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Redskins-Saints: Five Matchups To Watch

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The Redskins know firsthand how accurate Drew Brees can be. The New Orleans Saints quarterback went 11-for-11 in the final six minutes in last season’s meeting with the Redskins to storm back from a 15-point deficit to a 34-31 overtime victory.

For the Redskins to beat Brees and the Saints this season, they’ll need to play a consistent four quarters of football when the two teams meet Monday in prime time. In order to do that, they’ll have to win these matchups:

Michael Thomas vs. Quinton Dunbar and Josh Norman

Thomas has been heavily featured in New Orleans’ offense and he leads the league in receptions (42) through the first four weeks of the season. The Saints like to move Thomas around the field, so it’s likely he’ll be matched up against Dunbar, Norman and even Fabian Moreau in the slot. Jay Gruden trusts his cornerbacks and so the Redskins won’t have Norman travel with Thomas around the field. But Thomas poses a challenge with his size (6-foot-3) and speed (4.57 40-yard dash). 

Alvin Kamara vs. Zach Brown (or possibly D.J. Swearinger)

It will be interesting to see how the Redskins try to contain Kamara, the 2017 offensive rookie of the year. Last year, they failed in that regard — and the running back torched the Redskins for 116 yards from the line of scrimmage, including 74 yards receiving. “It’s like he’s gliding most of the time he runs,” Brown said. “For me, I think he’s the best running back in the game right now. He can do it all. … You look at his missed tackles, it’s crazy.”

Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the Redskins must have “as many people as humanly possible” around Kamara to tackle him. The Redskins could also use a safety like Swearinger to cover Kamara, as teams have been willing to place defensive backs on dynamic running backs.

Mark Ingram vs. the Redskins defensive line

This will be Ingram’s first game this season after the running back served a four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing policies. His return adds another layer to the Saints‘ offense. Last year, Ingram and Kamara formed the best 1-2 punch in football, and Ingram had a season-best 134 yards against the Redskins — which were, remarkably, only on 11 carries.

The Redskins have allowed just 90.7 rushing yards per game this season, which ranks seventh-best in the NFL. The improvement can be attributed to the team’s growth along the offensive line. But Ingram poses a significant test in regards to how far they’ve come.

Alex Smith vs. the Saints secondary

The Saints defense has been uneven through four games, ranking 30th in passing by giving up 311 yards per game. That could allow Smith to open up the offense, which has yet to score a second-half touchdown in three games. ” I mean I don’t think you can ever expect to go out there and not score any touchdowns in the second half and win ball games, against anybody, certainly against good offenses and good quarterbacks like Drew,” Smith said.

Washington could be without receiver Josh Doctson (heel), but the Saints rank 31st and 32nd against the opposing top two wideouts, according to Football Outsiders. New Orleans also has the second-worst defense against opposing pass-catching running backs, which would bold well for Chris Thompson.

Ryan Kerrigan vs. Ryan Ramczyk

Kerrigan has had solid three games, but doesn’t have the sack totals to go with it. The linebacker has zero sacks and just one tackle, though he has graded well in terms of hurries and production, according to Pro Football Focus. On Monday, he’ll face right tackle Ryan Ramczyk — a 2017 first-rounder who played well enough to fill in at left tackle for a stretch last season.

Like they did for Aaron Rodgers, the Redskins must generate pressure against Brees. “It’s very important for us to disguise our intent and try to get after him as best we can,” Gruden said. “If he has time to see the field and read what your intent is on defense, he’ll find an open guy.”

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