The Seattle Seahawks face the Washington Redskins on Sunday. In this two-part series, I’ll be looking at Washington’s offense and defense/special teams to catch you up to speed on everything you need to know before the game.
On Wednesday, I discussed the Seahawks’ keys to victory over the Redskins’ defense. From that article, injuries were a very common theme. The same can definitely be said for the offense and, more specifically, for the offensive line.
Here is the most recent injury report. Literally the entire starting offensive line is on this list.
Left tackle Trent Williams is the Redskins’ best offensive player. This isn’t an exaggeration as he was a First-Team All-Pro last season. He will need surgery for ligament damage in his right knee and is debating playing through it before getting surgery. Left guard Shawn Lauvao suffered a stinger while center Spencer Long had his knee scoped and will be out for another week or two. Brandon Scherff was having an All-Pro season until he sprained his MCL versus the Dallas Cowboys. Morgan Moses, who signed a five-year, $40 million extension this offseason, was dealing with ankle injuries and seems to be the only offensive lineman that is on track to play on Sunday.
From a schematic standpoint, Washington’s offense is very similar to the Seahawks offense. Both schemes have their roots in the West Coast passing tree. While the Redskins used to use a zone blocking scheme under Mike Shanahan, the team under Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan has switched to using a gap/power scheme more recently. This worked well against the Los Angeles Rams allowing the Redskins’ offense to gain over 200 rushing yards. Speaking of the Rams, the former Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay left to become their head coach. This season, Jay Gruden is calling the passing plays while Bill Callahan calls the running plays in conjunction.
Chris Thompson is Washington’s leading running back (231 yards) and leading receiver (442 yards). Robert Kelley, who started the season as the first and second down rusher, has been dealing with injuries of his own while neither him nor Samaje Perine have proven they deserve the bulk of the carries. Even though Thompson is the leading rusher, he gets limited touches considered his injury history. In 2011, he sustained T5 and T6 compression fractures in his back. In 2012, he tore his left ACL. In 2013, he tore his left labrum and in 2015, he had back and shoulder issues. Keeping him healthy due to his ability to pass protect and his ability in space are more important to the team than his production in any given game.
With the running game not fully in sync, Kirk Cousins has had to rely on the passing game to move the ball. Last season, Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson were the team’s leading receivers with both collecting over 1,000 receiving yards. Based on a combination of age and cap space, the team decided to move on from the pair. This offseason, they signed Terrelle Pryor and sought to rely on Jamison Crowder and Josh Docston instead.
This hasn’t worked out for them yet as Pryor has had a case of the “drops” and has been relegated to fourth string. While Josh Doctson, former first round pick from 2016, hasn’t developed yet due to injuries. Ryan Grant, the team’s third string wide receiver, is all effort but is a limited player. In m my opinion, he’s the Redskins’ version of Jermaine Kearse without the touchdowns.
Due to the lack of a wide receiver threat, the tight ends, Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed, and Chris Thompson became the key playmakers for the offense when they are healthy. “When” is the operative word as Jordan Reed is consistently injured and isn’t expected to play on Sunday.
Cousins is having an above-average season so far. After the team franchise tagged him for the second straight offseason, he has not exactly proved he deserves a massive contract. It obviously doesn’t help he has no capable wide receivers and the offensive line is injured, but independently he needs to play better as well.
After eight weeks, Washington is ranked 14th in total DVOA, 12th on offense, 13th on defense, and 25th on special teams. Broken down further they are 13th in passing and 22nd in rushing, but as mentioned, dealing with a injuries on the offensive line that affects all facets of their game.
My appearance on Seahawks Chats to preview Washington-Seattle:
Based on my study of this team, here are the keys to a Seahawks’ victory over this offense:
- Play press coverage on the receivers at the line of scrimmage. This will instantly create tighter throwing windows for Cousins while the receivers haven’t proven they can beat press consistently this season.
- If Chris Thompson gets the ball on a checkdown, make sure you wrap him up. This is a very simple solution to an extremely difficult problem, but he is a dangerous player in space. Bobby Wagner might be able to cover him, but having Earl Thomas would have been key.
- Vernon Davis is still incredibly fast. Pay extra care if he runs a seam route.
- I would consider rushing only three men and dropping eight into coverage versus this offense. The offensive line is so injured that three can probably create pressure, while dropping eight will make it harder for Cousins to throw down the field.
- On a coverage standpoint, I would consider playing Cover 2 Man (two-deep) instead of pure Cover 1 (single high) versus the Redskins. Bradley McDougald isn’t Earl Thomas and I would want Kam Chancellor to play as the other deep half safety to easy his responsibilities.
Here is the video I created on Kirk Cousins last season and what he did well versus the Dallas Cowboys:
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