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Redskins-Raiders: 4 Keys To The Game

Posted Sep 26, 2013

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon's Redskins-Raiders battle at the O.co Colosseum in Oakland, Calif.

Redskins.com's Brian Tinsman breaks down the key players and matchups to keep an eye on during Sunday afternoon's Redskins-Raiders battle at the O.co Colosseum in Oakland, Calif.

“Redskins-Raiders: 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.


Until the Redskins find a way to pull off a victory, this will continue being the No. 1 key to the game. It happens to be fitting, as the Redskins travel out to Oakland to take on the pride and joy of Al Davis, the man that keyed this phrase. Just win, baby.

The Redskins have myriad crooked numbers on their ledger, from the 32nd-ranked defense to the 20th-ranked rushing attack in the NFL. Throw those numbers away, because the Redskins haven't yet been able to execute a gameplan, so all of those numbers are a product of playing from behind. The Redskins need to score first, and preferably twice, building a lead that allows them to do what they do best.

The strength of this team last season was ball control, physical, elusive football on offense and a defense that makes a team one-dimensional. As this hasn't happened yet, it will clearly be much easier said than done, but it will take contributions from all 46 gameday actives.

Go out and win the coin toss for the first time this year, recieve the ball first and settle into a rhythm that allows the Redskins to dictate the pace of the game. This is an inferior opponent both in terms of statistics and personnel. Take every opportunity to score and come out of Oakland with a happy plane ride home.


For the first time all season, the Redskins are unlikely to be dogged by a superior pass rush, as the Raiders don't generate a lot of pressure with their front-four. With that being said, the collective defense is off to a good start with 10 sacks in three games, ranking them seventh in the NFL.

Team have taken the Redskins out early by running up the score and then blitzing Robert Griffin III from all angles. If this were last year, the Redskins would have loved fewer defenders in the secondary, but so far this year, it has been enough of a disruption to keep the Redskins out of sync.

Even when the blitz backfires on the defense, bad things seem to happen to the Redskins, like Griffin III's scramble for 20 yards that ended in a fumble.

One way to neutralize a blitz is to look for short outlet receivers and run the football. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed has been the go-to outlet receiver so far, but a thigh bruise could keep him limited in Week 4. That leaves Alfred Morris as the key to neutralizing the blitz.

Morris has excellent vision on cutbacks and has the ability to run where defenders aren't. He is also no slouch in pass protection, buying his quarterback time, and looks to get more involved in the passing game as an outlet receiver this year. Throw Roy Helu Jr. into the mix and the running back position plays a critical role in getting the offense going.

Head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan pride themselves on the mantra of taking what the defense is giving them. The team is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on the ground. Run the football.


The Redskins are currently ranked second in the NFL for defensive touchdowns and fourth in the NFC in sack yardage. The defense is clearly making an impact with highlight reel plays, when they get to the football.

When they actually get there.

In terms of yardage, the team is ranked last, averaging roughly 500 yards of offense allowed. The defense certainly trended in a better direction last week, but progress has been slow. At this rate, the team will eventually get down to solid numbers, but it will likely be too little, too late at that point.

The ideal outcome would be solid coverage and a stifling run defense, but that likely is not how this defense is constructed. It appears to be an opportunistic bunch that relies on takeaways and and sacks to get the opposing offense off the field. The linebackers are stocked with pass rush ability and the secondary is full of playmakers, but the unit hasn't played together much and it shows.

The Redskins have struggled to find pressure after the first quarters of games and the sacks lag in the second half. When the game is on the line, the defense needs to find ways to be disruptive. Especially against a track meet team like the Raiders, this is a big test.


Between turnovers and ineffective special teams, the Redskins struggled in the battle for field position in the first two weeks.

Last week against the Lions, the Redskins bounced back with a strong punting game, including a pair of 60-yard boots and Sav Rocca's longest punt since 2011. More importantly, the team downed three punts inside the 20, pinning the Lions back deep.

Pinning the Raiders back deep will go a long way toward making them feel the pressure to perform and alleviating pressure on the defense. If the defense can then force three-and-outs, the Redskins offense will be the beneficaries with a shorter field.

The flipside of that equation is establishing a better spark in the return game. The Redskins have one of the best coverage units in the NFL, but returns have been a struggle this year as rookie returner Chris Thompson averages exactly 20 yards per kick return and five yards per punt return.

After a sensational performance in the preseason, Thompson is coming to realize that the regular season brings the best of the best on special teams. He either needs to bring the spark to the return game or risk losing the job to one of his veteran teammates.

Already, the team has tried Joshua Morgan back deep. players like Santana Moss, DeAngelo Hall and Niles Paul are also options with experience.




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