Washington has done a serviceable job in pass protection, allowing 11 sacks on the season, but they rank 25th in the league in rushing offense with 88.6 yards per game on the ground. As with most offenses that have not found their stride, the issues start up front.
Rookie left tackle Trent Williams has started only three games this season, but was able to play against the Packers in Week 5 and had full participation in practice this week. He is the most talented of the Redskins offensive linemen, but gave up a sack to DeMarcus Ware in Week 1 and three sacks to Mario Williams in Week 2, so he is susceptible to elite pass rushers such as Dwight Freeney.
Williams and Ware have different styles, though, so Freeney may not be able to get to the edge faster than the athletic Williams can backpedal. Washington will trust Williams at the outset of the game and give him help if they find he is overwhelmed.
The true mismatch is Robert Mathis against right tackle Jammal Brown. Brown was injured for the second half of the Green Bay game, but may have given up six sacks to linebacker Clay Matthews — who was playing rush end for the Packers — if Matthews hadn't gotten hurt as well. Matthews has a very similar style to Mathis in that his game relies on speed, a quick first step, and very little engagement with the blocker. If Mathis is able to go head-to-head with Brown, it could be a very long day for Donovan McNabb.
Washington prefers to run up the middle behind veteran center Casey Rabach, veteran guard Artis Hicks, and young veteran journeyman Kory Lichtensteiger. They had more success up the middle when Clinton Portis was healthy, but are more than capable of opening up holes for replacement Ryan Torain.
Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir need to build on the strong inside play that they showed against the Chiefs in Week 5. Kansas City was forced to bounce the ball to the outside, where they found plenty of running room in the first half. Gary Brackett chastised the front seven, though, which lead to improvement in the second half. He will not allow them to have a repeat poor performance in Sunday night's game.
The Redskins had a great deal of difficulty in pass protection last week against Green Bay and ended up going to max protect. The Packers made the mistake of continuing to blitz in that game and Washington eventually got the better of them. If the Colts can get pressure early on through blitzing, then back off in the second half while the Redskins are in max protect, they will get the better of this matchup.
Santana Moss has been the biggest receiving threat for this team for some time. Defenses know this all too well, but Moss continues to be productive. He is a very intelligent and crafty receiver with deceptive deep speed. Washington will look to Moss in the deep passing game at least once on Sunday and the Colts need to make sure that they keep the diminutive pass catcher in front of them.He is also targeted on slants and bubble screens and the Redskins try to get him involved in as many ways as they can. Kelvin Hayden must stay active, stay alert, and not let Moss get behind him.
Anthony Armstrong had a bit of a "coming out" party against the Packers last week, but has only seven receptions on the season. Armstrong gives them another deep threat, along with ageless speedster Joey Galloway, and caught a 45-yard touchdown against Green Bay in Week 5.
With tight end Chris Cooley working the underneath routes and the seam, it can become very easy for a defense to tighten up, crowd the line of scrimmage, and get beat deep. Indianapolis needs to stay in their base defense and keep everything in front of them, lest Washington hits on a big play in a close game and turns the tide.
Ryan Torain is a very capable back and is averaging 3.8 yards per carry. Portis, before he got hurt, was averaging four yards a carry. When the Redskins commit themselves to running the ball, they can do it well. They haven't been able to do so thus far this season, as they've mostly been playing from behind.
Torain is big enough and strong enough to wear down a defense over time and Washington will stick with the run if it's working. The best option for the Colts will be to shut down the run early and hopefully force the Redskins to play from behind so that they need to throw the ball.
The biggest threat from Washington will be in the screen game. The Redskins like to run a lot of screens to Torain and Cooley. They do this in part to slow down the pass rush, but primarily because head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan like them. Indianapolis needs to identify a screen when they see one, blitz on non-screen downs such as third and six to nine and second and eight or less, and make sure they wrap up the ball carrier and bring him down.
McNabb is currently below his career averages of 58.3 percent completions and a two-to-one interception to touchdown ratio, with a completion percentage of 56.5 percent for this season and four touchdowns against three interceptions. But, he is also averaging 7.7 yards per attempt in 2010, which is well over his career average of seven yards per pass.
McNabb and the Redskins are continually trying to get the ball deep as their first option — provided they don't run a screen — and often check down to Cooley or Torain if nothing is open.
McNabb is able to buy time outside of the pocket and throws very well on the run — very similar to David Garrard — and has made a number of big plays throughout the season by improvising. He will buy time, or get outside the tackle box on a designed roll out, and hit Armstrong, Moss, or Galloway deep. The Colts defenders need to stay disciplined and keep everything in front of them.
This Washington offense seems to have a tendency to lull a defense to sleep. Screen, dink, dump, checkdown, screen, slant, dink, checkdown, screen, dink, dunk, then ... boom, 45-yard touchdown pass. If Indianapolis can keep from falling into that trap, keep at it, keep attacking, and keep everything in front them, they should be able to handle the Redskins offense.
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