Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, October 25, the day the Washington Redskins host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Five final thoughts on Redskins vs. Bucs
—Pierre Garçon has been a steadying presence in an offense that has been missing key players all season long. He has been targeted fewer than eight times this year just once is on pace to catch 85 passes for 785 yards. The receptions would be the second-most of his career. If the Redskins win today he will be a big part of it, perhaps benefitting from the return of TE Jordan Reed as much as anyone.
—It’s hard to look at the Bucs and think that Doug Martin isn’t the main weapon they have to stop. He rushed for 78 yards in the Bucs’ Week 2 win over the Saints and he rolled for 123 yards and two touchdowns when they beat the Jaguars two weeks ago. If the Redskins don’t contain him it will be a long day.
—I don’t think that there is anything that Kirk Cousins can do to lose his job today but he sure can keep it from being a miserable two weeks. If the “good’ Kirk shows up, the one who doesn’t throw any interceptions and who mostly hits his receivers in stride, the narrative during the bye will be that he has righted the ship and has a good chance to have a solid final nine games. But calls for him to be benched will get louder if the Cousins we’ve seen for the last two weeks is on the field today. Again, I doubt that Jay Gruden makes a move regardless but it will be harder and harder for him not to at least consider it.
—The Redskins’ third-quarter problems have gone on all year but they really became a topic of conversation around the team facility this week. They need to come out of the locker room and do something about it. If they kick off to start the third quarter they need to force a punt. If they get the ball they need a scoring drive. And whatever they do they can’t turn the ball over. They have 11 turnovers this season. Nearly half of them, five, have happened in the third quarter. The opponents have turned all five into touchdowns. Talk about halftime adjustments all you want but 35 points off of turnovers and five lost possessions is hard to make chicken salad out of.
—The “code red” situation has been discussed all week. It’s OK for a coach to pull out that card every once in a while and make one regular season game more important than the other 15. But it had better work. I think it will today. This is a better team than the one that lost to the Bucs 27-7 at home last year and they should be able to avoid stepping on a land mine like this one. Tampa Bay also is better and I don’t see an easy win. But the return of Reed will help Cousins out and a Redskins defense burned twice in a row on the ground won’t let it happened again. It won’t be pretty but the Redskins will take a 21-13 win.
—Today’s schedule: Bucs @ Redskins, 1 p.m., FOX
—Days until: Redskins @ Patriots 14; Saints @ Redskins 21; Redskins @ Panthers 28
In case you missed it
After missing the last eight games, the Redskins brought back place-kicker Dustin Hopkins from the injured reserve and waived Nick Rose.
Hopkins became eligible to return from the IR this week and took part in practice all week. Jay Gruden wouldn't commit to one kicker or the other when he spoke earlier in the week, but the decision came down on Saturday.
Rose played well in Hopkins' absence, making 10 of 11 field goals including a 55-yarder. The rookie Rose had some struggles with extra points, missing two of his 20 attempts, though neither snap/hold combination was totally clean either.
RELATED: REDSKINS-CARDINALS PREVIEW
Hopkins has the stronger leg and is capable of booting the ball out of the end zone on seemingly every kickoff. With Rose as kicker, at times the Redskins deployed a different strategy where kicks were aimed for the goal line, forcing a return.
Washington's kicker for parts of the last three seasons, Hopkins has a career 84 percent field goal conversion rate and 94.6 percent conversion rate on extra points in 36 games.
The Redskins sent Hopkins to the IR after a Week 6 win over the 49ers with a right hip rotator muscle injury.
MORE REDSKINS: SLOW STARTS HAVE BEEN KILLING THE REDSKINS
For the second consecutive game, the Redskins got blown out on the road. First in Dallas, then in Los Angeles, Jay Gruden's team is reeling with mounting questions and pressures about 2018 and beyond.
The best way to calm down the flames? Get a win.
Washington will have that chance on Sunday at 1 p.m. (full coverage on NBC Sports Washington at noon) when they host the Arizona Cardinals. Getting the victory won't be easy, however, no matter how bad the Redskins need it.
- Turn the page - The Redskins have lost their last two games by a combined score of 68-27. The results have been terrible, and the outcome in Los Angeles could have been much uglier had the Chargers not pulled starting QB Philip Rivers. Still, those games are over, and Washington needs to focus on the Cardinals. Gruden spoke this week that his team cannot "wallow" in the past two losses. If the Redskins are looking back at their lost season, instead of looking squarely at Arizona, another blowout loss is likely to come.
- Get it going - Kirk Cousins and the Redskins offense had by far their worst statistical output last week in LA. The offense must get back on track, and that means a better performance from Cousins and the 'Skins run game. Against the Chargers, Washington generated only 201 total yards and just nine first downs. Nine, their second worst total since having only 15 first downs against the Cowboys the week before. At this stage of the season, the Redskins defense will not win this team any games. The offense must do it, and that means improved play from the line, the quarterback and the skill positions.
- Make a play - Turnovers can win or lose games, and in their last two blowout losses, it's no surprise the Redskins have been on the wrong end of the ledger. Washington has five turnovers in their last two games, and has generated only one takeaway in that span. (It can be argued that shouldn't even count, as it came on an interception from Chargers backup Kellen Clemens in the final minutes of a blowout.) Washington ranks dead last in the NFL in points per game allowed, and that won't improve with linebacker Zach Brown out this weekend. Generating turnovers, particularly against Arizona QB Blaine Gabbert, should be the defensive focus.
Quote of the Week: Jay Gruden, asked about preparation before the Chargers game-
We didn't spend last week playing checkers.
News & Notes:
- Gabbert has been sacked 15 times in the Cardinals last two games. Washington comes into Week 15 with the 13th most sacks in the league.
- The Cardinals defense ranks in the Top 10 in yards per play, yards per game, and rush yards per game. Despite that, Arizona's defense ranks 25th in points allowed.
- D.J. Swearinger, who played for Arizona last season before signing in Washington as a free agent, is tied for fourth in the NFC in interceptions.
- Jordan Reed won't be playing this week, or the remainder of the season. Washington moved Reed to the injured reserve this week.
- Arizona coach Bruce Arians was a college quarterback at Virginia Tech from 1972 to 1974.
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