Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Rams 2015 Week 2 matchup at FedExField.
"Redskins-Rams: Ingredients For Victory" is presented by Papa John's. Every Monday after a Redskins game, get a Large Cheese Pizza for just $9.99. Receive a FREE TOPPING for every Redskins touchdown. DOUBLE THE FREE TOPPINGS when the Redskins win!
CUT DOWN THE PENALTIES[
In their 17-10 season-opening loss to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, the Washington Redskins were officially credited with 11 penalties for 88 yards, four of which coming on one important drive that moved the Redskins from the Miami 23-yard line all the way out of field goal range at the Miami 47. The Dolphins would take advantage on their ensuing drive with a field goal.
There were 14 penalties called against the Redskins in all, with three being declined, and included:
- Four calls for holding (one declined)
- Three calls for pass interference (two offensive; one defensive)
- Two false start calls
- One call each for a personal foul, delay of game, roughing the passer, illegal use of hands (declined) and illegal formation (declined)
So while a few penalties here and there – and certainly no more than one per drive – might be understandable, the Redskins know they need to clean it up moving forward so they aren't giving their opponents any sort of advantage.
"We had way too many first-and-20s, second-and-25s," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said of the Dolphins game. "We had a couple opportunities there to really change field position or get points and we didn't because of the penalties. We've got to clean up our hands at receiver and tight end. We had two by tight ends I believe, one by an offensive lineman. We've just got to continue to clean them up." For what it's worth, the St. Louis Rams, the Redskins' opponent on Sunday, were flagged for just four penalties for 30 yards last Sunday in their 34-31 overtime victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
PLUG UP QUINN, DONALD & CO.
For the second straight week, the Redskins on Sunday will be facing one of the more talented defensive fronts in the NFL.
In fact, the Rams' defensive front might just very well be the best in the league.
Not only does St. Louis bring Robert Quinn (a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year) and reigning NFC Defensive Player of the Week Aaron Donald, but they also have guys like Chris Long, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers, Akeem Ayers and James Laurinaitis. And it doesn't even stop there, because when these guys get tired, St. Louis can run out Williams Hayes, Nick Fairley and Eugene Sims.
"We've got eight and we keep them fresh," Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. "I think that's a huge difference in the production and the effort because you keep them fresh. We've got depth there. I'm really pleased with the way Aaron [Donald] played and Michael [Brockers] played, the two tackles. They made a difference in the ballgame."
That means the Redskins' offensive line will have quite the challenge on Sunday, especially against guys like Quinn and Donald, each of whom were Pro Bowlers last season. On the right side, guard Brandon Scherff and tackle Morgan Moses held their own last week against Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake, and are being counted on to step up again Sunday at FedExField. "I said to Brandon Scherff, 'This is the NFL.' You go against Ndamukong Suh Week 1 and Week 2 you're going against Aaron Donald. It just comes after you week after week after week," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "And that's what makes this league so great and how it can separate the pretenders from the contenders. It's part of the NFL, yeah, great defensive line and we're going to see great defensive lines down the road consistently week in and week out. It's a test and I think our guys will be ready for the challenge and they're certainly working very hard this week to be prepared."
STEP UP AT CORNERBACK
Ever since training camp, the Redskins have had a revolving door of sorts at the cornerback position, which has been hit hard by injuries and, recently, suspensions.
On Sunday, the team will see the return of cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who was suspended Week 1, but will be without No. 1 cornerback Chris Culliver, who is suspended for Week 2. Also, Washington is unsure if Justin Rogers, who is dealing with plantar fasciitis in his foot, will be able to go Sunday.
The Redskins will rely on Breeland and veteran DeAngelo Hall to shut down the speedy Rams receivers that include Kenny Britt, Tavon Austin, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey. David Amerson will need to step up, as well, and veteran Will Blackmon, signed earlier this week by the Redskins, could also be a factor if he's able to get caught up to speed this week in practice.
For Breeland – who suffered a scary-looking MCL injury July 31 and has since recovered – he knows he'll need to pick and choose when to take some calculated risks against Rams quarterback Nick Foles, whose decision making has definitely been a strong point throughout his career.
Against the Seahawks last Sunday, Foles was efficient, completing 18-of-27 passes (66.7 percent) for 297 yards and a touchdown. But the former Eagles quarterback also lost two fumbles in the Rams' overtime victory. "The Redskins have a lot of talent. It's tremendous," Foles said. "I've had some battles with them so I know what it's going to be like going in there. So it's whatever team prepares the best and executes on game day is usually the one that comes out on top."
EXACT SOME REVENGE
Make no bones about it: those returning Redskins players who took part in last year's 24-0 home loss to the Rams on Dec. 7 certainly haven't forgotten about that game.
Check out the top photos from the Washington Redskins' Week 14 matchup against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, at FedExField in Landover, Md.
St. Louis had control from the opening kickoff and dominated both on offense and defense, and was able to easily overcome a shaky performance by kicker Greg Zuerlein, who missed an extra point and two field goals on the day.
Offensively, quarterback Shaun Hill, now with the Vikings, completed an efficient 16-of-22 passes for 213 yards and two touchdowns. The Rams' running game, led by Tre Mason, ran the ball 30 times for 131 yards.
But St. Louis set the tone defensively. It recorded seven total sacks on Redskins quarterbacks Colt McCoy, who was knocked out of the game with a neck injury , and Robert Griffin III, and held the Redskins to just 27 rushing yards. Alfred Morris had just six yards on eight carries.
All in all, it simply wasn't a fun day for the burgundy and gold. "They kind of took it to us last year, late in the season, and came in our building, took it to us," Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said after last Sunday's loss to the Dolphins. "So we're looking forward to this game, and we've got a bad taste in our mouth because we feel like we let one slip away against Miami, but we just got to put this behind us and move on."