Week 16 Keys to the Game: Washington Redskins vs Tennessee Titans
The Washington Redskins walk into a virtual win or go home game this Saturday against the Tennessee Titans. At 7-7, and coming off a last second field goal win against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Redskins have a chance to increase their odds of solidifying a playoff spot with a win this week in Nashville. With only two games remaining this season, the Redskins’ chances are slim at winning the division, but if the Minnesota Vikings lose, and the Redskins win both this week and next week, they are in the playoffs. There is no looking ahead for this team though. Each week, they continue to add to the already endless list of names on the injury report. At least on the offensive side of the football where they will once again be without tight end Jordan Reed. They will also be without tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Maurice Harris due to concussions. Redskin quarterback Josh Johnson proved last week in his first start with the team that if their defense gives him a chance, he is able to put them in position to win a football game. The Tennessee Titans are 8-6 and fighting for a Wild Card spot in the AFC playoff picture. They are 5-1 at home this season, 3-0 against the NFC East (wins against Giants/Cowboys/Eagles),and will be going for the sweep this Saturday against a battered and bruised Redskin team.
The focus for this Redskin offense is simple: no penalties, no turnovers, and move the chains. Sounds cliche right, but in actuality, the longer the Redskins can hold onto the football, the more they lessen the opportunities for the Titans to score points. Josh Johnson has already proven his value in his ability to scramble and make defenses honor him, which will give receivers like Jamison Crowder opportunities to get open on second effort if the initial routes aren’t open downfield in passing situations. The Redskin offensive staff should be coming up with creative ways to use Johnson running the football, and in getting out on the edge in play action or sprint-out passes. They did a fairly decent job of that last week in it being just his first start with the team. This week, they need to expound on that, and add some more creativity. This guy is fresh, he is hungry, and above all he is seasoned which means he knows how to take care of himself on the field. This is not the time to hold back. Outsiders see this offense as being wounded. That should not be the mentality in the huddle or in the Redskin locker room. The Redskins should be in attack mode and hungrier than they have been all season.
Running back Adrian Peterson should be running harder than he has all year. Pro Bowl offensive tackle Trent Williams should be blocking harder than he has all year. Wide Receiver Jamison Crowder should be running routes more precisely than he ever has. It’s going to come down to the little things that will dictate just how effective the Redskins can be offensively against the Titans. The main thing they cannot do is kill themselves with penalties via pre-snap with false starts, or holding penalties which put them in 2nd and 3rd and long situations. That is a death sentence for this offense as currently constructed. It’s all going to come down to discipline and focus. At this point in the season, Xs and Os put you in position to win games, but how much you want it and your preparation separates you from other teams. Saturday, we get to see how prepared the Redskins are for a game that will have playoff implications for both teams. Win or lose, they need to go out doing what they do best and that’s run the football effectively while picking their spots to take a shot or four downfield.
The Redskins defense is more valuable at this point of the season than they have been all year long. With the offense using duct tape to keep their offensive line intact, a quarterback who last started wasn’t even able to grow a mustache, and a receiving corps that never was really a corps throughout the season, the defense is going to have to make plays in order to give the Redskins a chance to win Saturday. That’s it. That’s the bottom line. If the defense doesn’t at least show up, and cause a couple of turnovers, the Redskins will get run out of Nashville early in the game. The Titans have the number five rushing attack in the league, but have only the 30th ranked passing attack. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what priority number one should be for this unit this week. STOP DERRICK HENRY and account for Marcus Mariota in the run game. Get bodies around the line of scrimmage, and be physical with this team. Derrick Henry has 400 yards rushing in just his last 2 games alone. He cannot have that type of effort of Saturday if the Redskins expect to stay in the football game. The defensive line will need to shoot the gaps, and get penetration up field at all cost. They need to be as disruptive as possible to those pistol looks that the Titans give, and they need to hit anything moving. The linebackers are going to be very important this week as they will have to be discipline in dissecting the run/pass.
The Titans love to play action pass out of those pistol type formations and run quick crossing routes so if defenses are unable to read it, the routes can be difficult to defend. The linebackers will also need to get downhill quickly as they will have to gang tackle the 6-4 230 pound Derrick Henry anytime he touches the football. The defensive backs will need to play physical and close to the line of scrimmage. They will need to bump these young receivers off of their routes and disrupt the timing. The Titan passing attack is all about timing, and the Redskins playing up and then bailing plays right into what the Titans want to do. The key for the entire defense will be to play disciplined and make the first tackle consistently. Don’t just go for the football. The little things like having the first two tacklers (usually one, but we talking about 6’4 230 this week) make the tackle and the third come in for the strip, versus the first coming in for the strip, and a four yard gain turns into 20 or maybe even more. The defensive backs will have to support the run this week. More than usual. The outside linebackers will need to dominate the edges and maintain a contained rush up the field while keeping outside leverage. They have to keep Mariota in the pocket and make him uncomfortable. If the Redskins do these things, and Greg Manusky is able to mix in some timely blitzes and fluster Mariota some, the Redskins will be in better than good shape come the fourth quarter of this football game.
The Washington Redskin offense at this juncture of the season looks to pretty much be on proverbial life support. As they continue to scrounge up points however they can and whenever they can, they can only hope it will result in a Wild Card birth. Now once the season is over, what will be talked about is the injuries, but what must not be forgotten is that this team has struggled to score points all season long. Long before Josh Johnson was even signed to this team, the narrative was the same. Score more points...win more games. Then the defense started to falter, and there was no offense to pick up the slack. Now, the Redskin offense last week proved that they are not dynamic from any stretch of the imagination, but they also proved that they are gritty, and that you can’t give them chances because they have the ability to capitalize.
Maybe that can play into the Redskins’ hands going forward?
Maybe teams will look and say “we can coast because we know our defense won’t allow this team to score 20 plus points” and they will become complacent?
I don’t know, but every week it gets tougher and tougher to figure someway and somehow for this team to score points. I don’t envy Jay Gruden. I’m sure most Redskin fans are sitting back hoping and wishing for something special to happen with this team these next couple of weeks, and if it’s going to happen, it will start with quarterback Josh Johnson. If the Redskins go into Nashville this week focused, and with a killer mindset, then everything else will take care of itself. They have enough to compete with the Titans. They just need to be coached up, play disciplined and not get behind the sticks. Also, they cannot give Tennessee additional opportunities by turning the football over. Win the field position game, hold on to the football, don’t make the catastrophic mistake, and make the plays you are in position to make, and they can win this football game. It sounds like a lot, but when you prepare the right way, it becomes doable. The expectations are low for the Redskins going forward so they should be able to play carefree with a clear mind, and just have fun doing what they love to do while securing a victory of course. The Redskins will shock the NFL this Saturday as they get the 23-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans, and secure a chance to play for a possible Wild Card spot next weekend against the Eagles at home. As you were...