After suffering an embarrassing defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Falcons, the Washington Redskins are now at a crossroad.
Not only did they lose ground in what appears to be a two-horse race in the NFC East, but key components of their already questionable offense are out for the season.
Pro-bowl guard Brandon Scherff (torn pectoral) and starter Shawn Lauvao (torn ACL), will no longer dress this season. And now, the ability to create a push up front is very much in question.
This has left Redskins supporters in a state of panic, for now the team’s identity may have been stripped from them. So far this season, the team has made their money with a ground and pound persona to control the clock and steal wins. But how will they do so now with a makeshift offensive line?
The remedy may come in the form of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who host the Redskins this Sunday in Florida. Losers of five of their last six, the Buccaneers may be susceptible to a loss, even at the hands of a beat-down team.
What do the Redskins need to accomplish in order to win on Sunday? Read ahead to find out.
Stop the Ambush
This game is intriguing because these teams are very much opposites of each other. Ryan Fitzpatrick holds the keys to the NFL’s number-one-rated passing attack in terms of yards. So far this season, the Buccaneers have put up 2,853 passing yards despite a musical chairs performance at quarterback.
The team generally closes drives from the air as well, producing 23 touchdown passes which stands at second in the league.
Conversely, the Redskins would dream of having those numbers. The team has nine touchdowns on the year and has a very patriotic passing total of 1776 yards on the season. These stats rank 28th and 23rd in the league, respectively.
If the Redskins are hoping to win this weekend, they must stop the aerial attack of the Buccaneers who have an array of weapons. In addition to Desean Jackson, and uber-athletic OJ Howard at tight end (5 TD’s on the season), the Bucs also have big-bodied Mike Evans on the outside.
Evans has been targeted 74 times this season, and has hauled in 47 of them. His 786 yards leads the team. He also makes the most of these receptions with a healthy 16.7 yards per reception.
If the Redskins hope to win, they must suppress the ambush from the Buccaneers arsenal. And unfortunately they may have to do so short-handed. Quinton Dunbar will miss this game with a shin injury.
Get Back to Basics
The Buccaneers have a woeful rushing attack. I said it. And the numbers back it up. For one, they don’t have an explosive threat at the position. And if you’re second-leading rusher is a 35 year-old Harvard quarterback, you’re in trouble.
Peyton Barber leads the team in rushing with 376 yards on the season. He has one touchdown and averages 3.6 yards per carry. To put things in perspective, the Buccaneers as a team averages 3.8 YPC and that places them at 30th in the league.
Ronald Jones, which many Redskins fans fell in love with this off-season, will miss this game due to a hamstring injury. This further puts a blemish on what has largely been a disappointing rookie year. So far he has played in only four games this season and has only carried the ball 19 times. To his credit, the carries have averaged 10.5 YPC, so maybe it’s better that he sits out.
Altogether, the Buccaneers sport the 30th ranked rushing offense in the league with 721 yards.
If the Redskins plan to win this Sunday, they need to return to form and re-establish the line of scrimmage. Atlanta converted on way too many third downs and shredded the Redskins in the run game. Which up until last week, was unthinkable.
Atlanta averaged 4.96 yards BEFORE contact on its runs. Let that sink in.
— John Keim (@john_keim) November 5, 2018
Put Up or Shut Up
The Buccaneers have gotten into shootouts this season, and their pass defense is putrid. Like last in the league putrid. So it’s time for Alex Smith to show us something. If he doesn’t, we may not ever see him thrive in the burgundy and gold.
The Buccaneers have given up the most passing touchdowns in the league at 22. They’ve also have allowed their opponents to pass for 2,457 yards against them; which stands at 30th in the league. If things break right, this should be the game to break Smith from his funk.
He should have some help as well. Early reports have stated that slot receiver Jamison Crowder may play this week. Kapri Bibbs has been emerging. And Maurice Harris will line up outside after the loss of Paul Richardson (AC Joint) for the season.
One could argue that Harris is the most well rounded receiver on the team. He can play all three receiving positions and has arguably the best hands on the team. Let’s hope he builds off of his break out game last week, where he pulled in 10 catches for 124 yards.
If Washington wants to win this week, they may best be served by spreading the ball around in Florida. Break tendency and use quick screens and rub plays (as seen in Atlanta) to move down the field and protect Smith. If Smith’s protection appears suspect, use three-tackle sets for added protection.
Jay Gruden can usually generate a response from his team when they have been embarrassed or have their backs against the wall. He thrives at playing “It’s Us Against The World” card. So I do think the team will be dialed in and focused to start the game. However, I think the Buccaneers simply have too many weapons on offense and we don’t match up well. I suspect the ‘Skins to hang around at first, but then the Bucs pull away. I envision the Bucs winnings 28-17 in this one.