The Washington Redskins will host the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football. Redskins.com's Kyle Stackpole answers your questions ahead of the team's Week 3 showdown at FedExField.
1. How can the Redskins defense bounce back against the Bears on Monday Night Football? -- Trevis T.
It's been a tough first two games for the Redskins defense, which many perceived to be the strength of the team entering this season. As I wrote in a story earlier this week, the unit currently ranks 30th in yards allowed per game (445) and points allowed per game (31.5). It also gave up a combined 336 rushing yards to division foes Philadelphia and Dallas. Through Week 2, only the Miami Dolphins have allowed more.
Now, some of the credit must go to Washington's opponents. The Eagles and Cowboys may wind up being two of the more explosive offensives in the NFL, and they showcased their potential against the Redskins, especially in the second half. Head coach Jay Gruden acknowledged this in his after the game Sunday and again in his Monday press conference at Redskins Park. He also offered a few solutions.
To start, the Redskins must get more pressure on the quarterback (more on that later). They also must vastly improve on third down. Opponents are currently converting on these plays 64.29% of the time, the highest mark in the NFL On the back end, the communication must be better and the coverage must be tighter. The Redskins have allowed three 50-plus yard touchdowns over two games and given up an average of 326.5 yards through the air.
Luckily for Washington, Chicago does not compare to the offensive juggernauts that are the Eagles and the Cowboys. In fact, the Bears are in the bottom three of the league in yards per game (263.5) and points per game (9.5). Their first touchdown of the season came in the third quarter of a 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
This should make for an easier assignment during Monday Night Football, one the Redskins defense must take advantage of.
"We've been very inconsistent on both sides of the ball," Gruden said Wednesday. "Third-,fourth-quarter production on both sides hasn't been good enough, especially on defense. Overall, the communication is getting better and better. It's a work in progress. Hopefully, it'll be really, really good come Monday Night."
2. The past two games have been lost primarily due to the lack of pass rush from the Washington Redskins, which has led to long drives that have not given enough opportunities to the Redskins offense. During these games Washington rushes three or four players. What is the defense going to do to change this outcome against the Bears? -- Glenn O.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky addressed these issues in his weekly press conference Thursday, providing insight into why the Redskins' pass-rushers have struggled thus far.
First, the defense needs to put themselves in better down and distances -- preferably 3rd-and-7-plus -- to rush the passer. Doing so will give players such as Ryan Kerrigan, Montez Sweat and Ryan Anderson more time to maneuver their way to opposite quarterbacks. There's just not enough time to do so on third-and-short, as signal-callers typically get rid of the ball much quicker.
And when these players are in pass-rushing situations, Manusky and Gruden both said they have to be more effective.
"Whether it's gains inside or beating guys one-on-one, we haven't done a very good job of that as of now," Gruden said. "It's something we're concentrating and getting better at."
Getting to the quarterback will be even more important Monday night considering who they are going up against (see below).
3. Why are we not being aggressive and why is Adrian Peterson not running the ball 15 to 20 times yet? -- Daniel S.
If you mean aggressive offensively, I actually think we have been. Quarterback Case Keenum has taken several deep shots through two games, one of which resulted in a 69-yard catch-and-run touchdown from rookie Terry McLaurin in Week 1. Later in that game, Keenum again targeted McLaurin down the middle of the field but overthrew him. The play would have resulted in another long score.
Against the Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins attempted a bomb to McLaurin on their first offensive play that fell incomplete. There was also an occasion where veteran speeder Paul Richardson ran open down the middle of the field and Keenum just missed him.
Among all NFL quarterbacks, Keenum currently ranks 16th in the league in yards per pass thrown (7.4) and 11th in net yards per passing play (7.0). Both of those numbers are better than what the Redskins posted last season, when quarterback Alex Smith finished 30th in both categories with 6.6 and 5.9 yards, respectively.
As for your second question, it makes complete sense Peterson has not run the ball 15 to 20 times yet. He began the season behind second-year running back Derrius Guice on the depth chart and was a healthy stretch in the team's season opener. It was not until Guice landed on Injured Reserve with a knee injury that Peterson became the starter, and days later he made his 2019 debut against the Dallas Cowboys.
In the first half of that game, the Redskins were balanced. They ran the ball 13 times -- eight of which went to Peterson, who gained 23 yards -- and threw the ball 13 times. For all but nine seconds, they were tied or in the lead.
However, the Cowboys scored a touchdown seconds before halftime and then scored another to start the second half. With the Redskins down, 21-7, establishing the running game was no longer one of the top priorities. The Redskins needed points, and passing seemed to be the best way to accomplish that. As a result, Peterson finished the game with 10 carries on just 18 snaps. Chris Thompson, who is mostly used in passing situations, totaled 27 snaps.
Depending on game flow, I'd expect Peterson to reach the 15-carry threshold in a majority of the games he starts. Gruden and offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell have emphasized offensive balance, and that requires a consistent running game. Plus, Peterson carried the ball at least 15 times in nine of 16 games last season, which helped him become the oldest 1,000-yard rusher in more than three decades.