The Washington Redskins fly west this Sunday to face the L.A. Rams, in hopes of rebounding from a disappointing loss against the Eagles in week #1. The storyline all week has been the Mentor vs Protege matchup, with Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden going head to head with his former Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay. Last week the Rams dominated the Indianapolis Colts 46-9 in McVay’s head coaching debut. Rams second year QB Jarod Goff had his best game statistical as a pro last week, going 21-29 for 306 passing yards with 1 TD. Although McVay’s offense was productive, that could be a byproduct of the Colts horrendous defense. The story of the game last week for the Rams was how their defense suffocating the Colts, which has been their strength over the last couple seasons. This year new Rams Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips will lead the charge with a stacked defensive line. I’ll go through the Rams Offense vs the Redskins defense and vice versa. The Skins can definitely win this game, but the mistakes from last week just can’t happen against an opportunistic Rams defense.
OFFENSIVE GAME PLAN The Redskins can’t afford to have another week with multiple turnovers, dropped passes, interceptions and most importantly Kirk needs time to breath! Although Cousins and T.Pryor did shoulder the blame for the Eagles loss, the lackluster play of the O-Line was a major reason for the poor outing. Cousins just needs to realize he’s not going to get the time needed for plays to develop, early on in the season at least. Trent Williams will need an extra tight end or even swing tackle at times to help cover up for left guard Shawn Lauvao’s short comings. They need to run behind Williams early in the game to establish the threat of the run game and avoid being one dimensional. If Kirk just hits his check down options sooner to get into a rhythm, the Skins can move the ball against this stingyRams defense. This is where 3rd Down Dynamo Chris “Mighty Mouse” Thompson thrives! When Cousins went to Thompson last week with an Eagles defender bearing down on him, the small wonder took the pass to the house for a 25 yard touchdown. Teams have seen the drastic jump in Cousins stats in which his passer rating plummets when defenses apply pressure. Kirk Cousins has an average career passer rating of around 63%, but when he faces pressure that number drops below 40%. In my opinion Gruden needs to utilize his three tight end sets and force the running lanes up the gut. Although Rams defense tackle Aaron Donald eats up the middle of the line, using outside runs will lead to losses for the Skins. You see the Rams strength on defense is played ying sideline to sideline. Inside Linebackers Alex Ogletree & converted strong safety Mark Barron are susceptible runs up middle. If the Skins running backs can break through the Donald and the Rams front line, they can have success in the run game. This game plan can lead to better options with play action as well. I liked what I saw last week when Kirk decided to tuck the ball and run, in which he scrambled 4 times for 30 yards. That brings a dimension to Gruden’s offense that he hasn’t had in the past. Even a version of the zone read was implemented at times. I don’t know if that can be run successfully against this Rams defense though. At this point WR Josh Doctson is a wild card and a luxury if he’s healthy. I think Gruden’s man crush WR Ryan Grant will continue to be used more often, but that won’t help this team in the wins column. Kelley and Thompson need to get going early. I’m hoping this is the game we see rookie RB Perine get involved in the offense. Gruden definitely has trust issues with young players though. I expect to see Reed, Pryor and Crowder exploit the Rams safeties and corners. Rams cornerback Truman Johnson leads the Rams unheralded backend, but after Johnson the talent level falls off. On the other side of the field, 5th year corner Kayvon Webster has been dealing with a sprained shoulder and is questionable to play. This is an area that the Redskins can exploit. Undersized safety Lamarcus Joyner (5’8), safety Cody Davis and Mo Alexander are used interchangeable at safety, but are vulnerable to the crossing routes. Pryor excelled at those routes while in Cleveland when he actually holds on to the ball. I’m waiting for Pryor to have his breakout day as a Redskin. He took last weeks loss personal and I expect him to catch every ball thrown his way today. Against the Rams I think Reed and Crowder are due for big days.
DEFENSIVE GAME PLAN The Redskins will face a better overall receiving core than they did last week against the Eagles, which means corners Norman, Breeland and Fuller better bring their A Game. Other than adding a new head coach and a new defense coach, the Rams traded for Buffalo’s former 1st round WR Sammy Watkins. He could have a huge impact when healthy, but that’s why it’s paramount for the Skins defenders to play extra physical today. The Rams will not have a big home field advantage at their temporary home Los Angels Memorial Stadium, in which they have struggled to sell tickets. So crowd noise shouldn’t be much of a factor. Former Redskins Derrick Carrier, WR’s Tavon Austin, Robert Woods & Rookie Cooper Kupp round out the Rams receiving threats. Add in running back Todd Gurley and the Rams pose significant passing threats. Rams Coach McVay loves to use bunch formations, so playing off coverage will get Manusky’s defense in trouble. All Pro Josh Norman really needs to step up today because the Rams receiving core is young and lack major game experience. Getting into the youngsters heads is where “The Cerebral Assassin” is supposed to thrive. If they can force receivers off their routes, turnovers can be forced. Now that brings me to the front line and defensive pass rush. Rookie John Allen leads the charge with Ziggy Hood and Stacey McGee rounding out the starting front line. I’m hoping they activate DE Lanier today because McGee was uninspiring to say the least. Last week Kerrigan was typical “Heartbreak Kid” fashion getting a pick 6, with Preston Smith and Junior Gallete a step slow to getting multiple sacks. Last week Eagles QB Carson Wentz offered size, strength and quickness similar to how Ben Rothlisberger plays. This week second year Rams QB Jared Goff brings a strictly pocket style game. Knowing McVay the game plan will be simplified as it was last week. The Rams will use three step quick drops and attempt to force the Skins secondary to play on their heels. The only way the Redskins can counteract McVay’s style of offense is blitz, blitz, blitz! Today needs to be the day that Manusky unleashes the hounds because after today the Skins defense faces veterans Alex Smith and Derek Carr the next two games. The Skins defense needs to find there identity and Allen and Galette could be the two players that lead the charge. If the Redskins defense can get push against the Rams weak O-Line, they can suffocate Goff and force him into bad decisions. I’m predicting a 3 turnover day for this Skins defense.
FINAL THOUGHT As previously mentioned I think this Redskins defense can force three turnovers and possibly converting one into a touchdown. This is a day that the Redskins offense could struggle. McVay wanted Phillips to run his defense for a reason. Where ever Phillips goes his defenses are top ranked. This year Phillips inherits possibly his best and youngest core ever. The Rams game plan will be to keep Cousins in the pocket and force him backward. Nobody knows Kirk better than McVay, so Gruden will need to be creative. As McVay will do, I expect Gruden to run the ball early and play the short passing game. McVay will do that and then mix it up with long passes. Defensive Captain DJ Swearinger needs to have a big day as a field general as well as make some plays. I’m hopping that the Skins can stay committed to the run game and utilize Thompson’s speed on offense. As I previously mentioned crowd noise won’t be an issue, so Cousins needs to utilize hard counts and audibles, which in turn could draw Rams defensive backs away from centerfield. If Cousins can play smart today, he could have a decent day hitting his best buds Reed and Crowder on choice routes all day. Also without a run game the Skins have no chance, so the running backs will have to take advantage of what the Rams give them. FINAL SCORE