The Redskins.com crew breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Saints 2017 Week 11 showdown at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
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TIME TO GET THE RUN GAME GOING AGAIN
While Trent Williams and the passing attack ranks in the top 10 in terms of yards per game, the running game has struggled to get going for most of the season.
Washington's ground woes have extended since the bye week back in early October, as the Redskins have managed just 350 rushing yards on 116 carries (three yards per rush) over the last five games.
To make matters worse for the Redskins, starting tailback Rob Kelley was placed on Injured Reserve this week as the Tulane product suffered two different leg injuries against the Minnesota Vikings.
With Kelley's placement on Injured Reserve, the Redskins will look to Samaje Perine to carry a brunt of the load moving forward. That starts with Sunday's game against the Saints' 16th ranked rush defense.
"We drafted Samaje to come in and be a good guy, a big contributor to us. With Rob out now, it's on me and him, and we just got [Byron Marshall], and that's three to fill the void and just go out there and do whatever we can do to help us win games," said fellow running back Chris Thompson.
Perine was Oklahoma's all-time leading rusher, but the rookie running back is still adjusting to life in the NFL. For really the first time during his debut campaign, the Redskins will get an extended look as to how much he's progressed since being drafted in April.
He currently has 210 rushing yards on 66 carries.
"He's a guy that never ran out of the I-formation in college, so this is all new to him," said Redskins head coach Jay Gruden. "He's good out of the shotgun, but we've just got to keep giving him the ball. Like I said the other day, I think he's a guy that'll get better with more carries. He's such a physical guy that I think the more carries he gets, he'll wear down a defense.
"He's not so much a spell guy, he's more of a 'run it, run it, run it,' type guy. Hopefully we get him some reps, get a great look at him, and he performs well, which we think he will."
To replace Kelley on the active roster, the Redskins signed former Oregon Duck Byron Marshall off the Philadelphia Eagles' practice squad.
MAKE THEIR OFFENSE THE SAINTS OFFENSE OF OLDEver since the Saints brought in Drew Bress to put an end to their quarterback carrousel, New Orleans has best been known for having a lethal passing attack.
Check out photos from the Redskins previous match ups against the New Orleans Saints.
Brees passed for at least 4,000 yards in each of his first 11 seasons with the Saints. In five different seasons the future Hall of Famer also passed for 5,000 yards, becoming the first player in NFL history to reach the mark multiple times.
While Brees is still on a prolific pace to start this season, the Saints have added a new layer to their offense in the form of a potent one-two punch on the ground.
Former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram currently has 672 yards and seven touchdowns on the year while rookie Alvin Kamara has broken out since the departure of Adrian Peterson, recording 417 rushing yards and four touchdowns along with 42 receptions for 373 yards and two receiving scores.
"With them, they've got a good power-running game," Gruden said. "They've got ways to run jet sweeps, outside tosses, toss cracks – they're very balanced in what they do. A lot of different schemes in the run game, which are very beneficial to them."
It will be tough to slow the tandem (they both ran for at least 100 yards against the Buffalo Bills last Sunday), but the Redskins need to find a way to jump out to an early lead to force Brees into more passing situations.
"When they play with the lead or close, they're very balanced and Sean Payton does a great job of calling plays," Gruden said.
ANYTHING BUT A BREES
At 38 years old, Brees shows little to no signs of slowing down. Since coming to New Orleans in 2006, the 17-year veteran has missed a grand total of two regular season games. For that reason, Brees has garnered plenty of respect around the league, including Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, who spent four seasons as Brees' NFC South rival.
"Old, wily Drew. I've been playing that guy for a while," Norman said. "The thing is about Drew is just he knows you better than you know yourself at times. It's crazy how he's been manipulating defenses just by looking off and pump faking and coming back to knowing the spot he wants to hit. He's spot on."
Brees' numbers back up the praise. In seven of his last nine games, he has passed for more than 200 yards.
In the Saints' last game, Brees failed to surpass 200 yards in the air or throw a touchdown, but New Orleans still managed to beat the Bills 47-10.
Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said the mere presence of the future Hall of Famer can both intimidate and excite a defense.
"Yeah, any time you're playing a Hall of Famer, a G.O.A.T., you want to have your best game, you want to pick him off, you want to get a Drew Brees ball," Swearinger said. "As a secondary, this is the best challenge we can have coming off the week we just had, to go up against a legend this week and have a great performance."
BRING OUT THE WORST IN THE SAINTS' DEFENSE
In two weeks, the New Orleans defense created one of the biggest turnarounds in the league.
To start the season, the Saints' secondary was annihilated by Minnesota's Sam Bradford, who threw for 346 yards and three touchdowns. A week later, New England's Tom Brady put up 447 yards and missed just nine of his 39 attempts.
Then, as if out of nowhere, New Orleans flipped the script. The Saints rank seventh in the league in yards allowed and have 11 interceptions and 25 sacks. It took two quarterbacks to record more than 100 yards passing against the Saints in Week 10, and the Bills still only managed to score 10 points and record 10 first downs.
"It seems that their secondary is covering very well. They're creating confusion," said Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. "They're changing up their looks and just kind of creating chaos and that's what good defenses do."
The Saints' defense will be an added challenge for Cousins, who has faced the 14th, 13th and 12th ranked passing defenses in the last three weeks.
Tight end Vernon Davis said the reason behind New Orleans' improved success has centered around communication.
According to Davis, the more a defense talks, the better it can adapt.
"You can tell when you look at film, they're out their flying around, they're communicating and they're getting it done," Davis said. "In football, that's what you need and they're doing exactly what they need to do."