NFL 2011 Week 4 : Washington Redskins 5 Keys to Beating the St. Louis Rams

Lick Your Wounds

Losing to your rival hurts, but the pain runs deeper when you know the loss was your own fault. Poor play was seen in a lot of places for the Washington Redskins last week. Gambling on three straight all-out blitzes with the game on the line, the Redskins gave up the big play that ultimately helped them lose the game.

Facing the Saint Louis Rams this week, getting back to basics may be the key to victory. They will face a team that has had difficulty stopping the run this season, so they might need to hand off the ball to Tim Hightower and Roy Helu more than the 19 times they did last week.

While the Redskins defense is ranked fifth best in the NFL in points allowed, their run defense of 11th in rushing yards allowed is deceptive. If you look at the numbers of their three previous opponents top running backs, Ahmad Bradshaw, Beanie Wells and Felix Jones, you can see they have given up 252 yards on only 41 carries against the trio.

Steven Jackson is a much better running back than those three, as well as more versatile a player. He got off to a fast start by running for 56 yards on two carries before being hurt. He returned to very limited duty last week, but still got 23 yards on four carries against an excellent Baltimore Ravens defense.

If he is ready to go at full speed, the Redskins need to keep Jackson off the field as much as possible. This can be done by running the ball well and controlling the clock, while praying their erratic quarterback doesn’t suffer another of his frequent brain locks by making throws he should never attempt.

Hightower has already been handling the ball more than he ever has since becoming a pro in 2008. Helu has been quite a find since Washington drafted him in the fourth round this year. Now may the time to get Ryan Torain his first rushing attempts of 2011, especially since he ran for 742 yards in 10 games last season.

Washington has to pick themselves up and dust themselves off. They will get another crack at the Dallas Cowboys just before Thanksgiving, so the Redskins need to focus now on the St. Louis Rams and head into the bye feeling good about themselves.

Reality Check

Washington should be undefeated right now, especially when they prepare to face the Philadelphia Eagles after they get their bye week out of the way. They defeated a beat up New York Giants team that has improved some after the first game. After defeating a Arizona Cardinals squad getting acquainted with a new quarterback, they laid an egg against an injured Dallas Cowboys.

Dallas had an offense in disarray, but Washington quarterback Rex Grossman looked uncomfortable all game and the team once again had difficulties in the red zone. This hurt especially because the Cowboys run defense was stout.

Dallas was barely averaging two yards per carry heading into their contest versus Washington, but Felix Jones ran for 115 yards on just 14 carries. Tony Romo played with broken ribs and his top wide receiver hurt, but he still got the team to win with just six field goals

Growing pains are expected when a team rebuilds, like the Redskins are. Though there is a big infusion of youth on the team, as opposed to the 2010 roster, there are more than enough pro veterans to keep Washington moving in a forward direction.

This game may have a bigger impact on the 2011 season than some may think. Heading into a bye week with another loss can hurt moral in the locker room and have fans hoping for some changes made to the lineup. Grossman’s starting job could be on the line this week, especially if he continues to play like he did last week.

A win here may get the team fired up and working hard with a chip on their shoulders in the bye week. As they head down the road of 2011, Washington doesn’t seem to have a difficult opponents until week 12 against the New York Jets. The games before then are very winnable, so positive momentum can be attained with a resounding win over the Rams this Sunday.

Cool It

It was really great having tight end Chris Cooley back in the Redskins lineup. Not just for his abilities, but his leadership certainly boosts moral.

He gutted it out for a few games as he tried to recover from a knee injury that kept him out of preseason games, but the two-time Pro Bowler had a good game last week. He was needed since Fred Davis was limited to one reception.

The eight-year pro quietly passed the legendary Jerry Smith, who belongs in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, for the most receptions ever by a Redskins tight end in the first week of 2011.

Cooley caught a season high four passes for 41 yards last week, but he also ran the ball twice for the first time in his career. One rushing attempt resulted in a first down.

