Redskins.com looks at two key matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Rams game at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis.
"Redskins-Rams: Marquee Matchup" is presented by Papa John's.
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RB Clinton Portis vs. MLB James Laurinaitis
With the surprising release of Larry Johnson last Tuesday, coaches have handed the reins of the Redskins' running game to Clinton Portis.
Portis has yet to get on track this season. In two games, he has 96 yards on 31 carries, a 3.1 yards-per-carry average, although he does have a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs.
Overall, the Redskins are ranked 31st in the NFL in the run game, averaging just 53.5 yards per game. It's critical for the offense to get the run game going to take some pressure off quarterback Donovan McNabb.
The Rams have struggled against the run early this season. They are ranked 30th in the league after allowing Raiders running back Darren McFadden to grind out 145 yards against them last week.
James Laurinaitis is in his second season as the Rams' middle linebacker. He posted 146 tackles last year, the most by a rookie in franchise history, and added two sacks and two interceptions.
In the Redskins' 9-7 win over the Rams last year, Laurinaitis had eight tackles, including five on Redskins run plays. Keep an eye on free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who plays a key role in run support.
LB London Fletcher vs. RB Steven Jackson
Seems like every week London Fletcher is relied on to stop a top running back. A vital cog in the Redskins' run defense, he is expert at reading the offensive formation and getting himself in position to make plays.
This year, Fletcher is sharing the tackle load more than in years past. He has 21 tackles, fourth-most on the defense behind LaRon Landry, Rocky McIntosh and DeAngelo Hall.
In last year's matchup with the Rams, Fletcher led the Redskins' defense with nine tackles, with eight of them on Steven Jackson.
Jackson is the Redskins' top offensive threat. The 6-2, 236-pound back remains a load to tackle – Fletcher may need some help from his friends on Sunday.
So far this season, Jackson leads the Rams' offense with 156 rushing yards on 41 carries. He also has eight receptions for 56 yards.
The last time the Redskins faced Jackson in the Edward Jones Dome, he posted 150 rushing yards, 102 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winner in overtime.
If Jackson is neutralized, then the Rams have to turn to rookie quarterback Sam Bradford. That could be an advantage for the Redskins' aggressive pass rush and a veteran Redskins secondary looking to rebound from a poor performance against Houston last week.