The Washington Redskins (0-1) will host the St. Louis Rams (1-0) this Sunday. Both teams have new starting QBs this year with the Rams having acquired Nick Foles who last was the starting QB in Philly. I reached out to Joe McAtee from Turf Show Times to ask him a few questions about the 2015 version of the team. Thanks to Joe for taking the time to answer my questions.
1. What's up with Todd Gurley and Tre Mason? Who's playing this weekend? How healthy are they? What do you expect out of each whenever they do play?
Who knows. Jeff Fisher's one of those guys who plays around with public comments and isn't exactly always forthright with the local media either (THERE'S ABSOLUTELY NO TRUTH TO THE RUMOR THAT WE'RE TRADING SAM BRADFORD NONE). So in terms of who is made available when, I honestly have no clue. Here's what I'd ay. Benny Cunningham is a sufficient plug for a game or two; he made some big plays against Seattle in Week 1 and has enough of a track record to rely upon in a pinch. Tre Mason's got more acceleration and agility, but there's no reason to push him with a hamstring issue. Of course, Gurley's the biggest name despite logging a single NFL snap yet. Coming off of an ACL injury in November of last year, I didn't expect him before the Rams' Week 6 bye. I think having Mason and Cunningham, and a win in the back pocket, may push Gurley back even if the coaching and medical staffs are on board to put him in action. The risk/reward just isn't that great to play the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft less 10 months after a full ACL tear when you've got other running backs to bear the load and enough talent elsewhere on the 53-man roster to rely upon to get wins.
2. If you were the HC of the Redskins, how would you try to deal with Aaron Donald and that defensive front? How would you try to deal with Tavon Austin?
Donald's tough, because he's just so quick off the snap and with his hands. He's not of huge physical size or strength like fellow DT Michael Brockers is. He's just faster to get into angles than offensive linemen are, and that allows him to win in the pass and run games. How do you try to deal with him? I'm not sure you can except to throw the occasional double at him and not play around too much in the middle. What's tough for you guys is that Cousins can't outrun the edge. Russell Wilson escaped probably another handful of potential sacks on top of the half dozen the Rams posted just by scrambling out and finding the sideline away from Donald. Go back to our game last year, and you guys saw the issue with the Rams racking up 7 sacks while doing a strong job on the Rams' offense. He's too good and there are too many other options to get comfortable against the Rams' defense.
Tavon, on the other hand, is pretty limited. His acceleration is elite. His top speed is very good. Other than that...well, there is no other than that. You can't try to get into track events with him. The Rams rotate him well, so he's not going to get exhausted from work rate. And it's not like he's churning for extra yards in a pile or by dragging extra defenders. He's easy to take down on first contact...you just have to make sure you don't have a lane open. If he sees it, he's gone.
3. Tell us about your OL. It appears they're just about the least experienced OL in the league. How should the Redskins attack?
Yeah, it's tough to really know what we're going to get out of them. Greg Robinson was the #2 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, but was held out early on last year because Fisher hates rookies, so he's still not a full year experienced at the NFL level. Rookie starting LG Jamon Brown played at RG throughout preseason and training camp. Last Sunday was his first real action there. Starting center Tim Barnes floated around the practice squad and the back of the 53-man roster since 2011, though he picked up some time in 2013 filling in for then-starter Scott Wells. RG Rodger Saffold is the elder statesman. RT Rob Havenstein is the second rookie on the line, a second-round pick in this year's draft out of Wisconsin. It's a line that's built to run, though it performed better in the pass game last weekend. It's clearly a work in progress, so it's a beatable unit for any team. As to how to attack them, there's no one way. This isn't a tried and true line. If anything, the physicality they offer suggests it'd be better to attack them more athletically and with speed, but they held up alright against Seattle's more athletic rushes last week.
4. In your opinion, are the Rams going to move from St. Louis to L.A.? What's the deal with all the chatter? If so, when would it happen? And why is that even a possibility?
If I were betting, I'd bet that they do move, though it's still early. Here are the major factors. First, the owner pretty clearly wants to move the team and, maybe more important, has the capital and land to build and own his own stadium to move them into. Second, the city has come up with a pretty workable plan for a second brand new NFL stadium in 25 years. That's very unusual and indicative of the lengths the civic structure and local business is willing to go to support NFL football in St. Louis. Third, and this is the wild card, we just don't know what the league and the other owners want. The NFL tried to put in some stopgaps to prevent, or at least dissuade, NFL teams from leaving markets that are willing and capable of building stadiums. There's a real question as to whether they'd apply those if Rams Owner Stan Kroenke leaves St. Louis or not. Because even if they do, he'd be able to bear that cost financially and come out better for it by moving back to the #2 market in the country. But that sets a dangerous, dangerous precedent for cities who tend to think they have some say in the machinations of the NFL map that would essentially tell them they have no place at the table, even if they can summon $1 billion dollars for a brand new stadium. So why is it a possibility? Money talks.
5. How is the fan-base feeling about Nick Foles at QB? Is he the future?
After Week 1, pretty damn good. Despite a jumbled shotgun snap that led to a first fumble and a pressured second that got returned for a touchdown, Foles was able to march the team into the end zone with less than a minute remaining to tie the game on Sunday. He avoided throwing an interception and worked the intermediate section of the field with much more frequency than Sam Bradford, the previous franchise QB appointee. So if anything, a breath of fresh air was more needed than anything else, and Foles brought it, along with a win over divisional rival and back-to-back Super Bowl attendee in Seattle. So as to the future, week one isn't going to define anything long-term. It was, though, a promising start that suggests that if the Rams can work on the turnovers (three fumbles despite the lack of interceptions) and get some more out of their ground game, Foles could be in for a big year...and so could the Rams.