For the Redskins, it's about limiting damage
ASHBURN -- The list of things the Redskins' defense can't afford do is a long one. They can't give Drew Brees time in the pocket. They can't miss tackles in the open field against shifty Darren Sproles. They can't fall for double moves in the secondary. They can't let tight end Jimmy Graham have a huge day.
Otherwise, it could be a long day for the Redskins. And they know it.
"They'll move the ball on us. We understand that," Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said.
|» Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said he's confident that left guard Kory Lichtensteiger will be ready to play against New Orleans on Sunday barring a setback. Lichtensteiger, who had arthroscopic knee surgery early in training camp, has practiced in full all week. But Shanahan also said he's not against rotating him in with Maurice Hurt. Shanahan rotated Lichtensteiger with Derrick Dockery two years ago and also with tackles Willie Smith and Sean Locklear in one game last season. "I don't think you know for sure until someone actually plays in a game," Shanahan said. "If he gets too tired and can't go, then obviously someone will take his spot. That's one reason you rotate players on defense to keep people fresh. You might have to do that on the offensive line as well. Kory's always been in good shape. A lot of times when you go through rehab you get in pretty darn good shape. But it still takes a while to get in football shape to play a game."|
|» Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said the Redskins will go with the "hot hand" at running back among rookie Alfred Morris, Evan Royster and Roy Helu. And Mike Shanahan said, "Who really cares if a guy's averaging 5 yards a carry. If both guys average 5 yards per carry, you're doing pretty successful in the run game. Then you might have one guy stand out and he's averaging more than that per carry. He has the ability to break that game open. Everyone would like to have that running back, but sometimes they're hard to find."|
|Player of Note|
|Safety DeJon Gomes|
|The second-year safety said he has been taking reps with the first-team defense this week. Regardless of whether he starts, Gomes likely will play -- as will veteran Reed Doughty. Gomes gives the Redskins speed in the box and is adept at shooting gaps to make plays. His problems last year occurred in coverage, and there's little doubt the Saints will test his ability in that area Sunday. As the Redskins have pointed out, Gomes is still new to coverage, having played more of a hybrid linebacker role in college. He will need to prove in a hurry that he's better.|
Most teams do. In eight home games last year, the Saints averaged 41 points. Their lowest point total at home: 27 points. Though their defense is undergoing a transition, thanks in part to Bountygate and the loss of two starters (lineman Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma), their offense returns largely intact.
Even the loss of coach Sean Payton shouldn't dent the offense. The Saints' offensive coordinator, Pete Carmichael, called the plays in 10 games last season. And Brees, a coach on the field, has run this offense since 2006.
"To have the success they have, you have to have it all," Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said. "You have to have a great scheme, great personnel and a great quarterback. Their quarterback is as good as there is in the game."
It's not just Brees, who threw for 46 touchdown passes in 2011. It's Graham (99 catches for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns). It's Sproles (603 yards rushing, 710 yards receiving). It's receiver Marques Colston (1,143 receiving yards, eight touchdowns).
And now the Redskins will be trying to slow down this offense without starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather, out with a knee injury.
"I don't care if we had the best secondary in the world. It's still a major test," Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson said. "They have so many weapons it doesn't matter who we have back there."
The way to stop -- or at least slow -- the Saints is by achieving several goals. The Redskins' offense must not only control the clock but finish drives with touchdowns. New Orleans can strike in a hurry if a defense isn't sound.
"If we can do a good job tackling and hold them to minimum gains, we have a chance," Haslett said.
The Redskins also must be patient defensively. New Orleans likes to hit teams deep off double moves. So if a team starts getting too cozy playing their initial dink-and-dunk attack, Brees will look for a big play downfield. Otherwise, he will look for mismatches -- with the linebackers in particular -- and attack with quick throws.
The other option is to mix up looks and coverages, trying to make Brees hesitate for a moment in the pocket and allowing the pass rushers to arrive. The Saints like to throw different looks at defenses, often using 15 alignments on 15 plays. If a defense can trick them the same way, it could help. There's just one problem.
"I don't think there's anything he hasn't seen," Haslett said.
And the Redskins know they must be on target for four quarters.
"[Brees] makes it tough on all 11 guys because he does a good job putting pressure on all the guys," Redskins safety Madieu Williams said. "You have to make sure you pay attention to details and be exactly where you need to be."