Washington at Atlanta; Game Preview

Breakdown preview of the Washington Redskins at Atlanta Falcons battle in week-two of the NFL season.

Washington Redskins (1-0) at Atlanta Falcons (1-0)

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
SURFACE: FieldTurf
TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston
SERIES: 19th meeting. Redskins lead 13-4-1. Washington hasn't visited Atlanta since 1989, when they won 31-30, and the Redskins haven't played the Falcons since 1994, when Atlanta won 27-20 at home.
2003 RANKINGS: Redskins: offense 14th (3rd rush, 24th pass); defense 2nd (5th rush, 2nd pass). Falcons: offense 16th (17th rush, 15th pass); defense 31st (26th rush, 25th pass)

KEYS TO THE GAME: WR Peerless Price will spend much of the game matched up against Redskins CB Champ Bailey, but the Falcons still want to get the ball into Price's hands more often than they did in the opener. With WR Brian Finneran out with a broken left hand, the Falcons also need the speedier WR Quentin McCord to step in and stretch the field because they lack big receivers. Atlanta is beat up on defense, but features a 3-4 scheme that will force Redskins second-year QB Patrick Ramsey to make good, quick decisions.
FAST FACTS: Redskins: Washington is trying to begin a season 2-0 for the first time since their 2001 Super Bowl season. ... DE Bruce Smith is 2 1/2 sacks shy of Reggie White's all-time record (198). Falcons: Coach Dan Reeves is seeking career win No. 200. ... Atlanta has not started a season 2-0 since 1998, when they went on to reach the Super Bowl.

PREDICTED SCORE: Falcons 17, Redskins 14

   --TE Zeron Flemister sat out Thursday's practice with a strained Achilles' tendon and appeared almost certain to miss the Atlanta game.
   --TE Kevin Ware, an undrafted rookie out of Washington, was in line to be signed off the practice squad to fill in for TE Zeron Flemister (Achilles). Ware would become the No. 2 tight end.
   --DT Martin Chase is getting into better shape and should see increased action in the Atlanta game. Chase backs up NT Jermaine Haley, who could be hampered by a broken thumb.
   --DT Lional Dalton is getting into better shape and should see increased action in the Atlanta game. Dalton backs up DT Bernard Holsey, who has played well but remains a bit undersized.
   --CB Fred Smoot had a pass defensed in the opener against the Jets and generally appears on the upswing after a sophomore slump that triggered trade rumors in the offseason. However, he still could stand to tighten up his coverage.
   --KR/PR Chad Morton still hasn't broken a long return in the preseason or regular season. His longest runback on a kickoff is 27 yards, his longest on a punt 10 yards. Both came in the opener against the Jets.

   --S Kevin McCadam, the second-year pro who started one game at SS as a rookie last year when Gerald McBurrows was injured, is likely to get his first start at FS for the Falcons Sunday against the Redskins. Starter Keion Carpenter is out with a strained left hamstring. His replacement last Sunday at Dallas, rookie free agent Travaris Robinson, made some mistakes and McCadam figures to move in. McCadam is more of a strong safety in that he's a hitter with average ball skills.
   --WLB Sam Rogers practiced for the second day in a row despite his damaged left knee. In simple terms, he probably needs season-ending surgery to address a bone that has been damaged, but for now he's going to play until he's so uncomfortable he can't. He's may start Sunday for Atlanta against the Redskins after missing the opener against Dallas.
   --WLB Will Overstreet, who replaced Sam Rogers, in the Falcons' opener only to strain his surgically-repaired left shoulder, has been practicing this week and is likely to be available Sunday against Dallas.
   --FS Keion Carpenter, who strained his left hamstring last Sunday at Dallas, is almost certain to miss the Falcons' game Sunday against the Redskins. He said Monday he thought he'd be able to  play this week, but he did not practice Wednesday or Thursday.
   --SS Cory Hall is going to miss his second straight game for the Falcons with a sprained right knee. He hopes to play Sept. 22 against the Buccaneers.
   --SS Gerald McBurrows, the Falcons' starting strong safety last year, will get his second straight start there Sunday against the Redskins. McBurrows is routinely replaced in passing situations, but may play in more of them Sunday because the Falcons' two starting safeties, SS Cory Hall and Keion Carpenter, are not expected to play against Washington.



   The Redskins get a look at one of the NFL's few 3-4 defenses Sunday in Atlanta.
   The Falcons have a smallish but very quick defense, and Washington has been forced to prepare extra hard to figure out the nuances of the 3-4. Only four other defenses in the NFL (Baltimore, Houston, New England and Pittsburgh) use the 3-4 as their base set.
   "You always have to prepare for everybody," Redskins guard Dave Fiore said. "But especially with the 3-4, we're not based on a 3-4 defense, so we don't see it a lot -- other than in the games. So there is a lot of extra emphasis on learning the assignments and who's going to be picking up what."
   To counter the 3-4, the Redskins will identify one linebacker as essentially the "fourth" down lineman, then try to spot which other linebacker might blitz. Expect a lot of pointing and communication on the part of Washington's linemen, and perhaps a bit of confusion given the noise at the sold-out Georgia Dome.
   Aiding Washington is the fact that it played a pair of 3-4 defenses (New England and Baltimore) in the preseason. And generally speaking, the Redskins are confident they can devise ways to attack.
   "It's confusing because you haven't seen it that much," tackle Chris Samuels said. "But we're all professionals here. You get in the meetings and figure out what you have to do."

   To say the Falcons will be understaffed at wide receiver in their home opener against Washington would be an understatement.
   Sure, Peerless Price will start at split end, but with flanker Brian Finneran out another three to five weeks with a broken left hand, fourth-year pro Quentin McCord will get his first NFL start. He's got 16 career catches.
   And Atlanta's backups are first-year pro Jimmy Farris, who spent time on the 49ers' practice squad in 2001 before joining the Patriots for the postseason but not playing, and rookie free agent Terrence Edwards. Neither of them have an NFL catch.
   And that's it. The Falcons' only other wideout on the 53-man roster is rookie LaTarence Dunbar, who's out with a serious groin pull.
   Of course, these guys are not fazed.
   "That's one of the things about coach [Dan] Reeves: he decides on the guys he wants in there and he sticks with you," said Farris, who joined the Falcons' practice squad last season. "It show you that he believes in you and has that confidence in you so it is. It's an opportunity for Quentin and myself to prove that he made the right decision."

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