The 4-2 Washington Redskins ride a four game winning streak into Detroit to face the 3-3 Detroit Lions. The Redskins had by far their best performance last week in the 27-20 win over division rival Philadelphia Eagles. They won for one big reason — they dominated both sides of the football up front. Can they do it again today?
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It’s the ground game . . . Washington’s offensive line dominated the Eagles up front last week, allowing the ground game to gain 230 yards rushing, including a nice 135 yard effort by Matt Jones on just 16 carries. I really liked the way Jay Gruden and Sean McVay mixed up Jones, Robert Kelley, and Chris Thompson into the game plan. I hope we see that again today. All three bring different facets to the run game. The offensive line blew holes open against the Eagles defensive front and they need to replicate that performance this week. QB Kirk Cousins is certainly better and thrives more effectively when the run game is effective.
Defensive front . . . Has to be on its game again today and get pressure up front on Lions’ QB Matt Stafford. The Redskins have got to be pleased with the season Trent Murphy is having thus far this season. He has been at the most effective pass rusher. In just his third season, Murphy has tallied 20 tackles and 5 sacks. Ricky Jean Francois and Preston Smith got into the pass rushing mix late in the game last week, tallying huge sacks to help preserve the win not he Eagles final drive. They need that front line push again, Stafford can strangle a defense with his arm and it will be imperative the Redskins front establishes pressure early in the game.
Eliminate the mistakes . . . The Redskins need to play disciplined football and limit penalties, including stupid celebration penalties. A celebration penalty last week, justified or not, led to an Eagles kick return for a touch down. Speaking of that kick return, the Redskins special teams have to do a better job closing return gaps. They got lucky last week. Special teams touchdowns can strangle a team. What I did like is the fact the Redskins did not fold after two devastating touchdowns back to back to take away a 14-0 lead they built early on last week.
It’s about defense . . . The Redskins defense has not allowed a touchdown in seven consecutive quarters. After some dismal performances early in the season, Joe Barry has seemingly turned the defense around. Barry will continue mixing up the safety position, utilizing Will Blackmon, Duke Ihenacho, and Donte Whitner, after losing DeAngelo Hall, David Bruton, and DaShaun Phillips to injury. Additionally, early in the season, the Redskins defense tackled like a high school football team. That seems to have worked itself out. The Redskins have to feel good about last week as well as Ryan Kerrigan returned to his dominating from, recording two early sacks and making some really critical tackles at the line of scrimmage.
Welcome back . . . to second round draft pick S’ua Cravens. He missed the last two weeks in NFL concussion protocol. He is back this week and provides speed to the defense.
Finally . . . The Redskins will continue to look to Kirk Cousins to eliminate mistakes, avoid bad throws,a nd connect int he deep ball. With Jackson active and Jamison Crowder having an excellent start to the season, I would like to see the Redskins take down the field shots. Cousins had some early inaccuracies on the deep ball, but it returned a bit last week. The Redskins receiver also got to limit dropped balls. It has been a plague int he passing game all season.