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Sunday, November 4, 2012

V/S Washington, Pregame

At Washington today, facing the 3-5 Redskins and this year's option QB phenom, Robert Griffin III.

Carolina's facing a 5 game skid in which they can't get out of their own way to finish games -- ever since the embarrassing Giants loss, the next four losses have come at a total of 12 points.  It's a team that simply isn't finishing, but is competitive and able to hang with some of the better NFC teams (Atlanta, Chicago), even if not able to win.

Carolina's greatest hope for today is coming in the idea that the Redskins defense is among the league's worst.  Last in pass defense, 29th in points. 10th in rush D, but only because they're 4th in attempts.  They do turn the ball over somewhat, with 5 forced fumbles, 10 INT, though no one has more than 1 FF and only Brian Orakpo (out for the season) has both a sack and FF.

Pro Football Focus has the Redskins at nearly a 70% completion percentage and a 94 QB rating as a defense, not exceptional at all.  The Football Outsiders metrics on them have them 'better' than that, but still not that good.  Oddly enough they are better at covering a 3rd WR than they are the first two.   There's this odd, disparate 31st rating against the TE and 2nd covering RBs, with similar targets per game.  That makes little sense, unless there's a very specific way the Redskin's opponents are playing them.

Aging FS Madieu Williams leads the team in tackles, followed by the enigmatic Deangelo Hall -- who I'm certain Steve Smith will be happy to see today.  London Fletcher remains, now in year 15, the leader, but he doesn't have a lot left.  He gets shielded in Jim Haslett's 3-4 scheme.

Lorenzo Alexander may or may not play this week, but as a former Panther (2005) he's now a valuable Redskin, having played eight different spots in the last few years on offense and defense.  He was a DT; he's since also played FB, TE, DE, OLB, and may play ILB this week.  Alexander also led the Redskins in special teams tackles the last two seasons.  He had 1.5 sacks against the Vikings.   The Redskins have struggled to get pressure without Orakpo, having 14 sacks total in 7 games.

On defense, it's not that hard to see what to do for Carolina - stay at home, attack, play disciplined football.  The Redskins have a grand total of one name -- RG3.  Alfred Morris at RB (151/717, 5 TD) is the typical no-name Mike Shanahan runner, behind zone and able to make his one cut, and isn't much of a pass threat (5 receptions).  Backup Evan Royster is a second year, with a total of 64 carries career, and more receptions (10) than carries this year (8).  All of the rushing TD and most of the yards are split between Morris and Griffin.  As you might imagine from a team with a dynamic QB like this on it, the Redskins run better outside the tackles than inside.

As you might expect for this type offense, the TE is a key - Fred Davis (24/325/0 TD) has become a bigger target with Pierre Garcon out (as he will be today). Garcon was a $42.5 million signing, and he's battled injuries to provide only 8 receptions so far. Santana Moss (23/311/5 TD), antpcipated to take a much smaller role this year, comes into the game starting only 1 game this season, but continuing to be the most productive WR -- and crafty enough to possibly fool the younger Panthers secondary.  Second-year Miami product Leonard Hankerson (23/293/1 TD) is larger and more prototypical, but is quite prone to drops at this point.  Former 49er Josh Morgan (23/263/0 TD) signed this year as well, and is a modestly productive starter.

Griffin is an accurate and able passer; he's what's making it happen for the Redskins. It's not as much that the players listed above are threats, he delivers a very accurate ball.  Carolina has to mix up coverages better this week, and provide pressure with their front four.   They've been sufficient at doing so - 3rd overall in Football Outsider's Adjusted Sack Rate - and for a blitzing team, have yet to score a non-DL sack (though that's also negating where any 3-4 pressure came from).    The Redskins' line has given up 17 sacks, and a lot of pressure comes outside with former Bronco Troy Polumbus at RT and Trent Williams at LT.  The team starts former Panther Will Montgomery (2006 draft) at center, and another former Bronco in undersized Kory Liechtensteiger (if you're still reading this far, I'll brag I spelled that without looking). It's a typical Bronco line - quick, a little dirty, and can be overpowered, but they use their skills to their advantage and don't rely on the one-on-ones.
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