We've seen this situation before.
The Redskins are going up against a team with one of the better offenses in the NFL. Of the top 14 offenses in the NFL, the St. Louis Rams will be the ninth that the Redskins have faced. The Rams are ranked #9, averaging 341 yards per game. They can attack you through the air with the combination of Mark Bulger and Tory Holt. Another one of Bulger's favorite targets is running back Steven Jackson, who has 82 receptions for 680 yards to go along with his 1,236 rushing yards.
As Washington, with quarterback Jason Campbell making his sixth NFL start, is ill equipped to engage in a shootout in the Edward Jones Dome the best strategy will be to keep Holt, Bulger, and Jackson glued to the bench by controlling the ball on the ground. The Rams are ranked 31st out of 32 teams in rushing defense so this would seem to be a solid strategy.
But, as noted above, we have seen this before. Running the ball against the Colts' NFL-worst rush defense was supposed to be the key to keeping Peyton Manning and company off the field, but that strategy didn't work. The Redskins ran for just 114 yards and Indy won going away. The same strategy was executed better when the Redskins took on the Eagles two weeks ago, but the result was the same. Washington topped 200 yards on the ground, but a pair of key turnovers cost the Redskins a win.
The Redskins would be happy with a carbon copy of last week's game. They quieted a dome crowd with Ladell Betts' solid running and the Redskin defense responded with a stellar performance. Drew Brees completed some passes, but the receivers were brought down as soon as they caught the ball. Deuce McAllister had very little running room.
The Washington defense will have to get along this week without the services of linebacker Marcus Washington, who has been ruled out with a knee injury. In a 1981 game against Dallas when running back Joe Washington left a game early due to an injury, opposing Coach Tom Landry of the Cowboys said, "Washington isn't Washington without Washington." That was the Redskins offense without Joe; we'll see if the same applied to the defense without Marcus.
It looks like Washington's strong side linebacker spot will be filled both by veteran Jeff Posey, who has seen special teams action almost exclusively this year, and by starting weak side LB Warrick Holman. If Holdman shifts over then rookie Rocky McIntosh will see his first sustained action of the season. He has been in for a few series over the last two games.
While the Redskins lose Washington, they get back another stalwart in right offensive tackle Jon Jansen, who missed last week's game with a calf injury. Other than all of the games of the 2004 season when he was out with a torn Achilles tendon it was the first time that Jansen hasn't been in the Redskins' lineup. Jansen will have a tough matchup with Rams defensive end Leonard Little, who has 12 sacks this year plus the added motivation of a perceived Pro Bowl snub. The development of Jason Campbell in his five starts has been aided greatly by the fact that he's been able to remain upright for the most part. Jansen will need to contain Little if Campbell is to continue to learn on the job. The best way to contain a good pass rusher is to limit his opportunities by running the ball and Jansen should be doing more drive blocking against Little than pass blocking.
Clearly, this is a winnable road game for the Redskins. If they can avoid the type of killer mistakes they made against the Eagles they will be able to overcome the occasional big plays that the St. Louis offense will make.
Redskins 24, Rams 20