The Redskins got drilled by the Falcons last Sunday. Another embarrassing loss to a team with a high-powered offense, much like the Saints game one month earlier.
Only this time, things went from bad to worse for Washington. The team lost three offensive starters against Atlanta, as Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao and Paul Richardson hit the injured reserve this week.
What does it all mean? The 'Skins still sit in first place in the NFC East, and at 5-3, they remain firmly in the playoff discussion. So, how to get right for the Burgundy and Gold:
- Unreal, again - The story for the Redskins starts with the injuries. Scherff, Lauvao and Richardson won't play, but neither will Chris Thompson or Trent Williams. Jamison Crowder probably won't play either. Morgan Moses might play, but is definitely still hurt. That's 60 percent of the offensive line definitely out for Sunday's matchup, and maybe 80 percent. To fill the void, Washington signed a rash of veteran free agent linemen, and look for at least two of them to start this week in Tampa. At practice all week, the best preview of the starting offensive line didn't have many household names: Ty Nsekhe, John Cooper, Chase Roullier, Tony Bergstrom, Austin Howard. Who?
- Another high flyer - The Bucs haven't scored fewer than 26 points in their last four games, and three times this season Tampa has gone over 500 total yards on offense. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, the Buccaneers have the vertical pass game working and a pair of elite deep threats in DeSean Jackson and Mike Evans. Don't forget tight end O.J. Howard either. The Redskins defense will look to create turnovers against Fitzpatrick by pressuring the pocket; he's the opposite of a mobile QB.
- Getting back to good - Speaking of the Redskins defense, like an aging bachelor, it appears they have a type. When Washington faces a run-first offense, it's hunting season. The Redskins defense has slowed some of the best running backs in the league, guys like Ezekiel Elliott and Christian McCaffrey, and held those teams below 20 points. But when Washington faces a pass-first offense, it's ugly. Like blind date at a heavy metal show ugly. In two losses to the Saints and Falcons, the Redskins gave up 81 points and 52 first downs. Yikes. Tampa has a pass-first offense, just so you know.
- Rounding into shape, or grounding - Most things depend on perspective. Alex Smith had his first 300-yard passing game with the Redskins last week, and for some, that is a breakthrough. For others, it's a misleading statistic in a game that was never particularly close. Either way, Jay Gruden needs more from his offense to get back in the win column. Tampa has the worst pass defense in the NFL, and Smith should be able to feast. Yes, the Redskins are thin at wideout, but Adrian Peterson and Jordan Reed could be more heavily used in the pass game as well. Smith has been improving for Washington, and this would be a great week for a breakout.
They said it
- Alex Smith was asked if there is more pressure on him to produce because of all the injuries: "I think if anything there's more of an emphasis on just doing your job. I think that's what this is about. I have to be accountable. I have to hold up my end. There's certainly no making up for anything. I think you can get into trouble trying to do that. No, I mean I have to do my job better, a little better. I think if everybody kind of takes that mentality, we'll be all right."
- Jay Gruden on getting his new offensive linemen up to speed: "We're trying to teach them OTA's, training camp, seven weeks, eight weeks of football in a day or two."
- Bucs coach Dirk Koetter on preparing for the Redskins defense after the group gave up 38 points to Atlanta: "They look pretty darn good to me. Again, the score is the score from last week's game but these guys look really good on defense to me."
- Asked how he processed all the offensive line injuries, Adrian Peterson joked, "Me and my friend Maker's Mark, we had a long night."
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