3TFO: Redskins @ Vikings, Week 10
This NFC showdown finds the 3-5 defending NFC East champion Washington Redskins going on the road in prime time to battle the 1-7 Minnesota Vikings. These two squads have played each other the past three seasons, with the Vikings winning two but losing last season to rookie Robert Griffin III.
The Redskins seem to be much more competent after a pair of horrific performances to open the season. With an overtime win over the San Diego Chargers where Philip Rivers didn’t even get a chance after regulation ended, they could be poised to make a run similar to the one they made after a 3-6 start last year.
The Vikings are obviously reeling, but at least they were competitive with maligned signal-caller Christian Ponder in a close loss to the Dallas Cowboys last week. Playoffs are not an option for this team, but Ponder is playing for his job.
Jordan Reed vs. Vikings Defense
One of the most productive Redskins players on offense has been rookie TE Jordan Reed. Reed’s athleticism was evident on his first career catch: with 12:08 left in the third quarter, down 33-7 to the Eagles, Reed caught a short pass on 2nd-and-10 and, with two defenders coming, did what Mike Tirico called a “head-over-heels summersault” to pick up the first down. Averaging 11.2 yards-per-catch, Reed has beaten everyone but opposing defensive linemen for 38 catches, 22 of which resulted in first downs and two that were caught for TDs.
The Vikings’ defense had trouble defending tight ends for the first month of the season. Even before Harrison Smith got hurt, they gave up six scores to tight ends (three from Jordan Cameron) and 70 yards to Heath Miller in his second game back from major knee injuries. This seemed less of a problem for a few games after, but this flaw flared up again last week against Jason Witten. The acclaimed veteran did some damage on slot CB Marcus Sherels (16 yards on two of three passes thrown to him) but really carved up the LBs and safeties with six catches for 86 yards, a forced missed tackle, and a score. It could have been worse if Witten hadn’t dropped a pass that would have resulted in a first down.
Adrian Peterson vs. Redskins Run D
Despite the poor record and QB issues, Adrian Peterson is still one of the best running backs in the league, and continued to reinforce that status last week. On his 25 carries, he picked up 140 yards and added another 37 yards on three catches. Whether it was overcoming a missed block from FB Jerome Felton to pick up a first down (6:30, Q2), lowering his head into a defender who made the tackle (5:26 Q2), embarrassing LBs on catches (3:35 Q2 & 9:37 Q3) or dragging a defender nearly 20 yards (8:41 Q1), AP terrorized the Dallas defense. His TD run was astonishing too, despite some help from TE Chase Ford.
The Redskins’ run defense has been trampled in several contests this year, most notably by LeSean McCoy, James Starks, and Matt Forte. One of the biggest culprits is NT Barry Cofield, a great pass rusher but often controlled when teams decide to run. Stephen Bowen also has a red-overall grade in this area, but fellow DE Jarvis Jenkins, upon returning from a four-game suspension, has helped out. Although he only has one Stop in his four games back, he wins more battles than he loses at the line of scrimmage. Brian Orakpo has improved against the run since his last near-full season, while Ryan Kerrigan has also been better but still occasionally overpursues (see Forte’s 50-yard TD run). Veteran London Fletcher still makes some plays, but is by far the weakest link on this unit, missing five tackles and getting bullied at the second level all too often. Perry Riley also has a negative grade, but had a solid three-week stretch, leads the team in tackles (18 of which are run stops), and usually makes the play when unblocked. Can they limit AP?
Jared Allen and Brian Robison vs. Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus
Defensive ends Jared Allen and Brian Robison will have quite a task on Thursday night. Allen had his best pass rushing performance since Week 4 last week, although most of his pressure came against the interior of the Dallas line. He did nearly beat LT Tyron Smith for a sack, but Romo was able to slip away right before getting sacked by another Viking. Robison, by far the most productive pass rusher of this unit, handily whipped RT Doug Free, who had been having a great year after taking a pay cut in the off-season.
Bothering RGIII won’t be easy against Pro Bowler Trent Williams and the much-improved Tyler Polumbus. After getting the starting job due to injuries, Polumbus was the fourth-worst graded tackle at pass blocking last season; he has rebounded in a big way, not conceding a sack since Week 1. Otherwise, he’s only been responsible for five QB hits and 12 hurries. He currently owns the fifth-best pass blocking grade among tackles, while Williams owns the third-best. The former first-rounder has continued his strong play, not allowing any sacks until the Denver loss. On the year he only has two performances in this area not graded green (one was +0.9).
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