Five game keys plus a Bears-Redskins prediction:
1. The Redskins need to be very afraid of kick returner Devin Hester but the numbers suggest that the Bears’ special teams may be slowing him down themselves. Yes, Hester is averaging over 30 yards per return but he hasn’t been impressive in the “what have you done lately” department. In the Bears’ first two games Hester returned six kickoffs and averaged 46.6 yards a pop. Since then he has 13 kickoff returns and an average of a more pedestrian 22.7 per return. The Bears have been hit hard with injuries and, as often happens in the NFL, the effects have trickled down to their special teams.
2. It was good to see Robert Griffin III running well and picking up some big chunks of yardage against the Cowboys and the Redskins hope he will keep it up on Sunday against Chicago. However, Griffin having a big day on the ground is not necessarily a key to victory. The game in Dallas marked the eighth time in his career that Griffin has rushed for 60 yards or more. The Redskins’ record in those games is 4-4.
3. The Redskins have only run up the middle 19 times this year but those runs have been productive plays. They average 9.6 yards per play when going up the gut. Coincidentally, there have been 19 rushing plays up the middle against the Bears’ defense this year. Chicago has give up an average of 5.7 yards on those plays, 28th in the NFL. Sending Alfred Morris into the middle of the line really isn’t the Redskins’ style but they might find that area to be a fertile hunting ground on Sunday. Perhaps they could give Darrel Young a few carries on quick hitters in the middle as well.
4. DeAngelo Hall was not covering Dez Bryant exclusively Sunday night just like he wasn’t on Calvin Johnson every play during the Lions game. But he was the guy who was primarily responsible for containing Johnson (7 rec., 115 yds., 1 TD) and shutting down Bryant (5/36/0). It will be the same situation with Hall on Monday when he will cover Brandon Marshall most of the time. If Hall again comes up big then the game may come down to how well Josh Wilson, David Amerson (assuming he plays) and the rest of the secondary do against wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett, and running back Matt Forte.
5. It’s probably too early to really worry about Kai Forbath, especially after he set such a high standard for himself last year by making his first 17 field goal attempts. But since then, going back to the 2012 season finale, he has hit on just three of six. Perhaps it’s not fair to be too hard on him for a 49-yard miss in Dallas; that’s about a 50-50 shot. But his miss in the season opener was from 40 and he missed his last attempt of 2012 against Dallas from 37. Again, it’s not panic time over Forbath just yet. But are you going to be able to watch if he lines up for, say, a 44-yarder with the game on line?
I think that Forbath will line up for that field goal with the outcome of a back-and-forth contest on the line. Does he make it?
Redskins 31, Bears 30
The Redskins made a roster move just before departing for Arizona to play the Cardinals.
They signed cornerback Dashaun Phillips from the practice squad and cut offensive tackle Blaine Clausell. The Redskins also waived safety David Bruton Jr. off of injured reserve.
Phillips was the Redskins’ nickel corner for the first three games of the season, and he made four tackles and recovered a fumble. But they moved rookie Kendall Fuller up into the slot corner role in Week 4 and Phillips spent several weeks on the inactive list before being waived on November 12 and added to the practice squad three days later.
The moves became known after Redskins coach Jay Gruden had spoken to the media for the day so we can only speculate as to the reasoning behind them. Actually, the release of Clausell isn’t hard to figure out. He was signed after Trent Williams started his four-game suspension and with Williams set to return on Monday and the other options at backup tackle healthy there was no point in keeping him around.
Phillips is likely going to Arizona as an insurance policy. The Cardinals like to spread the field with a lot of wide receivers. They will want to have five cornerbacks active. They do have Josh Norman, Bashaud Breeland, Fuller, Quinton Dunbar, and Greg Toler. But Breeland is listed as questionable with an ankle injury and they Redskins don’t want to take any chance of being caught short-handed at cornerback if he suffers a setback. That’s especially true when they don’t need to bring an extra tackle along.
Depending on how things shake out injury-wise against the Cardinals there is a good chance that we could see Phillips on the waiver wire once again as a roster spot will be needed for Williams.
TE Jordan Reed (shoulder)—The word heroic is thrown around too often when talking about what athletes do, in light if what, say, first responders do every day. But Reed playing in the second half out of the Dallas game with a third-degree AC joint sprain certainly was remarkable. But Gruden said that Reed won’t have sufficient range of motion in the shoulder or range of motion to be able to go against the Cardinals.
DE Anthony Lanier (leg)—The reserve lineman missed the second half of the Dallas game with a leg contusion. Gruden said he was kicked in the lower leg against the Cowboys and the swelling is still an issue.
LS Nick Sundberg (back)—He tweaked his back in the weight room before the Packers game and missed that game and the one against the Cowboys. He was a full go in practice all week and will return against the Cardinals.
G Brandon Scherff (ankle)—He has been limited in practice during the week but it seems certain that he will go against the Cardinals.
T Ty Nsekhe (ankle)—Ditto comment on Scherff above.
CB Bashaud Breeland (ankle)—He suffered the injury in practice this week and he was limited in practice on Thursday.
RB Chris Thompson (illness)—He was limited in practice during the week but he said in the locker room he will have his usual role on Sunday.
Also questionable for the Redskins: ILB Terence Garvin (shoulder) and DE Ricky Jean Francois (knee)
Check back for the Cardinals injury update after they release their report later this afternoon.