Lean On Me
The defense has often been a big reason the Washington Redskins has won over the last several years. This was true again in their victory against the New York Giants last week.
The Arizona Cardinals offense is still a work in progress because quarterback Kevin Kolb is new to the team. Yet they did show the ability of production against the Carolina Panthers last week in several areas.
Halfback is a big question mark, but Beanie Wells churned out 90 yards on 18 carries last week. The Redskins allowed 75 total rushing yards last week, so it is important they shut down Wells and make the Cardinals defense one dimensional.
Arizona can throw the ball, which is seen by the 309 yards that Kolb put up on 18 receptions. The Redskins might have to play a lot of man-to-man defense because the Cardinals like to throw to their tight ends and even have four on their roster.
Todd Heap and Jeff King combined for 101 yards on four receptions. Both averaged over 20 yards per catch, which included King's 48-yard touchdown catch. King, mostly noted for his blocking ability, had averaged just over eight yards on 114 career receptions in his five seasons coming into this year.
Washington gave up two big plays to Giants tight end Jake Ballard, a rookie who is on the team because he can block well. This lumbering tight end exposed a weakness in a Redskins defense by getting 59 yards on a pair of receptions.
If the safeties are forced to pay closer attention to Heap and King, it will leave wide receivers like Larry Fitzgerald facing the Washington cornerbacks only. Fitzgerald is spectacular in a double-team situation, but he is an even bigger threat in single coverage.
Washington needs the return of strong safety LaRon Landry, who has been nursing a hamstring injury for months. Landry was the best safety in the NFL in 2010, piling up 85 tackles before getting hurt early in the ninth game of the season, is in a contract year and hasn't played since November 15th of 2010.
Landry is a week removed from criticizing the Redskins training staff via Twitter. He now defers questions to head coach Mike Shanahan, who only says Landry has been limited in practice so far.
The Redskins cannot rush him back too early, but Landry has already stated he is excited to play next to free safety O.J. Atogwe. It is the first time since Sean Taylor passed away in 2007 that Landry has a Pro Bowl-caliber player alongside him.
Reed Doughty has been in the lineup while Landry heals, but Doughty is basically an extra defensive back who plays a linebacker slot in a dime package. The Giants picked on him often last week, putting Washington in a precarious position against Arizona if Landry needs another week off.
Redskins placekicker Graham Gano missed another chippie last week. He missed five field goals of 39 yards or less in 2010, something he did again on his only field goal attempt last week. Washington cannot afford to keep having Gano miss field goals that because points in the NFL are of premium importance.
Washington has the electric Brandon Banks are their return specialist. The diminutive Banks is capable of taking it to the house every time he returns a kick. Yet Arizona has two big threats of their own on special teams.
LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is about the same size as Banks, led the NFL in kickoff return yards last year. He also took two kickoff returns for touchdowns, his third in his two previous seasons as an NFL player. Gano must take advantage of the extra five yards he has kicking the ball off by not giving Stephens-Howling any chances to return the ball.
If that wasn't enough, Arizona also has a dynamic punt returner in rookie Patrick Peterson. Though he was drafted for his excellent coverage skills as a cornerback, the rookie went through college as a dominant punt returner. Peterson returned just two punts last week, but the second one was returned 89-yards for the winning score.
Sav Rocca might have been the Redskins best free agent signing in 2011. Rocca has averaged 43 yards a punt in his four NFL seasons, showing a remarkable consistency along the way.
But putting the ball inside the opponents 20-yard line is possibly what Rocca does best. He has dropped 106 of his 341 career punts inside the 20, and has an impressive net punting average of 37.5 yards. Four of his six punts dropped in inside the 20 last week, but the Redskins gave up 27 yards on the two punts that were returned.
Washington must not allow the Cardinals returners go off this Sunday. If they do not, it could take away any other successes they have on the field.
Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman took advantage of a immensely crippled Giants defense by throwing for 305 and a pair of scores while tossing just 13 incompletions. Washington needs a similar performance against an Arizona defense that looked bad last week.
The Cardinals have a few injured cornerbacks of their own, and this was seen against the Panthers. Rookie Cam Newton struggled with his throwing accuracy all preseason, but he took the form of Johnny Unitas against Arizona with a record-setting performance.
Newton set a record for a first game by a player by carving up the Cardinals defense for 422 yards and missing on just 13 passes in 37 attempts. Eight different Panthers receivers got a reception, led by the 178 yards and two scores Steve Smith had on eight catches.
