The Washington Football Team is returning to FedExField for a matchup against the Baltimore Ravens. (A comprehensive preview of the game can be found, HERE.)
Here are three keys for Washington entering the Week 3 matchup:
1. Contain Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson has been one of the most electrifying quarterbacks in the NFL since he became the Ravens starter in Week 11 of the 2018 season. The 2019 MVP has 6,987 total yards in 34 games, including 25 starts. He currently leads the Ravens with 182 rushing yards, has the league's 12th-highest completion percentage (68.8) and has not committed a turnover.
According to defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Jackson has no weaknesses.
"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."
Jackson, who averages 252.7 total yards per game this season, is certainly dynamic, but Monday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs showed he can be contained. While Jackson did rush for a season-high 83 yards on nine carries, he also threw for just 97 yards and had his worst completion percentage (53.6%) since Week 7 of the 2019 season (45%).
Washington will try to force Jackson to have a similar performance Sunday, and its defensive line will play a pivotal role in that. The defense will be without Matt Ioannidis and Chase Young, but it still has most of its front intact with first-round picks Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne leading the unit. Washington is second in the NFL with 13 sacks, and its defensive line has a league-high adjusted sack rate of 13.1%.
Head coach Ron Rivera said the defense played tentative when it tried to defend Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray, who had 353 total yards and three touchdowns in Week 2. Del Rio is determined to prevent Jackson from putting up similar numbers.
"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."
2. Win Matchups Against CBs Marcus Peters And Marlon Humphrey
The Ravens' defense ranks 26th against the pass, which is an area Washington will likely try to exploit to get Dwayne Haskins Jr. back on track. But their two starting cornerbacks -- Marlon Humphrey and Marcus Peters -- are two of the better defensive backs in the league. Both were Pro Bowl and first team All-Pro selections last year, and they combined for eight interceptions, 28 pass breakups and five defensive touchdowns.
The duo is already off to a strong start this year with seven pass breakups and a pair of interceptions, so they will perhaps be the toughest test for Washington's young receiving corps thus far. Fortunately, Terry McLaurin, who is seventh in the NFL with 269 receiving yards, likes matching up against defenses' best players.
"I know week in and week out I'm going to see the best corners for those respective teams," McLaurin said Sept. 24, "and I invite that challenge."
McLaurin is questionable for Sunday's game and Steven Sims Jr. has been ruled out, so Haskins might need to look at other options in the passing game. Undrafted rookie Isaiah Wright had four receptions for 24 yards against the Browns, while Logan Thomas is second on the team in targets with 12 receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown. Dontrelle Inman is the third-leading receiver for Washington with 76 yards and a pair of scores.
Antonio Gandy-Golden, who has recently received an uptick in playing time, is another player who could get more targets Sunday. He had 18 offensive snaps against the Browns, including a 22-yard run, and made his first-career catch in Week 2. Turner said following the regular-season opener that Gandy-Golden is still growing, but he has shown flashes that could lead to more opportunities.
"I think as we go on here, you'll see him start to develop a role. Depending on how he handles that, it could very well increase."
3. More Consistency From Dwayne Haskins Jr.
Washington's first quarter against the Browns was the best Haskins and the offense has looked in the first half this season. He was 5-of-8 for 65 yards and a touchdown, which more than doubled his production in the first quarters against the Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals combined. But then he threw two interceptions in the second quarter, which helped the Browns put together a 17-7 halftime lead.
Haskins was back on track in the third quarter, leading two scoring drives that put Washington back on top, 20-17. This time, he completed 6-of-8 passes for 59 yards, including an 11-yard pass to Inman. But a fumble and another interception allowed Cleveland to retake the lead for good, as the Browns turned both turnovers into points.
Rivera and Haskins himself have said he needs to perform better, and Turner wants him to stop trying to make big plays and focus on making the right plays.
"If you do that, you look up at the end of the day and you had a pretty good day," Turner said. "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."
Rivera wants to see Haskins make the right throws and use the right techniques against the Ravens. He wants Haskins to be aware of the situation and control the huddle. Haskins' focus in practice this week has been showing the growth Rivera wants to see from him.
"I'm going to make sure that I'm my best and make sure the coaches and my teammates know that whatever previous mistakes I made in the last couple weeks, those are behind me and those are mistakes I'm going to improve upon," Haskins said. "I'm going to be a better focal-point leader, someone that can be trusted in situations and especially in times where we could've pulled away from people last week. Some things happen. So, just got to move on and get better from it."