The Redskins have officially entered CODE RED, as Jay Gruden said after last week’s embarrassing loss to the New York Jets. Although, the team was highly injured the performance was far from good and the 3rd quarter issues continued. After the game was over many fans were left having the same feelings that are all too familiar, which is disappointment. Deja Vu was in the air as Kirk Cousins continued to struggle and the rest of the team didn’t do much to help. In fact, outside of Bashaud Breeland nobody on the team played good enough to help in any way. Oh yeah, Dustin Hopkins…who has finally given the Redskins a powerful leg.
If the Redskins don’t win on Sunday, changes will be made. I’ll let you figure or try to guess what those might be.
There is a big difference between being 3-4 going into the bye week in a weak division, to being 2-5 and then playing the Patriots. This game could be looked at as the most important game in both Kirk Cousins and Jay Gruden’s career (so far). Not that the Redskins have a ton of other options or anything.
As the Redskins are in full “code red” mode, let’s take a look at the keys to the game as they take on the Buccaneers:
Wake the running game up!
The first key to the game that I mentioned last week was that the team needed to revive the rushing attack. Here we are a week later and this team hasn’t had a groove in the running since week 2 against the Rams. Alfred Morris has unfortunately been a disappointment this season, and yes I know he isn’t getting much help from his offensive line. But right now Morris is only averaging 3.5 yards a carry, 297 yards rushing and ZERO touchdowns. If Morris continues this pace he will end up with less than 800 yards on the ground, which would be a career low. Not a good look, especially in a contract year.
I believe this team needs to find a spark in the run game, and some could argue that trying to play duel running backs is only hurting the momentum of the players. Going forward, I think the best move would be to play Matt Jones full time. He is the future and the most talented RB on the team. His biggest issue is his durability, but let the young rumble and let him run free.
He’s a fan favorite, but it’s time to move on from Alfred Morris. Enter the Matt Jones era now.
Quarterback issues, that never seem to go away
This is an issue that has been debated by Redskins fans millions of times (literally) since the end of 2012. Nobody, and I mean nobody knows what to do with the position. Gruden has committed to Cousins, and is attached to him at the hip. It’s clear that they both know their jobs and future depend on each other.
Cousins has 32, 46 and 49 passes attempts the last three games. That’s not the recipe for a victory…not with Cousins at the helm. At this point passing the ball is not this team’s best chance at winning the game, and it’s easy to look at the coach there. Gruden seems to have gone back to his old ways, which is to become pass happy. At this point he is clearly limited with the QB he has under center and the truth is the more Cousins throws the greater his odds are of having a multi-interception game.
Keep in mind, the Redskins have not won a game this year where Cousins has thrown an interception.
Where has the defense gone?
The Redskins defense started off the season strong and at one point ranked as high as the 2nd overall defense in the league. Since then the defense has had just about no pass rush, giving up big yards on the ground, and getting pushed around. Like I said earlier, Bashaud Breeland is balling out but other than him nobody has really stepped up. The best player on defense, Ryan Kerrigan has not looked like himself lately and has many people questioning if his knee is still causing him issues. Even normally dependable players such as Keenan Robinson have been playing bad.
If there is a game where the defense has a chance to get some momentum and get their confidence back this is it. The defense will be going up against a rookie QB in Jameis Winston, and a bad offensive line. Doug Martin will be a challenge, but he’s manageable.
This team needs it’s defense to remain competitive, so this is the week they need to get their mojo back. Going into the bye week with some confidence could go a long way.
Key players returning
Good news for Redskins fans is that barring any setbacks, both Trent Williams and Jordan Reed will be back. This is good news for obvious reasons when it comes to Williams, but the offense has especially missed Reed. He was on pace for a Pro Bowl season and looked like the best player on the offense. Not to mention he was a security blanket for the QB, and bailed him out of some tough situations. Having both of these guys back in the lineup will be a big boost, we’ll see if it’s the difference maker.
The bad news on the other side of that is don’t expect to see Desean Jackson, Chris Culliver, Deangelo Hall, and Kory Lichtensteiger until after the bye week.
The turning point of the season
I believe this game will be the turning point of the season, and could go either way. If the team loses to a team like the Buccaneers who have their own struggles, changes will be made. Not to mention the Redskins will be playing the Patriots once they come back from the bye week. Then two weeks later play the Panthers. This is not a game the Redskins can afford to lose if they plan on staying competitive in the division. Most fans remember this game last year, which sent the team into a free fall. Hopefully the outcome will be different on Sunday.
#1: Buccaneers run defense. The Bucs are currently allowing 120 yards to offenses on the ground. This is a good opportunity for the Redskins to get their identity back on the ground. If they can’t do it now, not many more excuses you can use.
#2: Jordan Reed. With the return of Reed he will cause major mismatches for the Bucs, and could have a big day. The only issue will be if he’s able to get back into the swing of things coming back from an injury.
#3: Third down conversions. The Bucs are allowing offenses to convert on third downs 40% of the time. This is good news for the Redskins! The key will be taking advantage of the opportunities given.
#1: Doug Martin. I’m still going to call him the “muscle hamster” just because he hates it, but he could end up having a big day on the ground. The Redskins have been bad on run defense lately, and MH has gone over 100 yds past two games with 3 TD’s. Priority number one must be stopping him and forcing Winston to win the game.
#2: Bucs WR corps. The Bucs have a strong WR group with both Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson. Both guys are capable of taking it to the house on any given play. Last year Evans had himself a huge day. To avoid the same type of day, the Skins secondary will need to step up.
#3: Bucs are coming off of a bye week. The team is rested and has got an extra week of preparation in. This could very well end up a trap game for the Redskins if they are caught napping.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs Washington Redskins is this Sunday (Oct 25) at 1:00pm EST on FOX
As always follow me on Twitter @anthonyraposa for all things Redskins as well as your news and outlook.
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