Jay Gruden did not issue a ‘code red’ for the second time in three games.
But maybe he should have.
Because if the Redskins (3-5) are going to have any hope of making a move in the NFC East, it’s got to start Sunday against Drew Brees and the Saints (4-5). Why? Cam Newton and the undefeated Panthers will be waiting in Charlotte a week later.
“This is a big game for us,” Gruden said this week. “It’s a home game. We always stress our home games. We’re playing another future Hall of Fame quarterback in Drew Brees and an excellent Coach in Sean Payton. We have to come out fast.”
It’s also a pivotal matchup for the Saints, who boast the league’s No. 1 offense and its second worst defense. They’re coming off a 34-28 loss to the Titans.
“There’s a great sense our urgency at this point of the season,” Brees said, “because there’s no margin for error.”
Indeed, both teams have already used it all up.
Be sure to catch Redskins Kickoff on CSN Mid-Atlantic at noon and Redskins Postgame Live at 4.
Here are Tarik’s five areas/matchups to monitor:
1-It’s starting to sound like a broken record, but the Redskins’ run defense continues to be a significant problem for the Redskins. In the first four games of the season, they allowed an average of 78 yards per game. The last four? How about a whopping 187 per. Although there are many variables causing the repeated breakdowns, missed tackles have been a constant. Last week against the Patriots, ProFootballFocus.com credited the Redskins’ defense with a season-high 22. The Saints’ No. 1 running back, Mark Ingram, ranks 17th in yards per game (64.9) and has only one 100-yard game this season.
2-Again, stop me if you’ve heard this before, but the Redskins’ run game is not getting it done, eitherr. Over the past four games, here are the rushing yards totals: 51, 34, 50, 37. Not pretty. I fact, 172 yards marks the fewest in a 4-game span in franchise history. The previous low was 192 rushing yards back in 1961. This might be kinda obvious, but it’s tough to win if an integral part of your offense is performing at a historically bad rate. Gruden has said that Alfred Morris (3.3 yards per carry) and Matt Jones (three fumbles) will continue to split the workload but that he’s looking for better performance from the backs and an injury-ravaged offensive line, which now features exactly one starter from last season (Trent Williams). New Orleans’ Cameron Jordan-led defense, meantime, ranks 25th in rushing yards allowed per game (122.9) and 28th in yards per carry (4.7).
3-In his first game back from a significant hamstring pull, wide receiver DeSean Jackson made very little impact against the Patriots, hauling in three passes (on six targets) for 15 yards. Look for him to have a more productive day against a Saints’ pass defense that ranks 30th in yards allowed per game (292) and last in passing touchdowns allowed (24). “We do have high expectation for DeSean when he’s rolling,” Gruden said. “And we’ll get him rolling again. [Sunday] wasn’t his day; it wasn’t our day as an offense. But hopefully [against the Saints] we’ll see more balls flying his way and he can go get ‘em.”
4-There could be as many as three changes in the starting lineup. Center Brian de la Puente, signed on Tuesday, could replace Josh LeRibeus, who has struggled in run blocking and with shotgun snaps. It’s also possible, if not likely, at this point that Jeron Johnson will start at strong safety, replacing Trenton Robinson. Will Compton, meanwhile, could get the nod at inside linebacker, where Perry Riley’s performance has slipped and Keenan Robinson is nursing some nagging injuries. Compton posted a team-high 10 tackles against the Patriots.
5-Thursday marked the healthiest the Redskins have been in weeks. In fact, all 53 players on the roster participated in some capacity. Sure, that doesn’t make up for the key players lost to season ending injuries (Shawn Lauvao, Junior Galette, Duke Ihenacho, Adam Hayward and Niles Paul, to name a few) but it marks progress. “I had to re-read that a couple of times,” Gruden cracked after looking at the injury report. “It’s good to have a full group. You can practice a little longer, which is good. You’re not stressing out the guys who are healthy [because] they have to take a lot of reps. It’s good to get some guys some rest but also get a lot of work in. That’s been a big benefit this week.”