The Patriots get ten days to prepare for the Washington Redskins after playing in Thursday night football last week against Miami. It is a needed break as the injuries have been piling up especially along the offensive line.
The Redskins (3-4), are coming off of their bye week and are locked into second place in the NFC East. In their last game action on Oct. 25, they scored 24 second-half points to come from behind to defeat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-30.
Kirk Cousins threw for three second half touchdown passes, the last one with 32 seconds left as the team made its biggest comeback in franchise history. The Skins trailed 24-0 in the second quarter before mounting the comeback.
The Patriots blasted the Dolphins 36-7 on Thursday Night Football as Tom Brady led the way throwing for 356 yards and four touchdowns. The Patriots defense bottled up Lamar Miller and held him to just 15 yards on nine carries.
The game is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. at Gillette Stadium and will be televised by Fox and can be viewed locally on Fox 25 TV.
Here are our five first impressions of the Redskins:
Skins Still in the Hunt in the NFC East: One of the facts of life in the topsy-turvy NFL is that there aren’t a ton of teams with winning records in 2015. So the Skins are technically very much in the hunt for the division lead in the weak NFC East even at 3-4.
Without playing, the Skins picked up a half-game on the division leading Giants (4-4), courtesy of their 52-49 shootout loss to New Orleans. The Cowboys (2-5), dropped their fifth game in a row without QB Tony Romo. The Skins and Eagles are tied at 3-4 but in reality, everyone has a shot to win the division and the losers will undoubtedly miss the playoffs.
So after a big come-from-behind win and a bye week, expect to see a very fired up and motivated Redskins team that will take the field in Foxboro. Regardless of how bad the division is…and it is right now, Washington has four remaining division games left on the schedule and more than enough opportunity to win the division. Regardless of how this game plays out, expect them to play fast and loose the rest of the way.
Lack of Stability at QB Still Haunts Team: Even though Jay Gruden announced in preseason that starting QB position was Kirk Cousins’ and he’s performed well at times, it is still a position with more questions than answers at this stage.
Washington has spent five high round draft picks to acquire Cousins and Robert W. Griffin III since just 2012. Cousins is by far the best candidate to run Gruden’s West Coast offense, and he’s shown flashes of being a very good quarterback.
He orchestrated a 15 play, 90-yard drive in the final minutes to defeat the Eagles 23-20 in early October. His second half against the Bucs was very impressive as he went 21 for 25 with three touchdowns and put together an 11 play, 80-yard drive capped off with a 6-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jordan Reed to win the game.
But far too often he makes critical mistakes and has been prone to turn the ball over often. In four games in 2015, he’s had two interceptions. That isn’t going to be a winning formula for a team that has to claw and scratch every week to win.
Although he’s the better fit, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is enamored with 3rd string QB Griffin, who has only dressed for one game this season. He’s shown the inability to run the West Coast offense, or the ability to set the protection as well as an alarming lack of pocket presence. But Snyder has poked into things before, and Griffin may be just one bad performance by Cousins from starting again.
Washington Running Game Stuck in Neutral: The Redskins ran the ball very effectively the first two weeks of the season, rushing for 343 yards and being first in the NFL in that category. Since then, the offensive line has struggled to open holes for the backs and the Skins have fallen to 21st in rushing.
Alfred Morris and Matt Jones have been sharing reps at running back in Gruden’s system and have both suffered from the lack of consistent snaps to get a rhythm going. Morris, 5’10, 224 and Jones, 6’2, 231 are bigger backs that haven’t been utilized much in the passing game.
Morris had 121 yards in Week 1 but since then has only managed 181 yards since. Last week, partly because of falling behind 24-0 early in the game, he managed only five yards on six carries. In the last three weeks the OL has only been able to spring him for 41 yards on 25 carries. One of the Patriots goals will be to make the offense one-dimensional, so this will be an area to focus on this week.
Redskins Defensive Concepts Not a Great Matchup for NE: You can expect some changes to the Washington defense this week. The Redskins have liked to line up with a Cover 3 scheme for much of the season and go with four pass rushers.
The way to beat that is for the offense to go vertical which opens up big areas to work in underneath, particularly in the middle of the field. With an offense like NE’s where they split RB Dion Lewis out wide, it would force the Skins into more of a man coverage scheme and single up TE Rob Gronkowski on the linebackers.
That is a scenario you can expect the Patriots to try to exploit on Sunday. With Gronkowski and Lewis operating underneath, this will put a lot of stress on the Redskins linebackers.
Special Teams May Play a Big Role: Washington has struggled in punt coverage this season and overall the team’s special teams units struggled at the beginning of the season. Knowing the emphasis that Bill Belichick places on STs, this will be another key area to watch for.
They gave up a punt return for a touchdown in Week 1, and had blocked punt for a safety in Week 3. But lately their play has improved, Kicker Dustin Hopkins has made 11 of 12 field goals and has been good at putting his kickoffs into the end zone.
The team is doing a great job in the kick return game but still lagging badly in the punt return game. The Skins have blocked a punt and recovered an on-sides kick but their directional punting of Tress Way and their coverage of punts in general, (15.9 yards average) is an area that the Patriots with Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman will look to exploit.
Posted Under: Patriots Commentary
Tags: 2015 NFL Season Alfred Morris Bill Belichick Danny Amendola Dustin Hopkins Jay Gruden Jordan Reed Julian Edelman Kirk Cousins Matt Jones NFL Patriots Pierre Garcon Rob Gronkowski Tom Brady Tress Way Washington Redskins