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OPPONENT: Washington Redskins
WHERE: Raymond James Stadium
WHERE THE REDSKINS STAND: The Redskins are 5-3 and tied with the Dallas Cowboys for second place in the NFC East division.
REDSKINS HEAD COACH: Joe Gibbs
REDSKINS OFFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Dan Breaux
REDSKINS DEFENSIVE COORDINATOR: Greg Blache
REDSKINS SPECIAL TEAMS COACH: Danny Smith
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS OFFENSE:
OVERALL: 21st (310.1 ypg)
RUSHING: 16th (114.8 ypg)
PASSING: 21st (195.8 ypg)
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS DEFENSE:
OVERALL: 1st (236.9 ypg)
RUSHING: 1st (75.9 ypg)
PASSING: 2nd (161.0 ypg)
WASHINGTON REDSKINS OFFENSE:
OVERALL: 11th (342.6 ypg)
RUSHING: 14th (119.4 ypg)
PASSING: 14th (223.3 ypg)
WASHINGTON REDSKINS PANTHERS DEFENSE:
OVERALL: 7th (289.8 ypg)
RUSHING: 21st (198.8 ypg)
PASSING: 6th (170.0 ypg)
DID YOU KNOW…
…the Washington Redskins are 1-3 on the road this season?
SCOUTING THE REDSKINS
After struggling in his debut with Washington in 2004, QB Mark Brunell has played a big part in the resurrection of the Redskins offense this season.
He’s not as mobile as he used to be, but the Redskins call a lot of designed rollout plays for Brunell, who is left-handed. Rolling him out of the pocket seems to be working, evidenced by Brunell’s ability to throw for 1,781 yards and toss 12 touchdowns.
While he’s not the most accurate signal caller in the NFL, evidenced by the fact that he’s only completing 58 percent of his passes this season, Brunell has been extremely careful with the football. He’s thrown just three interceptions in eight games. Brunell has also been effective on third downs, where the ‘Skins have converted nearly 43 percent of their attempts this season. The Bucs defense is allowing opposing offenses to convert just 27 percent of their third down tries.
Of course, shutting down Washington’s potent ground attack and generating a pass rush will go a long way in terms of Tampa Bay’s ability to limit Brunell’s production on Sunday.
Redskins RB Clinton Portis is off to a strong start, which has helped open things up for Brunell and the ‘Skins passing game. Portis has carried the ball 148 times for 620 yards (4.2 avg.) and four touchdowns. He’s also hauled in 19 passes for 154 yards.
Portis (5-11, 210) is an elusive and quick back that is capable of breaking off a long run at anytime. If you only count 28 of Portis’ 29 carries vs. the Bucs last season, he averaged just 2.8 yards per attempt. However, it was his 64-yard run in the first quarter that made a significant dent in Tampa Bay’s defense, which currently ranks No. 1 vs. the run.
Washington’s offense features WR Santana Moss, who landed with the Redskins via a trade with the New York Jets during the offseason.
Moss (5-10, 185) is extremely quick and has great acceleration after the catch. He’s used his speed and clutch hands to haul in a team-leading 49 passes for 856 yards (17.5 avg.) and five touchdowns through eight games.
The Bucs allowed Panthers WR Steve Smith to haul in five passes for 106 yards and a touchdown last Sunday. Smith and Moss are similar in a lot of ways from a playmaking standpoint, and Bucs cornerback Brian Kelly, who leads the Bucs’ No. 2-ranked pass defense in interceptions (3), will be charged with the difficult task of covering Moss on Sunday.
If Tampa Bay’s front seven can contain Portis and the Washington running game, Bucs strong safety Jermaine Phillips should be able to help Kelly cover Moss, which would make it even more difficult for Brunell to find his go-to receiver. However, should the Bucs have to commit Phillips to the box in an effort to slow down the running game, Moss could have some favorable one-on-one matchups vs. Kelly.
Redskins second-year tight end/H-Back Chris Cooley has emerged as one of the league’s best pass-catchers at his position. The 6-foot-3, 254-pound Cooley has hauled in 35 passes for 403 yards and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay’s defense, particularly linebackers Derrick Brooks and Ryan Nece, have done a nice job limiting opposing tight ends’ production via the passing game this season, but Cooley, who is also a solid blocker, will be difficult to contain on Sunday.
