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Redskins-Bills: 4 Keys To the Game

Posted Oct 28, 2011

Redskins.com's Gary Fitzgerald breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday's Redskins-Bills game at Rogers Centre in Toronto.


Redskins.com looks at four key players to keep an eye on during Sunday’s Redskins-Bills game at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

“Redskins-Bills: 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.


BECK, THE SEQUEL

John Beck showed promise in his first Redskins start last Sunday. He completed 22-of-37 passes for 279 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a QB rating of 80.8.

Beck credited the revamped offensive line with giving him time to go through his progressions and find second and third receivers. He also impressed with his ability to roll out of the pocket and throw on the run.

Against Buffalo, Beck will be without top wide receiver Santana Moss. He must quickly develop a rapport with wide receivers Jabar Gaffney and Anthony Armstrong and youngsters Terrence Austin, Niles Paul and Leonard Hankerson need to step up.

Buffalo lacks a great pass rush – they have just four sacks, worst in the league – and they lost pass rusher Shawne Merriman for the season last week. While Beck should have time in the pocket on Sunday, he must be wary of a Bills’ pass defense that already has 12 interceptions.

ON THE GROUND

For the fourth game in a row, the Redskins face off against a run defense ranked 30th or worst in the NFL. The Bills are ranked 30th against the run and the unit will be without nose tackle Kyle Williams, who is sidelined with bone spurs in his left foot.

With Tim Hightower placed on injured reserve, the Redskins carry just two running backs on the roster: Ryan Torain and Roy Helu.

Torain would appear to be the likely starter on Sunday – this could be his chance to finally establish himself and prove he can stay healthy the rest of the season.

The Bills’ defense yields an average of 5.1 yards per carry, so it makes sense for the Redskins to emphasize the run. Both Torain and Helu are averaging 4.9 yards per carry. Helu has shown he’s effective as a change-of-pace back and he could get a larger role than he has in recent weeks.

ACTION ON JACKSON

The Redskins’ defense has struggled stopping the run in recent weeks, allowing an average of 185.5 yards per game. In Sunday’s game vs. Buffalo, they face the NFL’s fourth-best ground game led by explosive power runner Fred Jackson.

Washington got a glimpse of Jackson’s potential in 2007. He was an unheralded, undrafted rookie that year but he rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries and caught four passes for 69 yards in the Bills’ 17-16 win over the Redskins.

This season, Jackson leads the Bills rushing attack with 601 yards, six touchdowns and a 5.7 yards-per-carry average. He has 24 catches for 279 yards as well.

Linebackers Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher and strong safety LaRon Landry will need to spearhead the run defense by fending off blocks and filling gaps. Fletcher has been slowed by a hamstring but it would be surprising if he does not play against his former team.

BEWARE THE SPREAD

The Bills are increasingly employing a spread offense and Ivy League-educated quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, whose first NFL start was against the Redskins in 2005 when he was with the St. Louis Rams, has thrived.

Fitzpatrick has completed 66.3 percent of his passes for 1,477 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Many of his passes are in the short to intermediate range – his top targets Stevie Johnson (33 catches, four touchdowns) and David Nelson (27 catches, two touchdowns) are averaging 11.7 yards per catch.

The Redskins’ secondary is banged up with cornerback DeAngelo Hall slowed by a hip injury and safety Oshiomogho Atogwe slowed by a knee injury. Strong coverage should be key to allow Redskins pass rushers to get to Fitzpatrick – he has been sacked just six times this season.

The Redskins may need an extra defensive back against the Bills' spread offense, especially if they line up Fred Jackson or dynamic back C.J. Spiller at wide receiver as they occasionally do. That could mean extra work for cornerbacks Kevin Barnes and Phillip Buchanon on Sunday.