The Redskins come into Week 5 fresh off a bye and sitting in first place of the NFC East. Here's the thing, though, Washington 2-1 record looks good, but not great.
Jay Gruden's team laid a complete egg in their lone loss, Week 2 to the Colts, so it's tough to assume too much about this team. The first halves against Arizona and Green Bay portray the Redskins as an elite football team, but the other 120 minutes this season has looked quite different.
Are the Redskins for real? Can Alex Smith and the offense play at a crisp, productive level for a full game? Can the defense create turnovers against Drew Brees?
This is the week to find out.
- Hot or not - Statistically, the Washington defense has performed like one of the best units in the NFL. Both in yards allowed and points allowed Greg Manusky's group has been impressive, but the trick with these Redskins is naysayers have plenty to point to as well. Arizona has been terrible, and the defense's dominant effort against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers can be dismissed because of the quarterback's knee injury. What's the truth? Is the Redskins defense, with beef up front and speed at linebacker, ready to shut down the Saints ground game? That will go a long way in determining the outcome in this game. New Orleans RB Alvin Kamara is tied for the NFL lead in TDs coming into Week 5, and oh yeah, the Saints will also get Mark Ingram back this week after a four-game suspension. Last season, he gashed the Redskins.
- Spinning records - Drew Brees needs 201 pass yards to break the all-time NFL passing yardage record, currently held by Peyton Manning. As much as Redskins defenders don't want that record to fall, it probably will. Brees is averaging more than 300 yards-per-game this season and has an explosive weapon in WR Michael Thomas. In some ways, Washington would probably prefer a big game from Brees than from the Saints ground game.
- Hurt or injured - A number of key components to the Redskins offensive attack come into the Monday night showdown nursing injuries. Trent Williams had surgery during the bye week, but is expected to gut through the pain and play in the Superdome. As Gruden said of Williams on the Redskins Talk podcast, "he's played with a lot worse." Josh Doctson's status, however, is much murkier. The third-year wide receiver didn't practice all week due to a heel injury and was walking with a boot on, per a source. Doctson hasn't made much impact this season - he has five catches in three games - and if he doesn't go Gruden said Maurice Harris will get the start. Prepare to see that Redskins fans.
- The city that care forgot - The two biggest keys to the Redskins ground game don't have fond memories of New Orleans. Adrian Peterson signed with the Saints last season, but didn't get much playing time and had a public sideline spat with coach Sean Payton. He was traded to the Cardinals after just a few games. Chris Thompson broke his leg in the Superdome last season, and with his injury, the Redskins 2017 playoff hopes went down the drain too. Both players should be energized by a return appearance and the opportunity to exact some level of revenge.
News & Notes
- Redskins average more than 33 minutes of offensive possession per game, good for 3rd in the NFL.
- Paul Richardson is averaging 11.2 yards-per-catch, good for 6th in the NFL.
- Through three games last season, Ryan Kerrigan had 2.5 sacks (and one interception). Through three games this season, he has none.
- The Redskins have outscored their opponents 52-24 in first halves this season. The defense is only giving up an average of eight points in the first half this season.
- Matt Ioannidis has three sacks in three games.
They said it
- Jay Gruden on facing Drew Brees: "Any time you play against a great quarterback with a history like Drew Brees, there is no lead safe. You have to continue playing offensively and defensively and special teams and the minute you give him a cracked door, they will kick it down."
- Greg Manusky on facing the Saints backfield duo of Ingram and Kamara: "Two different guys, one is a speedier guy, one is a more downhill hit, strike and make sure he shuffles through the holes, but good football players."
- Sean Payton on Adrian Peterson joining the Redskins: "I think it’s been a perfect fit really. When he was here, we still saw it. We still saw everything through the offseason into the regular season. The challenge for us became just the amount of touches with the number of backs we had, but I think it's a great match."
- Alex Smith on Redskins second half struggles: "I don’t think you can ever expect to go out there and not score any touchdowns in the second half and win ball games, against anybody, certainly against good offenses and good quarterbacks like Drew [Brees]. Need to be better moving forward, need to learn from it, and grow from it absolutely."
MORE REDSKINS NEWS:
- Redskins by the numbers: Redskins offense improves on third down
- The week that was: The path to 10 wins, Smith leads over-30 club
- Redskins vs. Saints: Tale of the tape
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