Washington could use another big game from tight end Fred Davis, who had 105 yards on five receptions last week, as well as a healthy Chris Cooley. Carolina's tight ends combined for 129 yards on seven receptions last week, so Grossman may want to look in the direction of Davis and Cooley often.
Tim Hightower was stunned a few months ago by being dealt in a trade between the Cardinals and Redskins. While he was happy to return to the Washington Metropolitan Area, where he grew up, he also saw the Redskins obtained him for just a sixth-round draft pick and 14-year journeyman defensive end named Vonnie Holiday.
Hightower had led the Big Red in rushing last year, his third NFL season, while averaging nearly five yards per carry. He led the NFL with an 80 yard run as well.
Despite 23 touchdowns and 118 receptions in mostly a reserve role in his Arizona career, the team dealt him because his 12 career fumbles bothered the Cardinals coaching staff.
He has a very impressive training camp, getting 170 yards on 25 carries in a few quarters of play. Yet the Giants shut him down to 72 yards on 25 attempts last week. Take away a 22-yard run he had, the 50 yards on 24 attempts showed the Redskins offensive line gave Hightower no chance.
Arizona faced a pair of productive Carolina halfbacks in DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart last week. They limited the pair to 56 yards on 19 carries, while also holding the athletic Newton to 18 yards on eight attempts at sacking the rookie four times.
Hightower will certainly want to make Arizona regret trading him, but his offensive line needs to help get that point across. The unit was just terrible last week against a Giants defensive line missing their two best players. Arizona has three excellent run stuffers in the trenches, so this game might ride on Hightower's shoulders.
Football excellence has always followed Russ Grimm. Drafted in the third round of the 1981 draft by the Redskins, he soon became an integral member of three Super Bowl winners for the franchise.
Athleticism was just one reason for his greatness. He may have toiled in the trenches, but he was often listed as an emergency quarterback in a career that saw him go to four Pro Bowls before being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Amazingly, he is the only member of the famous Redskins offensive line, dubbed the "Hogs" by coaching great Joe Bugel, to be in Canton. When his playing career ended, he quickly became a coach and used the information the accumulated as a player. Not only did he have his own expertise, he was mentored by coaching giants Bugel, Jim Hanifan and Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs.
After spending nine years coaching Washington's tight ends and offensive linemen, he went off to coach the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line for six seasons. He helped Pittsburgh win a Super Bowl and reportedly was going to be Bill Cowher's replacement at head coach until the offer was rescinded at the last minute and given to current Steelers coach Mike Tomlin instead.
Since 2007, Grimm has been the Cardinals offensive line coach. Success in football continues for him and has now been inherited by his offspring. Cody Grimm is the starting free safety for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an honor he won in the 2010 season as a seventh round draft pick. Chad Grimm is currently an assistant coach in the Cardinals organization.
Grimm has been a serious candidate for a NFL head coaching job several times. He excels at getting the most out of a players abilities, something he did himself in his career.
He has helped such great Redskins offensive linemen blockers like Chris Samuels and Tre' Johnson to become Pro Bowl players. He did the same in Pittsburgh with Alan Faneca, Marvel Smith and Jeff Hartings.
Arizona comes into 2011 with two free agent veterans now starting at guard. Grimm still has continuity at center and the tackle spots. But this one of his most experienced units with the Cardinals, even with losing 11-year veteran guard Floyd "Pork Chop" Womack to injury for the season.
The depth of the offensive line is bolstered by Duece Lutui, a starter since 2006 until losing his spot to eight-year veteran Rex Hadnot. Grimm has already helped the Cardinals reach their first Super Bowl in 2008, but he undoubtedly expects greatness from his present students.
Chris Nield is certainly on his radar this week. The nose tackle was the second to last player drafted this year, and he made the team because of a solid preseason with few highlights. That changed last week after Neild had a pair of sacks and forced a fumble while spelling starter Barry Cofield.
Not only do the nose tackles need to be as good as last week, but defensive ends Adam Carriker and Stephen Bowen as well. Both contributed a sack last week. Outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan's ability to pressure Kolb will also hold extreme importance.
While no real Redskins fan wants Grimm to experience failure, they are in the unenviable position of rooting against one of their heroes. It is real nice to see an "Original Hog" back in town, and there is a chance he sees fellow Hogs Joe Jacoby and George Starke, who have stayed in the area after their football careers, as well.
Grimm probably has a part of him wishing success for the Redskins as well. But torn emotions will reign on the sideline and stands this Sunday as present situations will temporarily have both rooting against each other.