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Redskins-Bengals: 4 Keys To the Game

Posted Sep 20, 2012

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Bengals showdown at FedExField.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Bengals showdown at FedExField.

“Redskins-Bengals: 4 Keys To the Game” is presented by Papa John’s.

Every Monday, fans can order a large cheese pizza for only $9.99, plus for each touchdown that the Redskins score, fans get one free topping. And with a Redskins victory, fans get double the toppings.


DEFFENSIVE DUEL

Although neither side has shown it through the first two games, the Redskins and Bengals were both expected to have top-10 defenses in 2012.  With two games in the books, the Redskins rank 27th in scoring defense (63), while the Bengals rank 29th (71).

With so much talent on both defensive squads, look for those numbers to stabilize in Week 3.

The Redskins will need to adjust to a season without Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo, but the situation may not be as dire as it appears.  Orakpo had been battling a pectoral and shoulder injury since the end of last season, and was already limited in his production.  Carriker is strong run-defender with pass-rush ability, but gives way to Jarvis Jenkins, who has long been considered the heir apparent. 

Look for a rotation to fill the void at defensive end and outside linebacker, as the front-seven adjusts.  Also look for the Redskins secondary to work on tackling technique this week and not bite so aggressively on double moves.

On the Bengals side, beware of ball security.  The Bengals stripped the ball 18 times in 2011, recovering 12 for fourth-most in the NFL.

LEGITIMATE DUAL THREAT

Through his first two NFL starts, Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III has averaged more than 70 percent completition rating, showing off the kind of arm that made him a college sensation.  After hitting Pierre Garcon for an 88-yard bomb for his first NFL touchdown, Griffin III threw an encore 68-yard touchdown pass to Leonard Hankerson in Week 2.

Griffin III has five touchdowns in his first two weeks, three through the air, and two last week on the ground.  Throw in his 20 rushes for 124 yards, and Griffin III is on pace to meet or exceed several NFL rushing records for a quarterback.

Griffin III told the media he expects his opportunities to stabilize at a lower number as the season goes on.  However, head coach Mike Shanahan doesn't want to limit an important facet of his game, and just wants his quarterback to be opportunistic and aggressive.

GAME OVER, PACMAN

The Redskins have yielded a blocked punt on special teams coverage in each of the last two weeks, a disturbing trend for one of the top coverage teams in the NFL.  Head coach Mike Shanahan has said the issues were caused by players releasing from their blocks too quickly to get downfield and cover.

Both blocked punts resulted in touchdowns.

On the other side of the field, Bengals punt returner Pacman Jones was named the AFC Special Teams player of the Week for his 90 return yards on three punts.  This includes an 81-yard touchdown return on the game's opening punt, setting up a 34-27 victory over the Browns.

This was the fifth touchdown return of Jones's career, as he currently ranks second in the NFL for average return (30.0 yards). The Redskins will simultaneously need to fix the problems in punt protection, and provide adequate downfield coverage to stop Jones.

HOGGING THE CLOCK

After Week 1, the Redskins led the NFL in time of possession, controlling the ball for more than 39 minutes.  After a hard-fought loss to the Rams, the Redskins are still ranked sixth in the league, averaging nearly 34 minutes of possession per game.

Shortly behind the Redskins on this list, are the Bengals at No. 7.  The Bengals also prefer a possession offense, running the ball 26.5 times per game, and relying on the short receiving game to control the clock.

The Redskins have shown a renewed commitment to the running this year, rushing the ball the third-most of any team in the league.  Both Alfred Morris and Griffin III have been key elements to the running game so far, a trend that will likely continue on Sunday. 

The most-reliable indicators of success in the NFL are time of possession and winning the turnover battle.  Watch both categories at play this Sunday.

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