Amongthe more important matchups Sunday will be the Redskins pass rush vs. Falconsquarterback Matt Ryan.Ryanleads the NFL in passer rating (112.1), has tossed the second most touchdowns (11) and has three top-notch targets in Roddy White, Julio Jones and TonyGonzalez. The Redskins, meanwhile, have yielded the second most passing yards (1,305) and the most passing touchdowns (11).Those unsightly statistics are mostly result of big plays caused by blown coverage in the secondary and missed tackles downfield.The Redskins' pass rush, however, must shoulder some of the blame.TheRedskins linemen and linebackers a unit beset by season-ending injuries to starters BrianOrakpo and Adam Carriker has been solid against the run (10th) but has mustered a meager seven sacks (tied for 22nd).Lastweek in Tampa, Ryan Kerrigan recorded the Redskins' only sack in a 24-22 victory that saw Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman appear, at times, far too comfortable in the pocket, particularly in the second half. Freeman, in fact, was only hit one time while attempting a pass. And while the Buccaneers did employ max-protection and Freeman focused on getting the ball out of his hand quickly, defensive end Stephen Bowen said that's no an excuse.Peopleare starting to get the ball out quicker against us, Bowen said. Thats showing respect for us up front, but its frustrating. Allwe can do is affect what we canstopping the run and, when we get a one-on-onepass rush opportunity, we have to take advantage of it.Againstthe Falcons, there could be opportunities to get to Ryan. He's been sacked 11 times,which is tied for the ninth most in the league.Thisweek, Bowen said the Redskins linemen and linebackers worked on sharpening uptheir pass rush skills in practice.Sunday,obviously, would be a good time for some of that work to pay off.Thesecondary guys need to get tighter coverage to give us a little more time toget the quarterback, and we have to get there, beat the guy in front of us andmake a play, linebacker Rob Jackson said. If were not beating the guy infront of us, the quarterback can go anywhere with the ball. He has first,second and third read if were not getting any pressure on him.
The Redskins deserve high praise after throttling the Raiders Sunday night, but next Monday in Kansas City, an even bigger challenge awaits.
Remember, the Redskins put out one of their best defensive efforts in more than 20 years against Oakland.
The hig-scoring Raiders came into that game with the top scoring offense in the NFL, but managed less than 100 total yards of offense until late in the fourth quarter.
Their only points came when gifted when tremendous field position off two Redskins turnovers.
More in the video below.
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Going to Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City will be an even bigger task for the Washington defense. The Chiefs are one of only two undefeated teams left in the NFL, and have speed seemingly everywhere on the field. Running back Kareem Hunt has been a missile for Andy Reid's offense, and the rookie from Toledo leads the NFL in rushing.
Through three games, Hunt has 401 yards. No other NFL runner even has 300 yards.
Much of Oakland's offense depended on deep passing. The Redskins stopped that, cold.
Kansas City plays a more deliberate scheme of crossing patterns and space, but relies on the speed of Hunt and wideout Tyreek Hill. Greg Manusky and the Washington defense will have to recalibrate their game plan.
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On Monday, Coach Barry Barry Trotz showed us what he’s thinking about for opening night forward lines and D pairs.
On Tuesday, he showed us what he’s thinking about for special team units.
The first power play unit featured forwards Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Nicklas Backstrom and defenseman John Carlson.
The second power play unit had forwards Andre Burakovsky, Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly as well as defensemen Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov.
“We want to get something sorta in place,” Trotz said of the power play configurations. “That’s maybe where we’ll to try to start. That's really the first idea. …Yeah, you can read into it.”
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The Caps have three preseason games remaining; the regular season begins Oct. 5 in Ottawa.
Tuesday's first power play unit had Kuznetsov in the spot vacated by Marcus Johansson, who was traded to the Devils in July. While it’s a promotion for Kuznetsov, it leaves the second unit without a center.
“That’s the negative,” Trotz said of promoting the Russian pivot to unit No. 1.
To that point, Trotz said Connolly will take the right side faceoffs and Burakovsky will take the left side draws.
For Connolly, starting the season with a full-time role on the power play unit represents a signficant step up in terms of responsibility. Last season, he scored once on the man advantage but was used sparingly.
“Conno is an instinctive goalscorer,” Trotz said. “He’s got a really good, quick release.”
Connolly, who was positioned on the goal line on Tuesday, added: “It’s obviously a great opportunity. I’ve had this opportunity before and I had to work hard to get that again. So I want to take advantage of it.”
Trotz also put on display what he’s thinking about for his penalty kill units. The first forward pair was Tom Wilson and Lars Eller, while the second pair was Tyler Graovac and Jay Beagle.
One defensive pair on the penalty kill was Brooks Orpik and rookie Madison Bowey. (The primary penalty-killing D were probably being used on the power play in Tuesday’s drills.)
What stood out about the penalty kill groupings was Graovac’s continued ascension on the depth chart following his breakout performance in Friday’s preseason game against the Blues. Graovac was not used on the penalty kill last season in Minnesota, but Trotz likes his mobility and, at 6 foot 5, his long reach. From an Xs and Os standpoint, Trotz also likes the flexibility of having Graovac and Beagle, a pair of natural centers, on the same PK pair for faceoffs.
“He’s got some reach—that’s an advantage for a penalty killer,” Trotz said of Graovac. “He did a really good job in penalty kill situations in his first two [preseason] games, and faceoffs were a big component of that.”
Trotz added: “They sort themselves out as they go along. We’ll see if he can sustain his first two games.”
The Caps also worked on shootouts, with Oshie, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Burakovsky and Ovechkin taking reps.