A week after dropping the season opener to Miami, the Redskins continue their home stand on Sunday when they host Nick Foles and the St. Louis Rams. The Rams are coming off an overtime win against the Seahawks and are attempting to improve to 2-0 for the first time since the Greatest Show on Turf era in 2001, while Kirk Cousins and Co. will be seeking retribution for their embarrassing 24-0 loss to St. Louis last December.
The game kicks off at 1 p.m. and will be broadcast by Fox. On CSN, Redskins Kickoff begins at noon and Redskins Postgame Live starts at 4.
Here are Tarik’s five keys to the game:
1-It was far from spectacular, but Cousins’ performance in last week’s 17-10 loss was one to build on. The Redskins jumped out to a 10-0 lead, dominated time of possession (38 minutes to 22), converted 42-percent of their third downs and, most importantly, were in contention late. But…there was one troubling trend that certainly bears watching: Cousins’ penchant for turnovers. The first interception was a poor decision that could have resulted in a pick-six. Interception No. 2 marked the seventh game (out of 15) in which he’s thrown two or more interceptions. It got him benched by Jay Gruden last year. And it will get him benched again this year.
2-Last week, the Redskins offensive line stared down Ndamukong Suh and Cameron Wake. And the Dolphins blinked. This week, Brandon Scherff and his teammates have an even more formidable challenge in Aaron Donald and Robert Quinn. In fact, the Rams notched six sacks last week vs. the Seahawks. Donald, who was this week’s NFC Defensive Player of the Week, had two of them. Scherff said he expects to match up with Donald. Dating to last season, Donald has sacks in seven of his last eight games. Quinn, who also had two sacks last week, has notched double-digits in sacks each of the past three seasons. Quinn figures to match up with three-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams.
3-The Redskins’ secondary, which is currently reeling from injury and suspension, will face a solid Rams’ passing attack that’s led by Foles (18 of 27 passing for 297 yards and a touchdown vs. the Seahawks). Two of the unit’s starters—cornerback Chris Culliver and safety Duke Ihenacho—are out. Culliver is serving a one-game suspension, while Ihenacho has landed on injury reserve with a broken wrist. Reserve corner Justin Rogers (plantar fasciitis) has not practiced yet this week and, as a result, is iffy. Culliver will be replaced by Bashaud Breeland, who is returning from a suspension of his own. Ihenacho will be replaced by special teams ace Trenton Robinson, who will be making his second career start. And Rogers, if he’s out, will be replaced by Will Blackmon, who was signed Tuesday. So, yeah, there are some concerns back there.
4-Special teams. Well, they continue to be a problem for the Redskins. Last week, kicker Kai Forbath pushed a field goal attempt wide and ended up getting released. The Dolphins also returned a punt for a touchdown. Jarvis Landry’s 69-yard score marked the 10th special teams touchdown yielded by the Redskins since 2010 (which coincidentally is the last season the Redskins returned a punt or kick for a score.) And it doesn’t get any easier this week, not with Tavon Austin returning punts for the Rams. The reigning NFC Special Teams player of the week took one back 75 yards for a score last week. Austin has now returned a punt for a touchdown in each of the past three seasons. One more thing to keep an eye on: new Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins will be making his NFL debut.
5-Injuries. The Redskins entered last week’s game relatively healthy. That is no longer the case. Star wide receiver DeSean Jackson is out with a hamstring injury. Ihenacho, as I mentioned earlier, is done for the season. Also among the injury concerns: tight end Jordan Reed (quad), rookie inside linebacker Martrell Spaight (concussion), nose tackle Terrance Knighton (rib), reserve offensive tackle Tom Compton (calf). Reed, Knighton and Compton were all limited in Thursday’s practice, while Spaight was held out. I’m expecting Reed and Knighton to suit up Sunday, but we should know their status for sure by Friday afternoon or Saturday.