tackle and pursue well, and the secondary must be discipline in all coverages while being physical with their receivers and tight ends. They do these things, everything else will take care of itself.

The Washington Redskins have a tough stretch of games coming up this second half of the season. They cannot afford to give any ground if they have NFC East title aspirations, and want a chance to host a playoff game. You have to think the Philadelphia Eagles are going to start rolling soon as Carson Wentz seems to have found his rhythm. This week will be tough. On the road, coming off an embarrassing loss, and facing a team that is not afraid of them. To add to that, the Redskins will be without a number of weekly starters on offense, and defensively may be without Quinton Dunbar as he continues to battle through a leg injury. Games like this are where preparation and perseverance are so important. The coaching is going to be on full display with all the personnel changes offensively.

How will this team respond after yet another blowout loss?

How will the Redskins deal with adversity as they will be without 3 starting offensive linemen including Trent Williams, and possibly Morgan Moses adding to that number?

Will they be able to win the field position battle with Tress Way continuing to punt the football the way he has?

Will special teams be able to help the offense out in the return game at some point this season?

These are all questions that need to be answered emphatically this Sunday. The Redskins have continually faltered when it was time to get over the mediocrity hump. It’s time for them to change that stigma. It’s time for them to say to themselves “look, enough is enough...let’s go out here and not be afraid to be great”. I could be cliche and say this is a statement game, but every game should be a statement game for this team going forward. Their motto should be “NO EXCUSES...WE JUST PRODUCING”. They will do just that this Sunday as they are victorious 27-20. As you were...

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