Redskins.com's Andrew Walker breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Jaguars 2014 Week 2 showdown at FedExField.
"Redskins-Jaguars: 4 Keys To The Game" is presented by Papa John's.
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GET INTO A RHYTHMIn the season opener against the Texans, Houston was able to have its way defensively at the line of scrimmage for most of the game, sacking Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III three times and hitting him on many more occasions. Defensive end J.J. Watt, the $100-million man, played a huge part in ruining the opener for Griffin III and his offense, collecting two tackles for loss, a sack, recovering a fumble, swatting a pass — and even blocking a Washington extra-point attempt.
Because of all the disruptions — not to mention two red zone turnovers — the Redskins' offense was never really able to get into a rhythm. On their lone scoring drive in the second quarter, the team ran the ball on all four plays — with an Alfred Morris 21-yard run being the key play — and Griffin III's average completion throughout the afternoon traveled 3.7 yards downfield. There were many instances throughout the game in which Griffin III looked as if he was about to attempt a deep pass, but the pressure got to him quickly, and the quarterback decided against it.
If the Redskins are going to have their way against the Jaguars on Sunday at FedExField, they are going to be able to mix in both another solid rushing performance — the Redskins averaged 5 yards a rush against the Texans — and be able to deliver a few big plays here and there. Gruden said on Wednesday that in order to make more plays downfield, the Redskins must utilize their their play-action better.
"We've got to figure out a way to get them and take the shots, and when we do take the shots — don't take a 14-yard loss or throw an interception," Gruden said. "You'd think the way we ran the ball that the play-actions would have been more successful, but Houston did a nice job covering."
SHORE UP SPECIAL TEAMSThe Redskins' special teams woes in 2013 have been much documented, so there's no real need to re-hash all of that again here. But after spending the entire offseason adding depth to
their various special teams units, the Redskins were disappointed to see both a punt and an extra-point attempt blocked in their 2014 season opener against the Texans.
The punt block hurt the most, because it was returned for a touchdown in what was at most a one-score game for a good part of the second half. Those plays also ruined what was an otherwise solid performance from the Washington special teams units, which included an 18-yard punt return average by Andre Roberts and solid coverage on kickoffs and punts.
First-year special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica put it best on Wednesday, saying of the Texans game that, "The food was great, the music sounded wonderful, and then we hit the iceberg." The Redskins have spent the first few days of meetings and practice this week trying to ensure that those mistakes do not happen again. We'll see if, against the Jaguars, the Redskins have exchanged their tickets on the Titanic for a trip on a luxury jet.
GANG TACKLE GERHARTThere's several members of the Redskins' defense that remember what Jaguars running back Toby Gerhart
was able to do against them on Christmas Eve, 2011, as a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Filling in for Adrian Peterson, Gerhart ran the ball 11 times for 109 yards — a 9.9 yards-per-carry average — in the Vikings 33-26 victory at FedExField. Included in those 11 runs was a 67-yard scamper, the longest in Gerhart's five-year career.
Gerhart this offseason signed with the Jaguars to be the team's starting running back, and the Redskins' defenders are ready with a plan to attack the bulky tailback, who stands at 6-foot and weighs 231 pounds.
"Yeah, you kind of know what you are getting with Toby Gerhart: a real physical guy," outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. "He is just the kind of guy that you've got to get a lot of hats to the ball."
Gerhart ran the ball 18 times for 42 yards — while adding two receptions for 15 yards — in the Jaguars' season opener against the Eagles, before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. He didn't practice with the team on Wednesday, but reports out of Jacksonville are Gerhart will likely play Sunday..
PROTECT THE ROCKIt seems simple to say, but, as is the general norm in the NFL, when you win the turnover battle, you stand a much greater chance of winning the game.
In their season opener in Houston, the Redskins had two turnovers to the Texans' one, and those two Washington turnovers couldn't have come at worse times. Trailing 14-6, the Redskins had reached the Texans' 7-yard line when Griffin III tripped over center Kory Lichtensteiger's foot on a handoff play. Griffin III, falling, still tried to get the ball to his running back, Morris, but he couldn't hold on to the ball, which fell to the grass and was recovered by Watt. On the very next drive, Griffin III finally was able to connect on a deep pass to tight end Niles Paul, who took the ball 48 yards to the Houston 9-yard line before safety D.J. Swearinger came from behind to pop the ball out of Paul's grip. Safety Kendrick Lewis came up with the recovery.
The Jaguars mostly took care of the football in their 34-17 Opening Day loss to the Eagles, although late in the fourth quarter with the game already in hand, quarterback Chad Henne was sacked and fumbled, which was recovered by the Eagles and taken 17 yards for a touchdown.
The Redskins hope to eliminate their costly turnovers — as well as create a few of their own — Sunday to get a victory.