Week 15 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs Jacksonville Jaguars
The Washington Redskins simply look as though they have shut down for the remainder of the season. There is no other way to say it. As the season has gone on, they have continued to regress on both sides of the football and beyond that the off the field drama seems to be taking precedence over winning football games. The offense is in disarray and the defense has gone from a top 5 caliber to one of the worst in the league. Last Sunday, the Redskins got absolutely demolished down 40-0 until the fourth quarter against a struggling New York Giant football team without their all-pro wide receiver. Despite the beating they took last week, and their current four game losing streak, the Redskins are faced with yet another opportunity to keep pace for the division title and for a possible Wild Card spot.
This Sunday, they fly to Jacksonville to take on a Jaguar team that has had their own issues this year winning football games as they are 4-9 overall, and 1-8 in their last nine outings. The Jaguars have had a number of injuries this season and recently switched starting quarterbacks from Blake Bortles to Cody Kessler. The Redskins will be starting their 4th different quarterback of the season as Josh Johnson, who has not started a game since 2011 will be at the helm. Johnson gave the Redskins a glimmer of hope in the fourth quarter of last week’s game as he led the offense to 16 points after being substituted for Mark Sanchez. The Redskins will look to build off of his performance, and hopefully establish some momentum going forward for one final playoff push.
Offensively, I have sat back this whole week and deliberated on how the Redskins can score enough points to win this football game. I have tried to figure out some creative ways to move the football and to come up with some mismatches they can exploit. With tight end Jordan Reed being out this Sunday, and wide receiver Josh Doctson questionable, head coach Jay Gruden is going to have his hands full trying to find a way to game plan with virtually no playmakers on the field. The Redskins will most likely rely heavily on Adrian Peterson in the running game and try to utilize Chris Thompson, who looks to still be trying to get his legs back under him. Wide receiver Jamison Crowder will need to have a big day Sunday especially after last week’s poor performance. They will need him to return to the promising form he once exhibited in order to have any chance of being able to move the football this week.
The Jaguar defense is giving up 4.5 yards per carry on the ground, so if the Redskins are able to scheme some things up in the running game, they may be able to open up lanes for Peterson to acquire chunks of yardage. The main thing for the Redskins offensively will be to not have a lot of penalties which put them behind the sticks, and to not turn the football over. If they can do that, they will be able to put themselves in a position to at the very least not give the game away. The offensive line is going to have a lot to say about the type of offensive production this team has on Sunday. Starting left tackle Trent Williams and center Chase Roullier practiced in full this week, while right tackle Morgan Moses and left guard Ty Nsekhe practiced on a limited basis. If they are able to establish some more cohesiveness despite all the injuries, it will make life for Adrian Peterson and Josh Johnson a lot easier.
Defensively, the Redskins have to make up their minds as a unit who they want to be. There is entirely too much talent on that side of the football for them to struggle situationally as much as they do. They have lacked discipline, effort at times, and have negated the fundamentals of football. This will all have to change immediately if they are going to have any chance of turning things around. The defensive linemen have not been dominant and continue to lack gap discipline. The inside and outside linebackers have been nonexistent from a playmaking perspective and over-pursue way too often. The defensive backs have continued to not understand down and distance, and they have consistently missed tackles. I can talk about Xs and Os all I want, but at the end of the day, this defense is too talented to be playing at the level they are currently. The Jaguar offense is not dynamic at any position. They give up almost 3 sacks a game (38 on the season), and their wide receivers are not explosive.
This game should be a “get right” game for the defense if they come out and just do the basics correctly. If players one through eleven on that side of the ball simply take care of their responsibility, it will show in the results. Running back Leonard Fournette is a tough back to bring down, and can catch out of the backfield, but if the Redskins account for him each down, he can be rendered a non-factor. Quarterback Cody Kessler has started games in this league, so he has valuable experience that the Redskins shouldn’t take for granted. They must bring pressure when they can and try to keep the Jags out of third and short situations because that is where they are most effective. They do those things, and not give up any big plays on busted coverages, they will minimize the Jaguars’ opportunities to put points on the board.
The Redskins have backed themselves into a corner. Maybe that’s how they want it. Maybe that’s where they need to be. Maybe this is what needed to take place in order for them to have some sort of pride and maybe even make them angry. Maybe getting embarrassed last week has made them refocus. On the flipside, maybe they have quit. Maybe they have tapped out for the season. Maybe all the finger-pointing and off the field nonsense has trumped being a professional and doing their jobs. The great thing about it, we get to find out this Sunday who this team wants to be. Are they going to blame everything on injuries and continue to conjure excuses, or are they going to use that as motivation to push through and become a team to be afraid of going into the playoffs?
If they win the field position battle, it will make it tough for the Jaguar offense to move the football. Tress Way has been the special teams MVP all season and will need to continue that this week by pinning the Jag offense back every chance he gets. Dustin Hopkins could prove to be more important this week as well; in a game where two teams struggle to score points, ability to convert field goals is going to have increased importance. Winning the turnover battle and creating short fields will be imperative for both teams, and whichever team is able to impose their will defensively and force some mistakes is going to have the best chance at a “W”. The Redskins will snap their 4 -game losing streak in less than stellar fashion this week winning 16-13 on a walk-off field goal by Dustin Hopkins. As you were...