The Washington Redskins need to play well Monday night. If they get a win, great. This is not about some moral victories or anything like that, but it is about establishing who you are and what you’re about as a team. They were embarrassed in their last game. A prideful team plays a certain way the next time out. If they don’t, then it speaks volumes about where they’re headed.
I’ve never covered a consistent long-time winner to see how they handle a 1-3 start or losses in general. Washington’s players have always been loose; the Redskins have always lost. But, as I wrote earlier this year, it’s the same approach they used in 2012 when they won seven straight. You don’t expect glum faces and a humorless bunch after losses. But you do expect a certain level of urgency. And it’s more important to show it on the field and in the meeting rooms than in the locker room. Still, it’s not something you always feel when you’re around the team. Just something to watch. It's not every player, either -- and one I don't worry about in this regard is quarterback Kirk Cousins (any of the quarterbacks for that matter).
The tough part for Washington: The rest of the NFC East keeps winning. Dallas is better than anticipated, the Giants have improved, and the Eagles find ways to win and score when their offense doesn’t. A 1-4 start would leave the Redskins two games out of third place. Organizations win; the Redskins would be in danger of a sixth last-place finish in seven years. After five games.
The feeling by the Redskins’ offense is that Seattle’s defense presents some looks that they can take advantage of. But the key, as a few people in the building pointed out, will be making sure Cousins has enough time to get rid of the ball. The Seahawks will blitz, but they don’t have to because of their quick ends. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus needs to have a better game Monday, but he’s not alone in that department.
I’ll be curious to see how they run on Seattle, which has yielded just 2.8 yards per carry. In that 2012 playoff game, the Redskins successfully attacked the Seahawks on the outside, creating one-on-one blocking situations all the time. They would occasionally run a toss inside, getting the linebackers to move and having Alfred Morris cut back. Just remember that tonight. I don’t know if they will be as successful; they will definitely try and lean on the run game. They can’t put Cousins in bad down-and-distances against this defense. Any team is beatable; if the Redskins are to win, it must start with Morris.
One player I absolutely enjoy talking to is linebacker Keenan Robinson. He understands the game and what he must do and where he’s learning. He’s fascinating to talk to about, for example, why he perhaps reacted a certain way on a play. He's well aware of where his help is on a play, and it shows. He’s also not afraid to say where he’s strong on the field (coverage) and what he must do better (diagnose offenses). It’s only a matter of time before he gets the latter part down, too. Once he does, some of those five-yard tackles he makes now will be for a few yards less in the future.
Seahawks tight end Zach Miller won’t play because of an ankle injury, costing Seattle one of the NFL’s best blocking tight ends. Compounding the situation: backup tackle Alvin Bailey, often used in a three-tackle set, also will miss the game. Don’t know if it will force the Seahawks to change much of what they do, but the fact is they will be doing it with lesser players in these spots. Miller wasn’t much of a receiving threat, and neither is his replacement Luke Willson.
Sounds like the defensive staff feels good about what it wants to do against Seattle. A big part of what Seattle wants to do offensively is to be patient (pound with Marshawn Lynch), fool your eyes with some misdirection and pounce on any mistakes. That means the Redskins can’t suffer more communication breakdowns, which happen just about every game. Safety Ryan Clark said of the matchup with Seattle’s receivers: "I feel [Bashaud Breeland] and [David Amerson] will have really good games this week. The matchups are really good for us. Hopefully they play well outside and that allows the inside guys to match up on Marshawn."
The trouble with Seattle is how it stresses a defense by showing Jet sweep action and then either giving it to receiver Percy Harvin or handing inside to Lynch. It tests a defense's eyes and discipline. The Redskins will counter by limiting responsibilities and having the linebackers key on Lynch with the secondary focused on Harvin. The Seahawks also spread the field and run Lynch up the middle; he's tough to tackle with eight-man fronts, let alone six.