The Washington Redskins (3-4) look to snap a two-game losing streak Sunday in Seattle against a Seahawks (5-2) team that has won four in a row. Here are four things you need to know ahead of the 4:05 p.m. kickoff.
All Able Men Report to Duty
Injuries ravaged the Redskins’ lineup and depth over the past two games and things may not improve much in Week 9. The injury report lists a whopping 21 players with several missing practices throughout the week. Tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) is out. Overall, no name tags required this week, though free agent defensive tackle Arthur Jones joined the roster. However, nobody should use pens when projecting availability or lineups in Seattle.
Three starters on the offensive line sat out the 33-19 loss to the Cowboys and three might be the number against the Seahawks, but with a twist. While right guard Brandon Scherff (knee) is progressing toward a return, left guard Shawn Lauvao (stinger) won’t play after starting against Dallas.
Meanwhile center Chase Roullier is set for his second career start. Fellow rookie Tyler Catalina could flop from one guard role to the other. That is unless he becomes tasked with left tackle duties should third-stringer T.J. Clemmings (ankle) take a step back before kickoff. Wild, wild stuff.
Communicating, both verbally and instinctively are the true challenges for a line on any given week. The verbal part will be all kinds of challenging playing in one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums. The instinctive part is almost impossible with so many new bodies.
“They know things without even having to communicate,” Catalina said of the veterans. “You throw two, three different guys you’ve never played with, it’s going to be a slow start.”
Tight end Niles Paul (concussion) is also out while wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) and cornerback Bashaud Breeland (knee) are among the uncertain for Sunday.
Rank NFL starting quarterback in terms of frustrating opposing fan bases and Russell Wilson might be the No. 1 seed.
There’s the traditional passing – 15 touchdowns and 2,002 yards in seven games – that causes problems. Wilson threw for four touchdowns and 452 yards in a thrilling 41-38 win over Houston in Week 8. But Wilson’s wheels cause the real headaches.
The mobile quarterback helps move the chains on the ground – he’s rushed for at least 25 yards in five of seven games – but mostly he avoids pass rushers behind a leaky offensive line. Help arrived before the NFL’s trading deadline with left tackle Duane Brown, but keeping focus on Wilson in the pocket will be paramount for the Redskins front-7. Ryan Kerrigan will be challenged to add to his team-high six sacks.
“I think you’ve got to be cautious of your pass lanes and trying to make sure you’re in those pass lanes as a defensive lineman,” Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said. “Overall, we’ve got to make sure we harass him in the pocket and make sure we cage him a little bit.”
Run, At Least Try
Washington’s offense revolves around quarterback Kirk Cousins and the passing game. That won’t be different Sunday even though Seattle has one of the league’s better secondaries led by cornerback Richard Sherman. Yet if the Redskins can’t even pretend to show balance with the run game, things could get ugly.
Things have certainly gone backwards since rushing for a season-high 229 yards against the Rams in Week 2. From there the weekly totals have dropped each game: 116, 111, 94, 75, 49. Starter Robert Kelley hasn’t been healthy much of the season. Rookie Samaje Perine appears overmatched for now. Chris Thompson is a true playmaker, but he’s not built for a heavy workload between the tackles.
Regardless, the Redskins must try, even behind a beat up offensive line. They attempted only 14 runs with backs against Dallas, five in the second half. Keeping the ball on the ground helps keep the clock moving, which isn’t a bad thing on the road as a seven-point underdog, but also helps set up Cousins for play-action chances. Averaging a mere 3.3 yards per carry for a second consecutive week won’t work, but neither will simply giving up on the ground.
The New Guy
Noting Arthur Jones’ arrival isn’t about fixing the defensive line. The 31-year-old hasn’t played in the league this year. It’s about simply getting bodies. The veteran was added after Matt Ioannidis busted his hand against Dallas, which came after Jonathan Allen’s possible season-ending foot injury in Week 5. This unit is much improved this season, but that’s largely based on the two young linemen. Now they’re out.
Seattle’s offense is incredibly one-dimensional these days. The standard running game with their backs isn’t working; the Seahawks are 27th in yards per carry (3.7). Good bet they try fixing their issues against defensive line that is missing some key players and adding a new one.