Washington deploys two-tight end/H-Back sets, especially inside the red zone, where Mike Sellers has proven to be a scoring machine. He’s caught nine passes for 58 yards and scored five touchdowns this season.
Bucs CB Ronde Barber will spend most of the game defending Redskins WR David Patten, who has caught 19 passes for 193 yards this season. Barber should not have a problem vs. Patten, who doesn’t have the same speed that made him a deep threat in New England for several years.
Washington’s offensive line is suspect in pass protection, where they have surrendered 22 sacks through eight games. While the pass rush hasn’t forced Brunell to throw too many interceptions, it has resulted in some fumbles. In fact, Brunell has fumbled twice and lost both loose balls this season, and the Redskins currently have a minus-9 turnover ratio.
No one is better at the sack/fumble technique than Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, who was held without a tackle or a sack last Sunday. Although he has a team-leading five sacks, Rice hasn’t been the explosive pass rusher the Bucs were hoping he’d be this season. It could be tough for Rice to get back on track on Sunday when he faces Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels, who is having a decent season after putting together three straight sub-par outings. Rice will have to be careful not to over pursue Brunell, who is often asked to roll out to his left. Rice and the Bucs were held without a sack vs. Washington last season.
Washington’s most consistent offensive lineman is RT Jon Jansen, whose physical presence on the right side of the O-line allows the Redskins to run effective Counter Trey plays with Portis. Jansen will attempt to keep Bucs DE Greg Spires, who is solid vs. the run and has three sacks, in check.
Randy Thomas and Derrick Dockery are Washington’s right and left guards, respectively. Both of these players are better suited as run blockers. Thomas will be matched up with Bucs under tackle Anthony “Booger” McFarland, who has notched just 12 tackles and one sack and failed to beat single team coverage this season.
That said, Dockery and center Casey Rabach will likely double team Bucs nose tackle Chris Hovan, who has played extremely well vs. the run this season.
Bucs head coach Jon Gruden has challenged his defense to come up with more turnovers to help his struggling offense. Sustaining a consistent pass rush will go a long way in helping the Bucs front four accomplish that feat vs. the Redskins on Sunday.
Washington has a blitz-happy defense, and Tampa Bay witnessed it first-hand in Week 1 of the 2004 season when the Bucs offense was held out of the end zone vs. the ‘Skins defense.
The Redskins have the No. 7-ranked defense in the NFL, but this unit is suspect vs. the run.
Washington’s front four is made up of defensive ends Renaldo Wynn and Phillip Daniels, and defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin and Joe Salave’a.
Griffin is a better pass rusher than he is a run blocker. He’s notched 24 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble this season. Bucs RG Sean Mahan has struggled over the past two games and will have to do a better job vs. Griffin if the Bucs are to get the running game going again.
The Bucs should be able to run rookie RB Cadillac Williams behind rookie LG Dan Buenning and center John Wade, who will likely double team Salave’a, who spent last season at defensive end but is now Washington’s nose tackle. Salave’a has not recorded a sack this season. Although it is struggling, the ground game is still the strength of Tampa Bay’s offense, and Gruden will likely give Washington’s defense a healthy dose of it on Sunday.
Third-year QB Chris Simms has been under heavy duress over the last two games, getting sacked a total of 10 times, but the Bucs offensive line should be able to buy him time in the pocket when the ‘Skins rush with just their front four. Daniels, who will go up against LT Anthony Davis, has notched just one sack while Wynn, who will line up vs. RT Kenyatta Walker, has yet to record a quarterback takedown this season. On obvious passing downs, the Redskins sometimes use DE Demetric Evans at right end, where he’s notched two sacks.
The problem for the Bucs is the fact that the Redskins rarely rely on their front four to bring pressure. They leave that up to their linebackers and safeties.
This unit is extremely quick and dangerous from a blitzing standpoint. Simms must make the correct pre-snap reads in order to avoid being sacked or turning the ball over on Sunday.
Washington head coach Joe Gibbs surprised many this season when he benched popular LB LaVar Arrington. Warrick Holdman, who is in his eighth year, replaced Arrington and has done a nice job. However, Arrington has worked his way back into the rotation over the past few weeks and made the most of his playing time. The Redskins usually use their weakside linebacker in pass coverage, so don’t look for Holdman or Arrington to blitz much.
