Back at this after a 2 week hiatus. Redskins are hovering around .500 football. The good news is the NFC East is wide open & no team looks clearly better than any other team in the division. After the loss to the Falcons last week, the Redskins are in a must win situation at home this week with the meat of the schedule coming up & 2 straight road games against the Giants & Steelers. It won’t be easy as the Minnesota Vikings look tough this year & are playing some good football.
Scouting the Vikings
2nd year QB Christian Ponder is one of the reasons for the Vikings hot start. He’s top 10 in the NFL in QB rating & has only thrown 2 interceptions all year. He’s playing smart football, but the Vikings don’t necessarily rely on the passing game as Ponder is only averaging 217 yards passing a game. The biggest threat in the receiving corps of course is Percy Harvin who also is one of the NFL’s most dangerous players on the field. Harvin scares you with YAC & the Vikings favorite play to get him in space is the bubble screen. He currently leads the NFL with 316 YAC, that’s 102 more YAC than the NFL’s 2nd player. TE Kyle Rudolph is a player to watch in the red zone, 4 TDs this year. Vikings have done a very good job protecting Ponder this year, he’s only been sacked 9 times, & against the Redskins pass rush that’s been lacking this year, that’s not a good sign.
Vikings rank top 10 in the NFL in rushing. Thanks to warrior Adrian Peterson coming off ACL surgery, he’s still very productive. Peterson has been monitoring an ankle injury that could limit him a bit this Sunday though, but his last 2 games he’s been looking like the Peterson of old. Christian Ponder also adds to the running game with his scrambling out of the pocket abilities. Toby Gerhart, Peterson’s backup averages a little over 5 carries per game.
The Vikings are definitely solid against the run. They give up an average of 78.6 yards per game which is 6th in the NFL. LB Erin Henderson has a lot to do with it, he has 5 tackles for loss this year. 1st year defensive coordinator Alan Williams seems to have shored up the Vikings defense. His rotation on the defensive line brought criticism at first but now seems to be working keeping the interior linemen fresh.
While Minnesota is in the middle of the pack in the league in passing defense, it’s much improved from last year. Pass defense is Alan Williams forte as he coached defensive backs for the Indianapolis Colts for 10 years. They still run a cover 2 but it has been tweaked since last year. They’ve only got 2 interceptions this year but they’re doing a good job in limiting big plays in the passing game.
Keys to the game
- Force Ponder to turn the ball over. The Redskins despite giving up a lot of yards on defense, ranks 3rd in the NFL in takeaways. Ponder has turned the ball over 4 times this year but only 2 interceptions. Making him turn the ball over the key to killing what the Vikings want him to do & which makes their offense efficient…manage the game.
- Establish a downfield passing game. The Redskins have been fairly conservative with RG3 in the downfield passing game. Through the first 5 games there has been a lot of screen passes & short passes. RG3 has only attempted 8 passes downfield all year. At this point teams are expecting the screen passes & with how well Alfred Morris has run the ball this year it’s time to start attacking deep.
- Converting 3rd downs. As good as the Redskins offense has been this year, it could be much better if they convert 3rd downs. The Redskins are currently last in the NFL with a 23% third down conversion rate. Drops have hurt the team on third down, as well as Kyle Shanahan out-smarting himself on a few calls on third down. Imperative this gets fixed. Soon.
- Play disciplined. An area where it’s embarrassing to be ranked high. Redskins rank 4th in the NFL with the most penalties against them. These penalties are either drive killers on offense or drive extenders on defense. Definitely one of the reasons the Redskins are 2-3.
I’m Anxious To See…
- Kai Forbath. The new kicker that everyone is welcoming just for the fact alone that his name isn’t Billy Cundiff. Billy Cundiff was single handedly making life tough on the Redskins giving team’s the last few weeks new life. Kai Forbath is a young kicker with a strong leg, but at this point we just hope the guy can nail kicks under 40 yards.
- Robert Griffin III post-concussion. After taking a scary hit on a play that could’ve well been prevented if RG3 would’ve just went out of bounds or slid earlier, it will be interesting to see how, if at all it alters his playing style this Sunday. The Shanahan’s have already said it won’t alter how the call the game if he’s cleared, but now we just wonder how RG3 will respond on Sunday.
- Jarvis Jenkins. Coaches have been saying he’s getting better every week & we need this to happen as they say it. The pass rush has been atrocious since Adam Carriker & Brian Orakpo went down. So far Rob Jackson nor Chris Wilson has got much of a pass rush in Orakpo’s absence, the Redskins desperately need at least Jenkins to step in & void the loss of Carriker.
The Redskins tore Adrian Peterson’s ACL & also knocked Christian Ponder out of the game with a concussion. But backup QB Joe Webb came in the game to spark the Vikings to a win, accounting for 3 TD’s. At the time I said “This guy Joe Webb looks like what I hope the Redskins could get in the draft next year…Robert Griffin III”. Vikings also killed the Redskins in the run game, but the Redskins got a big game as well out of Evan Royster that game with 132 yards rushing.
I’m skeptical if the Vikings are as good as their record says they are, & the homer in me thinks the Redskins are better than their record says. None-the-less it will be a close game, but I expect the Redskins to clean up some of the miscues they’ve had in previous weeks. With RG3′s concussion last week you may see less designed run plays just to protect him a bit & more downfield passing which is RG3′s strength. Plus Redskins are overdue for a win at Fed Ex field…right?
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