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Defense Must Be Ready For Rams' Rushing Attack

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The Washington Redskins on Sunday could see both Todd Gurley and Tre Mason on the other side of the line, as both St. Louis running backs could make their season debuts.

Sure, the defensive unit for the Rams gets a majority of the attention, and rightfully so, but their offense can cause problems for any opponent, too.

On Sunday, the Redskins are hoping to have a similar defensive performance like they did against the Dolphins on Opening Day when they allowed just one touchdown.

The Rams, however, come to FedExField fresh off of a 34-31 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks and they may return Todd Gurley and Tre Mason, their top two running backs that were sidelined for that game.

Gurley was among the best players in college football last season before tearing his ACL, as the University of Georgia star recorded 911 yards (7.4 avg.) with nine touchdowns on 123 carries.

"Todd is a special player," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of Gurley, the 10th-overall pick in this year's draft. "If you're going to draw up a running back on Xbox, it's probably going to look like Todd Gurley. He's big, strong and fast. We'll have to see. Like I said before, you play their scheme more so than the player."

Mason, meanwhile, a second-year player out of Auburn, started the Redskins-Rams game last season, carrying the ball 20 times for 66 yards in St. Louis' 24-0 victory.

Whenever either of the young running backs are in, the Redskins must make sure that they know where they are at all times.

"You have to understand when Mason or Gurley are in the game, you have got to wrap up and you better bring some extra people to the party to get them down," Gruden said. "You better be pursuing backside, you can't take any plays off. All 11 guys have got to do their job as far as finishing plays. Obviously our sense of urgency has got to be high, on high-alert when Todd gets the ball or Tre or anybody for that matter – [WR] Tavon [Austin] when he's in the backfield or on his bubble screens or jet sweeps. We've got to be on high alert and we've got to really pursue to the football." 

The passing game, of course, is now led by a familiar face to the Redskins in former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles.

Sent to St. Louis in an offseason player swap with Sam Bradford, the Redskins have had some success bringing Foles down over the years, as they've sacked him 12 times in four matchups.

A look back at top images in games between the Washington Redskins and St. Louis Rams.

With defensive coordinator Joe Barry wanting his unit to press harder, that could bode well in this year's matchup.

And that starts with the defensive line. Last week, defensive end Jason Hatcher recorded a sack and defensive lineman Chris Baker combined with linebacker Ryan Kerrigan for another on Dolphins' quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

Barry said his defensive front takes pride in being relied upon to generate pressure up front.

"That's the thing, we refer to it as – it's kind of ironic – it's pressure getting on the quarterback but D-lineman don't look at it as pressure on them to get pressure," Barry said. "Because you ask any D-lineman 'Hey, you want to rush four or you want to come after them? You want to blitz or you want rush four?' They'll be like. 'No. coach let's rush four. Let us do it.' So I think it's a mentality and a mindset that has to be created. We have that here with that room. You'll ask each one of them man-to-man, 'Would you rather them call a blitz or just a four-man rush and drop seven?' Every single one of them would be like. 'Hey, put the rush on us, let us rush four and let's go.'"

For Kerrigan – who saw his first game action last week after not playing in the preseason – Barry says that his mindset is always to get a sack on every passing play.

"That's the way he drives himself and that's the way he thinks," Barry said. "He's one of those guys that it's easy to coach hard because he wants to be coached hard. He wants to not [be] told, 'Hey Ryan, you did a good job,' because he's looking, 'No, I didn't. I didn't make a play.' He is very, very hard on himself. Most of the really, really good players in this league are very hard on themselves. He's another phenomenal guy to be around." 

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