The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Jets 2015 Week 6 matchup in East Rutherford, N.J.
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RICHARDSON'S BACK -- JUST IN TIME[
Not that they needed the help, but the New York Jets' defense receives a huge boost on Sunday, when Pro Bowl defensive end Sheldon Richardson makes his 2015 debut.
Richardson, who was suspended the first four games of the season after violating the league's drug policy, is, of course, champing at the bit to get after the quarterback with a defensive line that already features the like of first-round pick Leonard Williams, Muhammad Wilkerson, Damon Harrison, Leger Douzable and others.
Richardson, a Missouri product, had eight sacks to go along with 67 tackles and a forced fumble in 2014, earning him a starting nod in the Pro Bowl. He anchors a Jets defense that features cornerbacks with a combined 10 Pro Bowl appearances and one of the more ferocious front sevens in the NFL.
The Redskins have already faced a few defenses with tons of talent, but it's another thing to back it up on the field. The Jets' defense this season has done just that, as they've allowed a league-low 13.8 points per game.
"They really do a good job," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "They cover up both guards, the center and they're very strong at the point of attack. They pursue outstanding. Their linebackers are fast flow-ers. They play tight man-to-man. They get an extra guy in the box a lot of times. Very, very difficult defense to have a lot of success in and teams have tried to do a lot of things but haven't had much success so it'll be a great challenge for us."
The secondary is led by Darrelle Revis, a six-time Pro Bowler the team re-acquired this offseason during free agency.
"I would think he ranks right up there with anybody if not the best," Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "He'll be a great challenge for us and he's certainly earned the respect that we give him." (By Stephen Czarda)
AGONY AND IVORY
For the second straight week, the Redskins' run defense will be tested with another explosive running back when they visit the Jets this Sunday.
Chris Ivory, the stereotypical bruising power back, has averaged just more than 100 yards per game this season in three games, received the rock an average of 20 times per contest and scored three touchdowns, all of which have come in the red zone (New York ranks fifth in the league in red zone scoring percentage).
The Redskins defense, which hadn't let a team run for more than 100 yards through four games, might be frustrated with the blemish that Falcons running back Devonta Freeman left them with his 153-yard performance last Sunday.
But instead of running around the tackles, as Freeman did last Sunday, Ivory's habit of grinding up the middle should provide a better opportunity for the defensive line to use their strengths.
It should let nose tackle Terrance Knighton assert his size to his advantage.
"[Our responsibilities are] not going to change too much," Knighton said. "I think my impact will increase more just this week just because of the style of runs that they have, and they're challenging people right up the middle of their defense…A guy like myself, I enjoy the challenge."
Clogging the middle, with linebackers taking care of their gaps, can provide problems for the Jets, though the Washington defense must also be wary of running back Bilal Powell on third down situations, where he is liable to receive some passing opportunities out of the backfield. Powell has 14 receptions for 88 yards and is averaging nearly four yards per rushing attempt this season. (By Jake Kring-Schreifels)
For whatever reason, the third quarter has not been the Redskins' friend this season, as the team has scored just a combined three points in five third quarters all year.
Check out these photos of the Redskins' defense and special teams preparing for their Week 6 match up against the New York Jets Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015, at Redskins Park in Loudoun County, Va.
Defensively, meanwhile, the team has surrendered a combined 29 points in the third quarter this season.
It's a stark contrast to the team's performance in the first two quarters of the game, as they have entered halftime with a lead in four of their five games to date.
So what's the problem? Are the Redskins coming out of halftime flat? Are the other teams making better adjustments?
"We've got to figure out a way to create some momentum coming out of the half, whether that be creating some explosive plays or just being more efficient on first and second down so that we can move the chains and come away with points," Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay said. "And, obviously, we'd like to come away with touchdowns. Then, some of those other situations, there's always a little bit of an individual thing and circumstance that comes up, but that's certainly a point of emphasis for us is coming out of that half with a little bit better momentum."
Sunday's game is also the Redskins' second trip to MetLife Stadium in less than four weeks, as the team played the New York Giants there Sept. 24. If Washington's third quarter woes continue against the Jets, they can't afford to have a similar result as that Giants game, which saw the Redskins trailing, 15-6, at halftime – the only time they have not been leading after two quarters this season. (By Andrew Walker)
STRIKE FAST -- SOMETIMES
There's certainly nothing wrong with the Redskins being the league leader in longest average number of plays per offensive drive. That means they're doing a good job in the time of possession game and keeping their own defense – and the opposing offense – on the sideline as long as possible.
But without the NFL top's deep threat, DeSean Jackson, in its lineup since he suffered a hamstring injury early in its Week 1 matchup against the Dolphins, Washington's offense, led by Kirk Cousins, has not attempted much in the way of home run plays.
One reason why, at least the first couple weeks of the season, was because the Redskins were running the ball so well with Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. But the run game has struggled in the past few weeks, and Cousins and Co. have been happy with dinking and dunking and getting yards in small chunks.
Again, nothing wrong with that.
But, when the team has taken its occasional shots this season, they've been pretty successful. Against the Philadelphia Eagles, Cousins went deep to Rashad Ross for 43 yards. Last Sunday against the Falcons, Cousins again tried to find Ross deep in the end zone, and the result of the play, a pass interference call against Atlanta, gave the Redskins 1st and Goal from the 1.
Gruden this week acknowledged he'd love to take more deep shots each week, but against a team like the Jets, who feature a perennial Pro Bowler in their secondary like Revis, that can be easier said than done.
Also, Gruden said a "big play" doesn't necessarily have to come via the deep pass. It can come via the run or a designed quick pass, as well. "We do need to get more plays in chunks," Gruden said. "We've had a lot of good 15/13/14-play drives, I think more than anybody in the league. But we do need to work on our long gains, chunk plays somehow, whether it's in the running game, screens, or shot plays down the field." (By Andrew Walker)