ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 2: Steven Jackson #39 of the St. Louis Rams advances the ball against Josh Wilson #26 of the Washington Redskins October 2, 2011 at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Whitney Curtis/Getty Images)
Over the past four seasons, I've found that it’s rare for Redskins fans to want to dwell on their team's most recent game. In most cases, they’re totally OK with looking forward to next week and burying whatever misery they endured last Sunday as deeply as possible.
However, that’s not really the case right now. The Redskins faithful isn't so quick to let go of last week and look ahead after an historic debut by Robert Griffin III. Nevertheless, the coming Sunday is still going to happen unless we misjudged that whole Mayan calendar thing by a few months. I’ll still take my chances and bank on the Redskins and Rams game happening, so why not explore a few storylines?
New-look Rams Secondary
The Rams’ struggles over the years aren’t exactly a secret, and although they probably won’t reverse the opinions of their doubters this year, they will be a markedly improved team. A big part of that is the improvement of what was a dreadful secondary a season ago. Cortland Finnegan is one of the best you could ask for on the perimeter and Janoris Jenkins has heaps of raw talent. The physicality of both these corners could make it difficult for Robert Griffin III to get comfortable with short passes and disallow him to get into an early rhythm. As a result, we could see a few more slow-developing routes from the receivers that will force Griffin to hold the ball a little longer. Don’t be surprised if he takes off and runs a few more times than he did in his debut. This will also prove to be a daunting task for…
The Redskins’ Offensive Line vs. the Rams’ Defensive Line
Simply put, this unit was phenomenal in pass-protection last week. Absolutely phenomenal. Griffin had a clean pocket most of the game and was able to do just about everything he wanted to as a result. They’ll have their hands full with bookend rushers Chris Long and Robert Quinn this week, who are both looking to improve upon a lethargic start. With time in the pocket, Griffin could pick this defense apart, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a coverage sack or two.
Running the ball is where the line didn’t exactly excel last week-- and no-- it wasn’t all Tyler Polumbus’ fault. This week, however, could be a game that really gets rookie tailback Alfred Morris going if he gets plenty of touches once again. It appears the Rams will still be without first-round pick Michael Brockers and will again have to rely on Kendall Langford and Jermelle Cudjo to clog the middle. This could be a rare instance where the usually overmatched interior of the Redskins offensive line has an advantage.
Another aspect to consider is Griffin’s speed. In snaps not under center, where Griffin has heightened odds of taking off and running, Quinn and Long will have to make it a point to play disciplined and seal the edges to contain him. With the ends playing with an emphasis on not over-pursuing, huge cutback lanes could emerge if Griffin instead opts to hand the ball off in those situations. In return, this could be a nice bounce-back game for a line that didn’t get much push when RG3 handed the ball off a week ago.
Redskins Pass Rush
Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan are the names that come to mind when addressing this topic, and for good reason. Kerrigan’s seven pressures last week were bested by no one else in the NFL, although Darnell Dockett of the Arizona Cardinals equaled Kerrigan’s terrific effort.
But what will really make the difference is if the interior composition of Stephen Bowen, Adam Carriker and Barry Cofield can continue their hot starts. Cofield and Bowen were especially disruptive when rushing the passer last week, and that certainly wasn’t always the case a season ago. Rams all-pro center Scott Wells was placed on injured reserve on Monday, which could lead to Cofield registering his first sack as a Redskin this season. If Roger Saffold-- who is listed as "doubtful"-- can’t get on the field, then it’s likely that the oft-criticized tackle Wayne Hunter will be protecting Sam Bradford’s blindside. Needless to say, things could get ugly.
DeAngelo Hall in the Slot
The patchwork offensive line means that there could be plenty of quick reads in Jeff Fisher’s game plan, which will likely highlight the potential matchup of DeAngelo Hall and Danny Amendola in the slot. Hall played the slot for a total of 10 snaps versus the Saints and was not targeted once. Still, he led the team in such snaps and could be asked to play a vital part in disrupting the Rams’ offense on early downs.
You Can Never Write-Off Steven Jackson
He wasn’t much of a factor in Week 1 against the Lions, but he is going to get the ball early and often. While he may have lost a step in quickness, he still has plenty enough burst and can punish a defense with his power and superior instincts. Jackson will be a factor in not only being Sam Bradford’s security blanket, but will prove more than capable of laying the hammer on a blitzing linebacker or defensive back if Bradford needs time to throw. Jackson’s been a deadly weapon before, and it would be shortsighted to think he couldn’t be so again.