Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the team.
The Washington Football Team is coming back to FedExField to take on the New Orleans Saints in a battle of 2-2 teams. Here are three keys to the matchup, presented by Van Metre.
1. Find an answer for Alvin Kamara.
The Saints are not the dominant offensive force that they were when Drew Brees was under center. The scheme might have changed with Jameis Winston as the starter, but Alvin Kamara is still a problem for defenses.
Kamara's role has been evolving in the Saints' new era. He's been utilized more as a traditional running back lately, and for what it's worth, the former Tennessee Volunteer has had some success with his 297 rushing yards that rank sixth in the NFL. Against the New York Giants, he had 26 rushing attempts with zero targets.
In fact, Kamara hasn't been used much in the passing game at all with just 10 catches. That's certainly a deviation from the 83 he got in 2020. But don't let the lack of production as a pass-catcher distract from the fact that he's averaged 8.6 yards per reception. Containing him will be a test for Washington's linebacker corps in its first game without veteran Jon Bostic in the lineup.
2. Depth at receiver will need to step up.
Washington will be without Dyami Brown and Cam Sims on Sunday, as both of them have dealt with injuries all week. The team can count on Terry McLaurin to produce, but it's time for the depth at receiver that Washington invested in this offseason to step up.
Fortunately, the players' resumes show that they're up to the task. Adam Humphries, who has been a key piece of Washington's starting lineup all season, has carried a heavier workload before and has proven himself as a reliable target with a career catch rate of 71.1%.
Washington's ancillary receivers have also been productive in short stints. DeAndre Carter essentially became Washington's No. 2 receiver after Brown as Sims went down against the Atlanta Falcons and had a 24-yard reception on Washington's game-winning drive. Dax Milne, the team's final draft pick in 2021, was one of the most productive receivers in college football for the 2020 season.
There's a chance Curtis Samuel will play this weekend -- he's listed as questionable on the final injury report -- but even if Samuel plays, Washington's other pass-catchers will need to prove their worth.
3. Prevent a breakout game from New Orleans' passing attack.
From a statistical standpoint, the Saints' passing game is the least productive group that Washington has faced up to this point. It accounts for 144 yards per game, which is 31st in the league.
The secondary will need to keep it that way.
This is not the same group, led by Michael Thomas, of years past. Thomas, who had at least 100 receptions in his first four seasons, is currently on the Physically Unable To Perform list. However, there are some standout players in the group. Deonte Harris, for example, leads the team with 164 yards and is set to shatter his career-highs in previous seasons.
Washington has struggled to contain passing attacks this season, though, as it gives up nearly 300 yards per game through the air. But there are no top tier receivers on the Saints roster with the same talent as Stefon Diggs or Calvin Ridley. And if Washington's secondary, which still has plenty of talent, can keep the Saints' grounded, it would provide a big boost.