1. Cortland Finnegan is an aggressive corner, which definitely will be something to watch on Sunday. Yes, I’m sure the Redskins will test that aggressiveness. But quarterback Robert Griffin III also must be wary of his presence. Detroit’s Matthew Stafford knows that all too well. Last week, Finnegan picked him off when the defense baited him into a throw. Stafford wanted Calvin Johnson on a little comeback along the right sideline. Finnegan, covering the inside receiver, broke off and jumped in front of Johnson. Finnegan did not read Stafford; rather, either he knew where the ball was going or it was the designed coverage (or both). Stafford didn’t help himself by throwing late. But it’s the sort of ploy Griffin will see Sunday.
2. Will Griffin throw three interceptions like Stafford did? Stafford is more prone to interceptions, having thrown 20 as a rookie after 33 in college. Griffin threw only 17, though Stafford played in a harder conference. However, Stafford only threw 16 last season so it’s not like the Rams’ defense picked off Kevin Kolb the other day. They made a good quarterback look bad, until the last quarter.
3. It’s tough to gauge what the Rams will do defensively. Against Detroit, they used a lot of wide-nine looks. Sometimes only one of their ends was wide. But when they rushed only four men, it left gaps in the pocket. However, there’s no doubt the Rams won’t try to let that happen vs. Griffin. It’s tough to guess how teams will handle this attack; it’s not unstoppable but it does pose problems.
4. One thing that hurts their pass rush is the absence of tackle Michael Brockers, a first-round pick. Even if the ends got upfield and pinched Stafford last week, it didn’t always seem that the interior rush collapsed the pocket enough to prevent a QB from sliding outside. Of course, the Rams will have some sort of plan to make sure this doesn’t happen. They might ask their ends not to get too far upfield and keep Griffin in the pocket.
5. That’s something the Redskins rush does well, collapsing the pocket and enabling the outside ‘backers to break off for sacks.
6. Mike Shanahan had a tremendous advantage over Aaron Kromer as a head coach last week. There isn’t one this weekend. Jeff Fisher is an excellent coach – and a top defensive mind. I’m anxious to see what he has in mind for Griffin – and how the Redskins adjust. This will be an enjoyable season-long chess match. There’s little doubt the Redskins are enjoying playing chess this season after a few years of checkers. I don’t know if that makes sense but it sounded good.
7. But you know there will be games when Griffin looks like a rookie. And they could happen any week. The Redskins kept New Orleans off-balance so much that it left clear passing lanes much of the day on any throw over the middle. Tough to see that happening every week. But it’s also tough to see teams just shutting down all aspects of their offense simply because of the zone read options. There isn’t a linebacker on the Redskins who thinks it’ll be easy for other teams’ linebackers. It goes against their nature to be as patient as they must be against that look and especially with how patient Griffin is with his fakes. The Saints’ linebackers were a bit, uh, fooled. Still liked the first play of the second half when safety Malcolm Jenkins came from deep left up to right end to defend Griffin on a zone run — only to have Griffin hit Santana Moss. Had the pass not been low and behind him, Moss could have had a long gain. Anyway, how the Rams’ linebackers handle the fakes will reveal a lot.
8. Griffin did get away with a few plays last week, notably the forced throw at the goal line. Part of his development, any quarterback’s for that matter, is to see how they play in the fourth quarter after a rough three quarters. Don’t know if that will happen this week, but it will at some point.
9. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus needs to play much better this week, matched vs. Chris Long. The Rams’ end had a quiet first game. I know the Redskins’ linemen don’t need to drive guys off the ball, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t supposed to play with power. It sometimes seems hard for Polumbus, at 6-foot-8, to get the necessary power against shorter players using good leverage.
10. Looked like the Rams used a lot of quick throws vs. Detroit, which is why Sam Bradford had a strong passer rating. On the few throws I saw him go downfield on, he was inconsistent. It’ll be hard for him to get the time to make those throws behind this line.
11. Wish I had a stronger feel for Pierre Garcon’s status. Here’s what I know: he was limited in practice and needs to prove Sunday that he can play a full game. If a guy is limited most of the week and then is a game-time decision it’s usually not the best sign. However, plenty of game-time decision have played. It’s also clear that Garcon doesn’t want to talk about it; gave us two-word answers while walking this week and avoided us during the open locker room today. He had a rehab session during that time too. That’s not to criticize him, but it is to suggest that even he probably doesn’t know what’s going to happen.
12. Wonder what the over-under on number of screens to Steven Jackson will be Sunday? Or any of the other backs for that matter. But the Redskins have typically done a good job defending the screen.
13. The thing to remember as defenses adjust to the Redskins’ offense: We didn’t see every play last week.
14. I like Alfred Morris’ demeanor and attitude. He understands as much as anyone how hard the journey was to reach the NFL. Not sure anyone truly appreciates their gig more than Morris.
15. The word on Isaiah Pead? More quick than fast.
I’m curious to see how DeAngelo Hall continues to fare in the slot. Said this in my email report and I’ll say it again now: Some people around the league wondered about his ability to play in the slot because of how long he likes to look at the quarterback. That’s tough to get away with in the slot. Hall definitely took long peeks in the backfield last week, typically before he was coming on a blitz.
Alfred Morris. See why he’s not wowed by running through linebackers.