The 2020 season is here, and we have you covered as the Washington Football Team progresses through its inaugural campaign under head coach Ron Rivera.
Stay up to date with "Washington Football Daily," which comes out every weekday evening.
Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio had a rule whenever he played former Detroit Lions running back Barry Sanders: "You can't relax until you're on the bus." That's what he told the Washington Football Team's defense when it played against Kyler Murray in Week 2, and that rule will likely apply to Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Washington will face its second dual-threat quarterback in three weeks when it hosts Jackson and the Ravens on Oct. 4. Jackson, who has amassed 758 total yards, leads a dominant rushing attack that averages 166.3 yards per game. It's another unique challenge for Washington, but its experience against Murray could prove useful against the 2019 MVP.
"We're getting prepared to go compete," Del Rio said Wednesday, "but we acknowledge that the guys that can run and throw. The dual threats make it a little more challenging."
Head coach Ron Rivera hinted all week heading into Washington's Week 2 matchup that containing Murray would not be easy. It didn't take long for Rivera to be proven right; Murray had a 13-yard scamper on a 3rd-and-2 on the Arizona Cardinals' first possession, and the 2019 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year finished the game with 353 total yards and three touchdowns. Two of his three scores came on the ground.
Rivera said Sept. 21 that Murray's threat to beat a defense with his arm and legs made some defensive players "tentative."
"I think we were waiting for him to go out and react and do something instead of us being aggressive and going downhill and attacking him. I think that was the big thing more so than anything else. When you look at the tape, we spent a lot of time where we'd engage and now: 'Where is he?' Instead of just going, 'You get into your crease, you push, you get vertical, you flush the quarterback.'"
The key to attacking players like Murray and Jackson, Rivera said, is to be aggressive and get them moving on the defense's terms.
That's easier said than done with Jackson, because that seems to be part of the strategy for every team he has faced so far. He has been blitzed an average of 14 times per game this season and sacked 10 times, four of which came against the Chiefs on Monday Night Football. It doesn't seem to affect his accuracy, either, as he has completed 68.8% of his passes.
When asked if there are any weaknesses to Jackson's game, Del Rio said, "This guy's tremendously talented, so no."
"To me, I see strength. I see a guy that's an incredible athlete, got a great arm. He's a threat to run it or throw it. He's got a tremendous supporting cast around him. I think he's well-coached, and I think it's a really good football team we're getting ready to play."
Whatever the Chiefs did clearly worked against Jackson, though, because he had his worst offensive performance thus far with 180 total yards and just one touchdown. Outside of Jackson's opening carry that resulted in a 30-yard gain, the Chief's limited him to 53 rushing yards on eight carries.
Del Rio said they will look at film from the Chiefs game, but Washington also wants to put together its own game plan that it believes in. That's why their experience against Murray will be so valuable.
"We don't have to throw out everything that we do and believe in because we didn't have a couple good moments," he said. "It's great tape to teach off of and learn from, and that's really the way we approach it."
Murray accounted for 78.7% of the Cardinals' offense in Week 2, and Jackson has performed similarly in three games, accounting for 74.5% of the Ravens' total yards. Containing him Sunday would go a long way towards helping Washington get back on track.
"Lamar can get out and he can be aggressive with his feet, but we have to remain aggressive and we have to rush," Del Rio said. "We'll have a plan. Hopefully we execute it a little bit better."
-- Rivera has the players focused on one goal: Washington punter Tress Way has only known Rivera since January, but his focus and ability to bring the team together has impressed the seven-year veteran. Way said Thursday that Rivera has a knack for helping players "zero in" on their attitude, preparation and effort, even when things aren't going well in games. There have been times where Rivera has called a timeout, brought the whole team together and helped them get refocused on the goal of winning the game.
"He does such a great job every day of preparing us for a Sunday. And I know that sounds funny or it may sound obvious but it's really awesome. It's just a constant reminder every day, and the dude backs up what he talks about, too, and demands that of us, demands that of himself. … That's why it's really easy to get on board with him. You know he's got your back, and you really want to have his back."
-- Del Rio is concerned about more than Jackson: Jackson is clearly one of the most potent threats on the Ravens' offense, but Del Rio mentioned Wednesday and Thursday that the offense is full of talented players. Aside from Jackson, the Ravens are stacked at running back with J. K. Dobbins, Mark Ingram Jr. and Gus Edwards. They have wide receiver Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews as reliable pass-catchers. So, rather than stopping one player, Del Rio wants to develop a plan for containing Baltimore's entire offense.
"They mix their personnel, so there are a lot of challenges. It's triple option football. You need to have your bases covered. These guys -- they present a lot of different things with formations and shifts and motions and personnel groupings. Then they're running some triple option, which you don't see every day in the NFL. So, it presents some challenges. We're working hard to get them dialed in and be ready to compete on Sunday."
-- Turner wants Haskins to focus on making the right play: It was a sporadic performance from Dwayne Haskins Jr. during Washington's game against the Browns. There were highs (two touchdowns to Dontrelle Inman) and lows (three interceptions and a fumble.) Rivera and Haskins have said he needs to avoid staring down receivers and focus on throwing to his checkdowns instead of forcing passes. Offensive coordinator Scott Turner echoed that statement, saying that Haskins has to worry about "making the right play over and over and stacking the plays."
"If you do that, you look up at the end of the day and you had a pretty good day. We can't be out there afraid to throw interceptions. I was talking to him today, I said, 'Dwayne, you know you're going to throw another interception this season. It's going to happen. You can't play that way either.' Because it wasn't just the interceptions in the game. There were some other things where we had some opportunities and we didn't take advantage of it. Not just at the quarterback position, at a lot of different spots. He just has to trust his preparation and let that carry him through his performance."
Check Out What's On WashingtonFootball.com:
You can find the injury report for the Washington Football Team's matchup against the Baltimore Ravens, HERE.