Nickel Coverage -- Fixing the Washington Redskins issues before facing the Rams Sunday

Time to move on from a Week 1 loss and wild Monday by focusing on the Redskins upcoming matchup with the Rams.

It's the (0-1) Washington Redskins hosting the (1-0) St. Louis Rams at FedExField this Sunday as the Redskins try to avoid a mini death blow. Losing your first two games at home would not exactly inspire confidence for the long road-ahead.

I guess it could always be worse. It's far from a "must-win" game, but make no mistake about it, with a loss the Redskins would leave themselves with a razor thin margin for error.
Let's get to our "Nickel Coverage" key storylines and a first look at a game that features two teams that meet just about every year because they've both been poor for a long time. 
1. The Redskins have a new placekicker in Dustin Hopkins after releasing Kai Forbath on Monday. Hopkins will be kicking in his first regular season game and all he has to do is replace a guy who was accurate to the tune of 87% in his career. 
Good luck. I'm sure he'll be better on kickoff attempts in terms of generating touchbacks, but if the Redskins ask Hopkins like they did Forbath (often) to angle or directional kickoff into the corners, they could be in a lot of trouble and could completely negate the main reason for the move. 
Needless to say - this will be a heavily scrutinized move Sunday and beyond because of the ramifications. If Hopkins hits a couple of 50-yard attempts and the Redskins change some of their philosophies, allowing results to be maximized in the kickoff element, it will be a good move. That's going to take some time. This move is very likely to backfire sooner than later for Washington. 
2. Which brings us to another major, major problem for Washington. As you know, Jarvis Landry took one right down the throat of the Redskins punt coverage for a 69-yard punt return and score to help the Dolphins win the Redskins season opener. 
The Rams have a terrific punt returner in Tavon Austin who returned one for a touchdown last year at FedEx, and had a 75-yard touchdown return against Seattle in the Rams win this past Sunday. 
The Redskins have a punter who has a very talented leg but has regularly out-kicked his coverage, including on Landry's fateful return. This just cannot continue to happen. The Redskins have very little margin for error on the field and they cannot continue to give away seven points on a somewhat regular basis. 
According to Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post & NFL GSIS statistics confirm this - the Redskins have allowed nine special teams touchdowns (punt/kick returns & blocked kick returns) since the start of the 2013 season. 
If I was the Redskins, there isn't a chance in you know what that I am giving Austin a chance to return a kick. 
[ THREE-AND-OUT: Brandon Scherff, injuries, bad pennies]
3. The Redskins offense will probably be very similar to what we saw against the Dolphins for two reasons. The first is DeSean Jackson will be out for a few weeks. Rashad Ross is likely active against the Rams, but nobdoy is build a game plan around him.
The Dolphins defensive line was a very difficult test for Washington's offensive line. The Redskins only allowed one sack but it doesn't get any easier this week. 
The Rams have loaded up on defense over the last couple of years -- especially on the line with the studly Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, Robert Quinn and veteran Chris Long. St. Louis had six sacks of Russell Wilson Sunday. Donald and Quinn each recorded two. 
In order for the Redskins to have a chance to win, on offense they must:
  • Run the ball for 150 yards
  • Hold the ball for 33 plus minutes
  • Limit their turnovers to one and sacks to three or less. 
4. Pierre Garcon had six catches against Miami. Jordan Reed caught a team-high seven along with a touchdown. Each also had critical offensive pass interference penalties. Andre Roberts didn't have any penalties but once again, he had several drops. In order for Washington to score enough points to not put all of the pressure on their defense, the Redskins will need another 10 combined catches out of Garcon and Reed, no drops from Roberts and a quick hitch or screen to turn into a huge play. Jamison Crowder was close to breaking one last week on a 3rd down hitch. Watch out for more of this. 
5. The defensive secondary is unders seige.
Chris Culliver did not catch a sure-fire interception and possible pick-six last week, that turned into a completion for the Dolphins. This week Culliver will not be allowed to be in uniform as he was suspended on Monday for week two. The good news? Bashaud Breeland returns to action after he was suspended for week one. 
I expect that Breeland will be rusty and the Rams will try to attack him as he will probably play in the Redskins base coverage and kick inside to his planned slot corner position when the Redskins play nickel. 
David Amerson struggled on one drive last week, yielding a touchdown and Justin Rogers is dealing with plantar fasciitis. 
The Redskins are also challenged at safety because Duke Ihenacho will miss six to eight weeks with a fractured wrist, forcing Trenton Robinson and Jeron Johnson to play a lot. Robinson was not very good on Sunday in coverage and Johnson did not play a defensive snap. 
Nick Foles, Kenny Britt and the aforementioned Austin should be licking their chops. 

[EXTRA REPS -- The good, bad and ugh from Washington's Week1 1 loss]

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