The Washington Redskins head to Raymond James Stadium and will attempt to avoid a dreaded third straight loss, with the good potential of a fourth loss in a row, staring them right in the face (Atlanta) next week.
A win would temporarily cure a lot of things, but here's how it has to happen.
1. Jordan Black (Likely Starter) and Tyler Polumbus have to be a lot better.
**Without knowing exact assignments, and because we are not allowed to talk to offensive line coach, Chris Foerster, it's not always easy to an exact reason for breakdowns. However, watching games live and on TV tape, along with some coaches film on NFL.com does provide you with a good idea. Black filled in, early for Trent Williams, and while it is completely understandable that he was not exactly 'ready' to enter the game when he did, in addition to preparing to possibly play left and right tackle -- he has to be a LOT better this week.
As I write this, he's expected to be the starter. Williams did not practice on Wednesday or Thursday. He practiced some on Friday, and said he felt better, but it's still unlikely that he will play. On the Redskins 3rd offensive series, with Black at left-tackle, Robert Griffin III was sacked on consecutive plays off the left edge of the protection. The first play, Griffin pump faked, stepped up in the pocket and apparently did not see Alfred Morris in the right flat, who was wide open. It appeared that Logan Paulsen got beat or lost his block, but honestly - I thought this one was on Robert. The next play was all-Black. He was beat on a speed rush by Michael Johnson (2nd consecutive sack). In a critical moment of the game (24-24) with great field position, Black lunged and got out-of-whack, while allowing his 2nd sack of the game to Michael Johnson for the 13th hit of the game on Griffin III, by my count http://redskins.espn980.com/bloggers/chris-russell
The very next play, Polumbus allowed his rusher to hit Griffin III to the ground a long 3rd/18 incompletion. As a matter of fact, several times over the last two games, Polumbus has been pushed all the way back into Griffin's throwing motion which has absolutely affected the accuracy of the throw.
On the final Redskins scoring drive, as they were trying to march the distance of the field from their own ten-yard line, I wrote this "Jordan Black gets pushed back and beat, on rush and Robert's motion is disrupted for short dump INC to Royster..Polumbus allows Dunlap pressure on swipe on completion to Fred Davis...16 yards...Jordan Black holds wipes out 11 yard completion to Fred (more time)." That sequence occurred on three out of four plays. You get the point.
Bottom-line, Polumbus has a very tough matchup against LDE Michael Bennett (3 sacks) and while Black figures to have an easier matchup on his side, nothing should be considered easy at this point. Don't forget the Redskins may very well struggle on the interior (more than they have) with the ultra-talented Gerald McCoy.
2. Alfred Morris & newly signed RB Ryan Grant have to be able keep the chains moving & wear down the Bucs talented front.
The Buccaneers are # 1 in rushing defense (47.3 ypg), so I don't know if I would expect as much double & triple option in this game, as we have seen over the last few weeks. The triple was unveiled last week with Brandon Banks.
While I wouldn't expect to see as much of that, I do believe you will see plenty of attempts at rushing the ball by Morris & Grant in more of a traditional two-back rotation with a lot of outside zone stretch runs to try and get that talented front loosened up.
Mike Shanahan said he didn't see a lot of great pass catching ability from Grant (92 catches/5 seasons) with Green Bay, but I will continue to implore the Redskins using 'forward' screens to their advantage. Last week, we saw some but not enough in my eyes. The middle screen to Roy Helu, that he lost his shoe on and ultimately ended his season was a perfect example of this. He leaked out through the line, and found himself open, with space (moving vertically) as opposed to horizontally.
Sometimes, I think the Redskins are guilty of throwing too many bubble screens, and smokes to the wide receivers. It worked well on the first New Orleans drive (FG) but the Bengals were clearly attacking it with vengeance. One one particular series, Santana Moss got blown up by Adam Jones, on a smoke to the left right after Evan Royster caught a lateral swing pass for a loss of a yard.
Throw the screens but get them out in front, and moving up the field -- especially with a talent pass rushing front and a shaky offensive line.
3. The Redskins must take advantage of the Bucs secondary & limit the big plays against their secondary
It's all about big plays, or at least for the Redskins it has been. We all know what happened in the Bengals loss, some of that was poor tackling, some poor preparation or unusual circumstance -- but either way, it has to stop.
Tampa's offense is last in the NFL (243.7 YPG) and their passing offense is 30th (149.0 YPG) so there are simply no excuses for Jim Haslett's guys. Even without 3rd CB Cedric Griffin, who will not play (hamstring).
DeAngelo Hall was a hair late on a lot of routes/catches by AJ Green last week, which is understandable - but clearly the coverage needs to be even better. Josh Wilson, needs to make sure he stays on his feet, instead of playing deep go-routes, when he knows that the Redskins are bringing significant heat. Richard Crawford figures to get the most increase in playing time, but he was beat on a Cover-2 design for a long touchdown down the middle last week. I would assume that newly re-signed David Jones will be active (4th CB/ST), along with at least four safeties, possibly five. That 4th safety spot will come down to Brandon Meriweather (probable) or Jordan Pugh, who has been inactive the last two weeks since signing. It's possible that both are active, as an insurance measure.
As for the Redskins offense, we won't know for sure until Sunday if Pierre Garcon is playing or not, but I would have to say it's 50/50 at best -- but if he can, boy would that be a boost.
Nothing against Leonard Hankerson, Aldrick Robinson, Joshua Morgan, Santana Moss and Dez Briscoe -- but Garcon is the best of the group for reasons we have seen already, and against a Bucs secondary that is last in the league (353.3 YPG Pass) -- it would give an extra bolt. If Garcon is active, I would presume that Briscoe would be inactive.
4. Special Teams - As with any game, specials have to be special. The Bucs have historically been in the top-10 in most categories, and they do it largely with one guy. Michael Koenen does both the punting and the kickoff's for the Bucs, and placed # 1 in net kickoff average, 2nd in NFL average opponent starting field position after kickoff, and 4th in net punting average during the 2011 season.
The Redskins finally got a big play by Brandon Banks on a 55 yard return, before halftime that set up a field goal, but Banks is questionable with a hip injury.