It's somewhat ironic that we kick off our weekly feature "Nickel Coverage" with the reality that the Redskins are short their top nickel cornerback for the season opener this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at FedExField.
Bashaud Breeland was suspended by the NFL for one week for a drug offense in August of 2014.
A top key for Washington this week features Justin Rogers, who will be tested in the slot against a fast paced attack of the Dolphins.
The Dolphins feature a stretch the field receiver in Kenny Stills and a move-the-chains type receiver in Greg Jennings. Both are new to Miami in 2015. From the slot, the Redskins should expect to see Jarvis Landry and perhaps even first round rookie DeVante Parker.
Landry had 84 catches fo 758 yards and five touchdowns during his rookie year.
Four of the five top receivers in passing yardage for the Dolphins in 2014 are now gone to other teams.Only Landry remains and he will be a huge test for Rogers. The game could be decided here.
Block and Pray
Our second key for our "Nickel Coverage" feature will be how the Redskins offensive line handles the newly signed Ndamukong Suh on the interior. Suh signed a massive contract with the Dolphins and will probably line up shaded over rookie guard Brandon Scherff. Sure, Kory Lichtensteiger will help out, but if Suh is going against Scherff or even if he lines up on the other side (against Shawn Lauvao), it is going to be ugly.
* For our third key, Kirk Cousins and the Redskins passing game is going to have to work on and try to wear down young corners Jamar Taylor and Brice McCain, who works out of the slot. If Washington tries to attack the other side and Brent Grimes, they could be out of luck. He struggled a bit towards the end of last year, but he has been one of the best corners in the NFL the last few years.
DeSean Jackson is expected back. His deep threat skills are certainly critical, but Pierre Garcon needs to be featured early and often, especially when going against Taylor.
New Kids on the Block
* Our fourth key is on special teams. Jamison Crowder is going to be the Redskins punt returner. (Note - The Redskins still list Andre Roberts as the "starter" on their latest unoffical depth chart). I expect Chris Thompson and Rashad Ross to be back to return kickoffs and both of those moves should be huge upgrades over the last few years.
All it takes is one electrifying return to flip the field and create a lot of momentum. Crowder, in particular, has that ability to do just that on a regular basis. Against a terrific Miami defense, the Redskins are going to need every ounce of help they can get.
It's a Wrap
* Our fifth and final key for "Nickel Coverage" is the Redskins ability to tackle. It was porous at times during the preseason which you mostly expect. The problem is it can't spill over on a consistent basis to the regular season and specifically against Miami. The Dolphins run a faster paced offense, built from the principles of the Eagles pace, and when you add in warm and humid weather, tackling could be a major problem for the Redskins defense. According to ProFootballFocus.com, the Redskins missed thirty tackles in four preseason games.