With Cooley seemingly back, he should get back to his typical output. Besides his rookie year and 2009 season, which was limited to seven games due to injury, Cooley has not had fewer than 57 receptions. He always to be in the right place for his quarterback, allowing Washington to move the chains.

Davis has slimmed down and gotten in the best shape of his life, so he can split the seam like few tight ends can. He is reminiscent of Smith in that area, because Smith was known for frequently getting deep down the field for big catches. Davis is averaging 17.8 yards on his 12 receptions.

But Cooley is a wily player who has used smarts, innate instincts and his athletic ability to burn defenses for years. He is the most reliable receiver Washington has, so hopefully there will be a heavy dosage of balls thrown his way for the rest of the season.

Kick ‘Em While They’re Down

The Rams may have been hurt by the players lockout like no other team. They are a young team, so the limited reps in a truncated training camp has done them no favors.

Injuries have blasted this team instantly. Star halfback Steven Jackson got hurt after the first game, but is expected back Sunday from a quad injury. His backup, Cadillac Williams, is slowed by a hamstring injury.

The Rams top receiver, Danny Amendola, may not be ready to go after hurting his elbow in the first game of the year. Their top cornerback, Ron Bartell, is out for the year. They key losses have hurt the winless Rams.

Saint Louis is last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, and second to last in total yards and points allowed. While Williams has done a good job in Jackson’s place, the passing game has not done well. Saint Louis ranks 29th in points scored, so getting points has proven to be difficult for quarterback Sam Bradford.

Right tackle Jason Smith has been hobbled by an ankle injury, causing the second overall pick in the 2009 draft to be benched last week. The Rams need him to help an offensive line that is full of more talent than most others in the league.

The Rams have won nine of 31 regular season matchups against Washington, but this is the eighth time they have met since 2000. Saint Louis has won three of their last four games against the Redskins, losing 9-7 in 2009. They won 30-16 last year.

Washington will be facing not only a team desperate to win finally in 2011, they will face a Rams team that is confident that they can win. The Redskins need to defeat a team that is attempting to get off the snide after injuries held them back, or they will be disappointed heading into their bye week at 2-2.

Warm Up The Bullpen

Rex Grossman’s gross play last Monday is a big reason the Redskins are no longer undefeated. He is in his third season under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s system, but the ninth-year pro plays often like a rookie who is entering his first NFL game ever.

Grossman has not only tossed three interceptions his first three games, he has already taken eight sacks and fumbled the football twice. He has gotten away with a lot of poorly thrown balls that are usually intercepted, and he most likely got away with another fumble last week.

When you are a team that is a week away from getting their bye week finished, a strong start is needed. Especially when your team that has a ton of changes in your roster and is trying to remain competitive while rebuilding. This kind of team cannot afford to have a quarterback playing like a chicken with their head cut off.

Shanahan cannot allow the offensive to wallow for sixty minutes under incompetent leadership another week. Grossman has done nothing to prove he deserves to keep a job he barely won in training camp, helped by circumstances more than actual production.

John Beck had legendary Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann’s support during preseason. Theismann said Washington would go with Beck, but Shanahan went with Grossman.

It is not to say Washington would have even two wins with Beck at the helm right now, because all of that is unknown for a quarterback who hasn’t played since he suited up as a rookie for a horrible Miami Dolphins squad in 2007.

But you know what you get with the “Rex Hex.” Gross play flooded with tons of turnovers and even more poor decisions. This is is given by an unathletic quarterback who is as mobile as a statue and so short he seemingly gets at least a few attempts batted down each contest. There is a reason he has been a journeyman bench warmer most of his career.

If the gross play continues against the Rams, the plug has to be pulled on Grossman. Put Beck in and see what he can do. If promise is shown, Washington can use their bye week to get the rest of the offense more in sync with a mobile quarterback who is a better athlete.

Whether than means whether Beck is a better quarterback or not would be determined on the field of play.

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