That won’t be the case with MLB Lemar Marshall, who is one heck of a pass rusher. He’s notched 51 tackles, two sacks, one interception and two passes defensed this season. Marshall is dangerous when going after the quarterback, but he’s also known to over pursue the ball carrier on running plays. That’s something the Bucs hope happens when Williams and Co. attempt to get the running game going.
Redskins SLB Marcus Washington, who made the Pro Bowl in 2004, is the strength of his unit. He can do everything, ranging from rushing the passer to covering the tight end. He also sheds blocks well and leads the ‘Skins defense in tackles with 52, and he’s recorded two quarterback takedowns and a forced fumble this season. One of Simms’ favorite targets in the passing game has been rookie TE Alex Smith, but Tampa Bay’s young quarterback must account for Washington’s whereabouts at all times.
The Bucs, who have given up a total of 24 sacks through eight games, struggled mightily vs. the blitz in San Francisco two weeks ago and should expect to see plenty of it vs. Washington.
The Bucs don’t want to pass too often vs. the Redskins, but when they do, Simms will likely go out of his way to get the ball in WR Joey Galloway’s hands, especially with WR Michael Clayton listed as questionable with a bone bruise in his knee that could keep him out of this game.
Galloway has easily been Tampa Bay’s most explosive player, catching a team-leading 44 passes for 731 yards (16.6 avg.) and six touchdowns through eight games. Galloway will have his work cut out for him vs. Redskins CB Shawn Springs. While he hasn’t posted the most impressive numbers this season, Springs led the ‘Skins in sacks (6) and interceptions (6) in 2004. Last year, the Redskins recorded two sacks with blitzes from their safeties vs. the Bucs. However, the speedy Galloway can make the ‘Skins pay when they bring safeties into the box and leave Springs alone in coverage. That might prompt Washington to leave SS Ryan Clark, who has notched a team-leading two interceptions, back in coverage more often than not.
While he hasn’t posted great numbers, Clayton will still be missed if he can’t play, especially from a run-blocking standpoint. If Clayton is unable to go on Sunday, WR Ike Hilliard will start in his place. Hilliard is a seasoned veteran but isn’t the playmaker he used to be with the New York Giants. He’s caught 17 passes for 114 yards this season. Either he or Clayton will line up against veteran CB Walt Harris, who has notched 31 tackles and five passes defensed.
The Bucs will likely feature a lot of two-tight end sets, which won’t allow the team to bring a third receiver on the field too often. However, when that situation arises, WR Edell Shepherd will take Hilliard’s place as the No. 3 receiver should Clayton not be able to go.
The player Simms must account for in Washington’s secondary is second-year FS Sean Taylor, who is arguably the defenses best playmaker. He’s notched 28 tackles, one forced fumble, one interception and four passes defensed. Taylor is capable of covering receivers and tight ends or defending the run near the line of scrimmage.
The key to this game will be each team’s ability to take care of the football and convert on third downs. The Bucs offense has struggled on third downs lately and is currently converting 37.2 percent of their third down tries this season. The Redskins defense is allowing opposing offenses to convert 36.6 percent of their third down attempts.
Washington lost kicker returner Ladell Betts to injury earlier this season. He was averaging 23.4 yards per kickoff return. Wide receiver James Thrash has since replaced him, averaging 24.3 yards per attempt.
Thrash also returns punts for the ‘Skins. He’s averaging 8.2 yards per attempt with a long of 18.
Bucs punter Josh Bidwell is one of the NFL’s best right now. He’s averaging 47.3 yards per attempt and has pinned 11 of his 47 attempts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line. Tampa Bay’s punt coverage unit has been solid as well.
Bucs WR Mark Jones is averaging 8.7 yards per punt return. While Jones has been reliable, CB Torrie Cox and Tampa Bay’s kickoff return unit has been horrible. The Bucs have the worst average starting field position in the NFL, and Cox is averaging just 19.2 yards per return. Penalties have also been a problem here, although the Bucs were not penalized on special teams last Sunday.
Washington P Derrick Frost is averaging 41.9 yards per attempt and has pinned 10 of his 29 attempts inside the 20-yard line this season. Kicker John Hall has a strong and accurate leg. He’s perfect thus far, making 4-of-4 field goal attempts for the Redskins.
FLYNN’S FORECAST: Redskins 20 Bucs 16
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