The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-49ers 2017 Week 6 showdown at FedExField in Landover, Md.
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DON'T LET PIERRE GET COMFORTABLE IN A FAMILIAR SETTING
It will be an interesting site on Sunday when the San Francisco offense takes the field for the first time and Pierre Garçon is wearing a No. 15 49ers jersey.
For five seasons (2012-16), Garçon was a mainstay for Washington's offense. In total, the former Mount Union product finished his time in Washington in the top 10 in both receptions (376) and receiving yards (4,549) in franchise history. His 21 touchdown receptions are also tied for 12th most among all Redskins skill players in history.
While he has yet to score so far in his 49ers tenure, he's right on track for another 1,000-yard season. Through five games, he has 28 receptions for 379 yards.
Washington's cornerbacks, even without former All-Pro Josh Norman, have to be ready for Garçon's aggressive attitude.
"He's an exceptional guy, he makes plays on the ball and, as well, he runs his routes hard," said cornerback Bashaud Breeland, who will slide into the No. 1 role during Norman's injury. "It's going to be a good task, I'm all for it."
San Francisco may not have the bevy of playmakers at its disposal like Washington, but head coach Kyle Shanahan likes to move Garçon around to get him into advantageous spots.
Even if he's asked to run shorter routes or go across the middle, Redskins head coach Jay Gruden knows he's still "one of the top possession-type receivers" in the game today.
"He is really good after the catch. That's the one thing we really have to make sure [that] we tackle well when he gets the ball in his hands out in space because he can really run after the catch," Gruden said. "He runs very good, precise, crisp routes and has got strong hands. He does all the underneath stuff. He can hit you down the sidelines from time to time so he is definitely their best playmaker."
PREPARE FOR THE YOUNG AND HUNGRY
While the 49ers enter Sunday's game without a win on their resume, the Redskins understand that San Francisco could easily have four wins on the season.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' past matchups against the 49ers through the years.
After losing a rather one-sided game in the opener against the Carolina Panthers, the 49ers' last four losses have been by a combined 11 points. And in each of their last two games they were taken out in overtime.
"I know the feeling of being winless and just being anxious to finally get that first win," said running back Chris Thompson. "So they're going to come out wanting to beat us, wanting to upset us at home."
Despite their failure to secure a win so far this year, the 49ers have talent on both sides of the ball. Offensively, of course, Garçon is the steady threat on the outside complemented by speedsters Aldrick Robinson and Marquise Goodwin. They also have Carlos Hyde at running back, as the Ohio State product once again is averaging more than 4.5 yards per carry.
Defensively, San Francisco is loaded with young talent, particularly along the line. Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas were all taken in the first round of their respective NFL Drafts.
Armstead and Buckner both offer unique size coupled with their athleticism, as both are 6-foot-7 and more than 290 pounds.
So for a Washington offense that could be without Trent Williams and Rob Kelley, the team must be ready for a group that's ready to strike.
"They have talent," Gruden said. "We are talking about Buckner and Armstead, Solomon Thomas and then they bring [Elvis] Dumervil off the bench for third down rusher. [Aaron] Lynch is a good rusher. So they are very talented, without a doubt. The linebacker play has been solid and obviously they have safeties out the kazoo."
GET CROWDER AND REED THEIR REDEMPTION
Washington has quite a bit of depth at the tight end position and it's showed so far this season. While veteran Vernon Davis leads the team's tight end receiving yards, two other players will look to make an impact on Sunday's game.
Jordan Reed, who missed the Oakland game entirely and saw limited action against Kansas City, finally appears to be ready to go. Jamison Crowder, another weapon who has dealt with injuries, also seems likely as a major factor against the 49ers.
"I think you'll see more of Jamison Crowder hopefully," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He is one of our best skill players. We have got to get him more involved in the offense."
Reed and Crowder have almost identical stats through four games. With 14 receptions apiece, Crowder (107 yards) inched pass Reed (106 yards) in receiving two weeks ago.
Gruden said defenses have been clogging the middle of the field to prevent big plays from Washington's various tight ends. He added that will likely change as the outside receivers improve, opening up more opportunities for Crowder and Reed underneath.
"We have a number of guys that we need to get the ball to, but it is key for us to just be patient, spread the ball and get the ball to the open guy," Gruden said.
FILLING THE NORMAN VOID
In the absence of star cornerback Josh Norman while he's dealing with a rib fracture, Gruden and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will look upon a duo of young cornerbacks in Quinton Dunbar and Fabian Moreau to fill his shoes.
Dunbar, a third-year player out of Florida, is expected to make the fifth start of his career on Sunday, his first of the 2017 season. Despite the relative lack of starting experience on the field, the 25-year-old is not short on confidence.
"He thinks he can cover anybody, anytime, anywhere," Gruden said. "And that's a great mentality to have as a corner and that's the way he feels. He's been out here at practice covering DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon last year, and this year with all these other guys."
Moreau, meanwhile, is looking to seize an increased role in Norman's absence. The rookie has appeared in all four of the Redskins games this season and has recorded six tackles.
While fans have not seen much of the UCLA product in a regular season setting just yet, Gruden stresses the importance of his physical tools in Sunday's matchup against the 49ers.
"He has speed," Gruden said of his rookie defensive back. "Dunbar and Fabian both are very, very fast and that helps when you're playing against a world-class sprinter like Marquise Goodwin and Aldrick [Robinson]. They're both very, very fast. So it's very important we try to match some speed with speed and those guys can both run."