3TFO: Redskins @ Raiders, Week 4
This AFC/NFC contest finds the desperate 0-3 Washington Redskins going on the road to play the 1-2 Oakland Raiders. The last time these two teams met – Week 14 in 2009 – the Redskins took over the second half, winning 34-13 in what would be Jim Zorn’s final win as their head coach.
Four years later, the Redskins are having difficulty defending their division title thanks to a slow-starting offense and a horrific defense. The Raiders, meanwhile, are nowhere near as terrible as many predicted prior to the season. Terrelle Pryor, who beat out journeyman backup Matt Flynn, has led them to a victory and another near-win in week 1 against the Colts. Pryor was concussed in the loss in Denver on Monday though, so it remains to be seen whether he or Flynn starts against the Redskins.
Here are three matchups that will factor into who walks away with a win.
Redskins Defense vs. Darren McFadden
While the Redskins secondary is facing scrutiny after getting lit up by Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, maybe their run defense as a unit should be focused on more. Allowing LeSean McCoy to rip you for 5.9 yards per carry and 184 yards is one thing, but allowing James Starks to become the first Packer running back to go over 100 yards since 2010 is another. They followed up that porous performance in Green Bay with more of the same against the Lions, missing six tackles on second-string Lions RB Joique Bell; the attempted tackles on Bell’s TD run were especially embarrassing. One sign of encouragement is that they were able to limit Bell to only 63 yards on 20 carries.
This week the Redskins will have to contain not only scrambling QB Terrelle Pryor (assuming he plays), but former fourth-overall pick Darren McFadden. McFadden has had some eye-opening days in his career thus far, but not lately. He is still dangerous though, as he proved in Week 2 against Jacksonville, rushing for 129 yards on 19 carries while forcing five missed tackles. Will the Redskins fail as badly at stopping him as the Jaguars did? On paper, the answer is a resounding “yes” but remember they still have to play the game.
Orakpo/Kerrigan vs. Barnes/Pashos
One of the few bright spots on this maligned Redskin defense is their first-round outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan. Through three games these two have a combined 24 pressures and have put opposing signal-callers on the ground 11 times.
It’s worth noting that Orakpo has only one sack, though, and in a contract year. Orakpo had a coming out party against Oakland four years ago (four sacks and two hits), but that was four years ago. He and Kerrigan won’t have it easy on Sunday; among the Raiders many flaws, their tackles are not one of them. LT Khalif Barnes, formerly a right tackle but switching sides due to injury, has held up well, allowing only a sack and seven hurries with a clean slate against the Jaguars. On the right side is Tony Pashos, a player the Redskins cut before the season. The Raiders quickly scooped him up off waivers and he’s repaid them by earning the fourth-highest overall grades among tackles. He has only surrendered a single hurry in 108 pass blocking attempts. Pashos will mostly be facing Kerrigan, who, despite his talent, has a tendency to disappear in games and may also be limited by a knee injury.
Redskins Receivers vs. Raiders Secondary
While Washington’s secondary has captured headlines for the wrong reasons, the Raiders secondary has also struggled; losing safety Tyvon Branch due to injury certainly hasn’t helped. Rookie first-round pick D.J. Hayden has been tested a little bit, allowing 13 of 17 passes for 152 yards, not including a 24-yard pass interference infraction. The only five incompletions thrown into his coverage were against the Jaguars. Maligned ex-Cowboy first-round CB Mike Jenkins has also struggled when not playing Jacksonville, and especially against Peyton Manning, who burned him for 116 yards (though to be fair he did successfully defend one pass). Tracy Porter, who has fared as well as his two peers, suffered a head injury in the MNF game and may or may not suit up on Sunday. Among Oakland’s safeties is Charles Woodson, who has earned a positive coverage grade (among his good plays was a goal line tackle on Wes Welker) but he has still allowed all seven passes thrown at him to be completed, which includes two TDs.
They will be asked to stop a group of Redskin receivers that have underwhelmed in this young season. Together they have dropped seven catchable passes; the most egregious were Josh Morgan’s, which turned into an interception, and Aldrick Robinson, which took a 57-yard TD off the board. By far the most productive pass-catcher for Washington has been Pierre Garcon who, while responsible for two drops, has also amassed 280 yards, four forced missed tackles, and a TD grab. If the Redskins wide receivers can get open against this below-average secondary, can they hold onto the ball?
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