3TFO: Redskins @ Packers, Week 2
Trey Cunningham examines the important matchups in a Week 2 game between two 2012 playoff teams - and two of the three matchups involve elite pass rushers.
3TFO: Redskins @ Packers, Week 2
The Green Bay Packers and the Washington Redskins haven’t played each other since 2010. In that Week 5 contest, the Donovan McNabb-led Redskins pulled out a 16-13 win at home in OT, while Packer TE Jermichael Finley suffered a season-ending injury and Aaron Rodgers suffered the first of his two concussions that year. Of course, Green Bay would eventually win the Lombardi Trophy at the end of that season.
Three seasons later, both teams are coming off opening-weekend losses. The Packers lost for the third time in two years to the San Francisco 49ers, while the Redskins lost in prime time at home to rookie head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Philadelphia Eagles. Both these squads under-performed defensively last week, while the Redskins also stalled on offense for over half the game. Which team can avoid the dreaded 0-2 start to the 2013 season?
Redskins OLBs vs. Packers Tackles
A strength of an otherwise very-suspect Redskins defense are the outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Orakpo is coming off a 2012 season where he got injured less than a game-and-a-half into the year, but he was able to harass Michael Vick in the loss to Philadelphia last week, knocking him down once and hurrying him five more times. Kerrigan was less productive on more blitzes (32 to Orakpo’s 26) but still sacked Vick once and got pressure three more times, including forcing the Eagles’ QB into a Perry Reilly sack.
The Redskins’ duo will be going up against David Bakhtiari and Don Barclay. Rookie Bakhtiari is the one responsible for Rodgers’ blindside and was beat for two sacks last week by Aldon Smith, as well as two more hurries. Getting beat by Smith is nothing to be ashamed of but he could be in for another long day against Orakpo. Barclay fared better, conceding three pressures, only one of which was a QB hit. The 2012 free agent will primarily line up against Kerrigan, who seems poised to play after a concussion scare following the Monday night game. Kerrigan’s production disrupting QBs has never equaled Orakpo, but Orakpo’s presence alone (especially against a rookie) should give Kerrigan more one-on-one opportunities. The Redskins know they can’t give Aaron Rodgers time to pick apart their secondary, and this matchup could be pivotal in the contest.
Redskins Running Game vs. Packers Defense
The Redskins had the best ground attack in 2012 thanks to rookies Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris as well as sound zone-blocking and read-option schemes. In Week 1 against their division rival Eagles’ new 3-4 defense, however, they were stymied on the ground. After having a much-publicized knee operation and without any preseason playing time, RGIII ran only five times for 24 yards — given the factors involved in the sophomore QB’s offseason, this wasn’t a surprise. There was no such excuse for Morris, however, who fumbled the first handoff (leading to an Eagles TD pass) and bobbled a pitch not too long after that in the end zone (leading to a safety). The second-year RB did score a TD, but failed to force any missed tackles, something he did often last year. With a large half-time deficit, the Redskins went primarily with the smaller but faster Roy Helu, who did force a missed tackle on his one 5-yard run.
The Packers’ defense was lit up by Colin Kaepernick’s arm, but they were mostly successful against the 49ers’ vaunted running game. Between Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, and the elusive Kaepernick, San Francisco needed 34 rushes to get 90 yards, averaging a meager 2.6 yards-per-carry and forcing only three missed tackles. Clay Matthews was a big reason for the 49ers’ trouble on the ground with five stops, while inside LB Brad Jones also contributed four stops in run defense. The defensive line also helped, especially Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji (both with three tackles each, all of which were stops). Can Dom Capers‘ defense halt the running game for a second week in a row?
Packers OLBs vs. Redskins Tackles
In Clay Matthews’ 2009 rookie campaign, he earned the eighth-best pass rushing grade among 3-4 OLBs. After finishing with the sixth-highest grade in this area among his 3-4 peers the next two seasons, he finished last year with the second-highest pass rushing grade behind only Aldon Smith. While Green Bay collectively struggled to pressure Kaepernick last week, Matthews at least put him on the ground twice (one sack, one hit), not including his penalized out-of-bounds shot. Opposite Matthews is another first-round OLB from USC, Nick Perry, who earned a positive grade in his 2012 rookie year with two sacks and 10 hurries, but played only six games before getting injured. Like the majority of his teammates, Perry struggled last week with only three hurries.
The good news for Perry is he’ll be primarily facing Redskins RT Tyler Polumbus. Polumbus is by far the weakest link of the Redskins’ offensive line and ended the 2012 season with the fourth-worst pass blocking grade among tackles. He wasn’t awful against the Eagles, but still conceded a sack and four hurries. It remains to be seen if Perry can exploit this matchup like many other pass rushers have. The more interesting battle should be between Matthews and Pro Bowl LT Trent Williams. The sometimes-controversial former first-round pick finally justified his high selection last year, allowing only four sacks, three QB hits (one which is invisible on the stat sheet because of his own holding penalty), and 18 hurries in the regular season. In the Eagles loss he allowed only a pair of hurries, but Philadelphia doesn’t have any pass rushers as dangerous as Matthews.
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