1. Can Rex Grossman do it again? Sure, why not? Jacksonville’s defense struggles against the pass so Grossman will have good opportunities to move the ball through the air. The Jags rank 27th vs. the pass, don’t have a pass rush (with Aaron Kampman out for the year) and lack an elite player in the secondary. Consistency has been an issue for Grossman in his career; today gives him a chance to prove he can play well in consecutive games.
2. Will John Beck play? Only if Grossman gets hurt. The Redskins don’t plan on playing Beck in either of the last two games. This three-game set is mostly about whether or not Grossman can help them in the future. One game is not enough to determine if that’s the case. Many, many players are capable of one good outing. If consistency is a problem for a player, wouldn’t you want to see them over several games to see if that’s changed?
3. Will Grossman avoid the killer mistakes? That’s the question he’s faced entering just about every game he’s played. Players always know what they should have done in a game the next day or a few days later; Grossman knows he should have done a better job throwing the pass away in Dallas on his first pick. Problem is, those are the exact sort of plays he’s made throughout his career. Under duress, you revert back to who you are, for the most part.
4. Will they target Chris Cooley early in the game? What they need is to get some drives going, thereby getting them more plays. And that’s how Cooley will get involved. Considering how bad Jacksonville’s defense is, this shouldn’t be a problem.
5. Will Fletcher Smith and the Shanahans exchange statements during the game? Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the statements are over. And that’s my official statement. Now, back to the game.
6. Will Ryan Torain be a big factor? He should be. With Washington’s defense missing key players, the odds are that Jacksonville will score – with or without Maurice Jones-Drew. So the Redskins will need to control the ball at times, too, with the ground game. Jacksonville is 18th vs. the run. The Jags have shown they can stop good backs – Chris Johnson, Arian Foster and Peyton Hillis – but they’ve also allowed a combined 308 yards rushing in the past two games.
7. Does it matter if Maurice Jones-Drew plays? Of course; he has been an MVP candidate much of the season and is one of the best – and most underrated -- backs in the game. But he’s doubtful because of a knee injury. Still, Rashad Jennings is capable of hurting the Redskins, if only because his line should still be able to open holes. Jennings is bigger than Jones-Drew and, at 231 pounds, offers a lot of power. He also has a 74-yard touchdown run this season and is averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He’s also never carried the ball more than 10 times in a game.
8. How good is David Garrard? He was close to being benched earlier this season, but then got on a roll. He’s an accurate passer, but he’s not the most athletic guy and has battled a hamstring injury of late. Still, the guy has completed at least 70 percent of his throws in six games. The key is making him win the game; when he has to throw more than 22 passes, the Jags are 2-5. They are not built to throw first. The key is to apply pressure; in the past an early mistake has led to him making several more.
9. How much will the injuries impact Washington’s defense? A lot. The Redskins weren’t playing well when all their starters were healthy. Now they could have two converted corners at safety, neither of whom is big; their backup nose tackle is the starting left end; the starting right outside linebacker was a practice squader a week ago and the starting left end is 35, too small for a full-time role. Without Brian Orakpo, applying pressure will be tough – it was hard even with him; the Redskins will have to take some chances. And without Orakpo and LaRon Landry, the Redskins are down to one legitimate playmaker in DeAngelo Hall. To win on the road, the Redskins will have to cause some mistakes. If they do, Jim Haslett deserves to be carried off the field.
10. How good is Jacksonville’s special teams? On paper the Jags special teams look pretty darn good. They hold opponents to 6.6 yards on punt returns (fifth in the NFL), thanks to a punter in Adam Podlesh, who has dropped half his 46 kicks inside the 20-yard line (with another six touchbacks). Punt returner Mike Thomas averages 11.3 yards per punt return. Also, place kicker Josh Scobee has made 20 of 24 field goals. And the Jags are 10th in defending kick returns (21.4 yards per return). So even if Brandon Banks does play, it’ll be a difficult day.
11. Who Will Win? Part of me thinks the Redskins will win another game. But then I look at their defense and wonder how they will stop anyone, even a team using a backup runner. If they win it’ll be on the offense to score a lot --- which is possible against this defense. But I also think to win they must do well on special teams and create some turnovers. Is that possible with the group they have to play with? Maybe not; I still think it’ll be close. Jags 28, Redskins 27.