August 8, 2020

Washington Redskins Game 2 Preview: St. Louis Rams

The Washington Redskins look to steer their ship on the right track as they face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday in an important Week 2 home match up. The Redskins lost a tough one to the Miami Dolphins last Sunday, 17-10, after leading 10-0 late in the first half. The Rams come in on a high after defeating division nemesis Seattle 34-31 in Overtime, and sport one of the NFL’s top defensive lines, just as the Dolphins did last week.

Washington also has the taste of a disgusting 24-0 home loss at the hands of these same Rams late last season, a game in which nothing went right for them, including the opening coin toss (Jeff Fisher sent out all the players acquired by the Rams during the blockbuster Robert Griffin III trade).  Needless to say, the Rams coming to town will provide more than enough motivation for the boys in Burgundy and Gold.

Kirk Cousins and the offense showed some signs of productivity in the loss to Miami, and the run game was much more impressive than expected. However, the offense was not able to sustain drives long enough to get enough points on the board, and Cousins’ 2 turnovers proved costly. The offensive line will need to duplicate their performance last week and open holes for Alfred Morris and Matt Jones. The Rams sacked Redskins’ QBs 7 times in their last meeting and allowed just 27 total rushing yards. There will be much of the same Sunday if the big uglies can’t get the run game going.

The Rams have a new QB but a familiar face in Nick Foles. Foles passed for 297 yards and a TD last week against a historically stout Seattle defense without S Kam Chancellor. The Redskins’ injury-riddled secondary will have to try and limit their passing offense, which, fortunately for the Redskins, mostly went through RB Benny Cunningham and TE Jared Cook last week rather than their receivers. SS Trenton Robinson will get his first career start in replacement of the injured Duke Ihenacho, and CB Bashaud Breeland returns from suspension to replace also-suspended CB Chris Culliver.

Speaking of injuries, the Rams return a few of their own, including WR Brian Quick, who figures to be a key contributor to their offense, and RB Tre Mason, their primary back last year. Most notable, however, is the debut of RB Todd Gurley, the explosive young rookie out of Georgia who will see his first action since tearing his ACL his senior year. These three additions will make the Rams offense a bit more dynamic than it was last week vs. Seattle.

Key Matchups

Redskins Special Teams vs. Rams Special Teams (Tavon Austin)

Oh, Redskins Special teams. How we loathe you. The crushing blow last Sunday was a punt return TD by Dolphins playmaker Jarvis Landry, who earned Special Teams Player of the Week (the 6th since 2013 to do so after playing against the Redskins). This week, another challenge awaits them in the form of Tavon Austin. Austin had a long punt return for a TD both last week and in the aforementioned 24-0 drubbing last year. The Redskins must either kick away from the speedy Austin or keep contain of him or there will be some very cheap points scored by St. Louis Sunday. Skins fans will be holding their breath every time #11 gets the ball, that’s for sure.

The Redskins also released K Kai Forbath earlier this week and signed Dustin Hopkins, citing leg strength as the key problem. Redskins fans should keep an eye out to see how many Hopkins puts in the back of the end zone and if Jay Gruden decides to attempt a FG over 50 yards, something he rarely did with Forbath. The Redskins have learned the hard way over the past few years that special teams miscues can cost a team dearly.

WR Rashad Ross, the team’s preseason hero and an unexpected owner of a roster spot, is expected to be active and contribute to the return game along with WR Jamison Crowder. Hopefully their speed and quickness will allow for some big returns and good field position for Captain Kirk & Co.

Redskins’ Running Game vs. Rams’ Defensive Front

The strength of this St. Louis team, much like the Dolphins’ last week, is their defensive line. “The Mob Squad” consists of DT Aaron Donald, DE Chris Long, DE Robert Quinn, and DT Michael Brockers. The Rams combined to sack elusive Seattle QB Russell Wilson 6 times and held one of the league’s best rushing attacks in check all game. They will obviously be coming after Kirk Cousins in a similar fashion.

The Redskins’ offensive line put forth a formidable effort against the Dolphins and Ndamukong Suh, allowing Alfred Morris to gain 121 yards on 25 carries. This will have to be duplicated in order to keep Jay Gruden’s offense humming. Brandon Scherff, Shawn Lauvao, and Kory Lichtensteiger on the inside must be able to contain Donald and Brockers, two of the most athletic DTs in the NFL, while Morgan Moses and Trent Williams will be tasked with Quinn and Long on the outside. This is no tall order and the Rams may be the best defensive line they see all year.

Redskins’ “Stud” of the Week

Bashaud Breeland was one of a few bright spots last season as a rookie in an otherwise abominable season. Breeland is playing in his first game this season after serving a one-game suspension, and boy is his return needed. Ihenacho was just placed on Injured Reserve this week, and CB Chris Culliver was suspended for a game for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. Breeland is a playmaker and an ultra tough competitor that could give this secondary some spark. The Rams’ passing offense is by no means elite, and hopefully Breeland can take advantage and make some plays out there, along with DeAngelo Hall and Dashon Goldson.

Staff Predictions

 David Nichols: Washington 13, St. Louis 24

The Rams played well last week to beat Seattle, and are only getting healthier with Todd Gurley, Tre Mason and Brian Quick all expected to play this week. The Redskins, on the other hand, will be without Desean Jackson and Duke Ihenacho. The Rams have a very strong defense and excel on returns with Tavon Austin, another area where the Redskins are deficient. I just don’t see it getting better for the Skins this week.

Neil Dalal: Redskins 17, Rams 27

Last week the Redskins showed that they cannot finish games and choked their way to a loss. Now without DeSean Jackson the team will need others to step up because the Rams will put up points. Hopefully the defense can do a better job than Seattle last week, but they have to take advantage of turnover opportunities that they didn’t last week. In the end it won’t be enough in some way or another.

Seamus Kane: Redskins 10, Rams 24

The Redskins’ scoring woes will continue without adequate weapons in the passing game, and sacks at the hands of the Rams’ defensive line will prove costly. The Rams will most likely score off of a defensive or Special Teams TD, and Nick Foles will do enough for them to win comfortably, just as they did last December.
About Seamus Kane

Seamus Kane is a Staff Writer for District Sports Page covering the Redskins and Wizards. A native of Silver Spring, MD, Seamus grew up in the area all his life rooting for the Redskins, Nationals, Wizards, Caps, and Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland in 2014 with a degree in American History and now lives in Washington, DC. His favorite DC sports legend is Hall of Fame cornerback Darrell Green, and his favorite DC sports moment was Ryan Zimmerman's walk-off in the first-ever game at Nationals Park, a game which he attended. You can follow Seamus on Twitter @ShamelessKane

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