1. The Redskins’ locker room was rather loose all week. If they’re feeling pressure it doesn’t show at all. That’s pretty much how they’ve been since, oh, they were 3-6. You know about Stephen Bowen dancing with his shirt off to distract interviews and about Robert Griffin III asking Mike Shanahan a question during the press conference Wednesday. There were similar antics in the locker room Friday. Heck, Niles Paul and Kedric Golston nearly started wrestling. Take it for what it’s worth, but my only point is that they haven’t changed their approach. If the locker room was dead silent and everyone acted serious, it would not be good. My guess is Seattle’s locker room was lively, too. Most Fridays are: the work week is done and all that remains is the game.
2. Josh LeRibeus did a good enough job when he subbed for Kory Lichtensteiger last week. He had some good blocks; he missed on some others. Typical rookie stuff. The thing that would concern me is the timing of the cutbacks and how he’ll adapt to Seattle’s quickness up front (if he has to play, that is). The Seahawks don’t run more stunts than most teams, but they are able to apply pressure a little quicker and they will sometimes send an end lined up over one tackle all the way to the other side of the line and outside of the guard. You need to be aware.
3. Back to the cutbacks: It can be tough to get used to the timing of these blocks and this tactic will be huge Sunday. My guess is they’ll have to cut on the backside more than usual. Lichtensteiger’s experience would be beneficial. Can LeRibeus do it? He was a third-round pick for a reason, but he’ll have to prove it Sunday.
4. Here’s what OL coach Chris Foerster said about him for my email report two weeks ago:
“When Josh learns something, he’s got it,” Foerster said. “When he doesn’t understand and get it, and that falls back on me, then it’s really bad. You could see toward the end of preseason the plays that were really good were really good but the plays that were bad were really bad. That’s just the consistency.”
5. Yes, Leon Washington is a worry. He averages 29.0 yards on kick returns and Kai Forbath’s kickoffs remain inconsistent. If Washington is able to catch the ball on the run, as other returners have done, then that could be trouble. The big problem is that Seattle blocks well for him and creates lanes up the middle, where he likes to run. Look for the Redskins to try and keep him to a side.
Since Forbath joined the Redskins they faced three kick returners who finished in the top six in the NFL – Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones, Cleveland’s Josh Cribbs and New York’s David Wilson. In each case the returners averaged less than their eventual season mark. Jones finished at 30.7; he averaged 29.0. Cribbs averaged 27.3; he finished at 27.3. Wilson was at 26.9, but only 20.8 vs. Washington. The longest return they allowed against these three players was 38 yards. Yeah, it’s not as if the Redskins completely shut down all three, but none of them beat them with a return, either. That must continue Sunday.
6. Seattle’s secondary is legit and the Redskins say their defense is playing better overall than it was a year ago. But there’s still a sense that they can get them flowing hard to a side and hit them back the other way, whether with misdirection runs or passes. The Seahawks’ front plays a similar style to what Cleveland played; the Redskins burned the Browns with a lot of misdirection and bootleg action. Just keep that in mind, OK?
7. I’ll be curious if the Seahawks borrow from Dallas’ game plan last week to stop the zone read play-action passes. That was a big reason why Robert Griffin III did not throw the ball as well (in addition to not needing to). The Cowboys positioned a safety in the middle of the field, often in front of the free safety about 10 yards closer (sometimes going there after the snap) to the line. When there was a fake handoff, the safety would turn toward a side and one of the receivers. The Redskins finally got them out of this look by running so well, but if Seattle’s front can handle the run game then it could use a similar tactic.
8. One defender to watch is defensive tackle Brandon Mebane. If he gets a lot of penetration play side, to where it appears the run is headed, that will disrupt the Redskins’ offense. He likes to shoot gaps. He’ll need to be cut when he’s on the backside.
9. I don’t know how much to read into this, but I’m throwing this stat out there anyway (tweeted about it Friday): Seattle’s defense faced three offenses that finished the year ranked top-10 in yards per game (Dallas, New England, Detroit). They faced seven offenses ranked 23rd or lower – and five between 27 and 32. Overall, seven offenses they faced ended the season ranked in the top half.
10. The Redskins, meanwhile, played five games against offenses that ended the year in the top 10 for yards (Atlanta, Dallas, New Orleans, Tampa Bay) and 11 against teams that ended up in the top half. The worst offense they faced was 25th-rated Cleveland.
11. Now, on to the more important stat: Seattle faced two offenses that finished the year ranked top 10 in scoring (New England and Green Bay). The Seahawks beat both (at home) and held them to a combined 35 points. The Redskins are fifth in points per game.
12. The Redskins faced four offenses that finished top 10 in points (Seattle is 9th). They went 3-2 in those games and allowed an average of 25.4 points per game.
13. Meanwhile, the Redskins’ offense faced three defenses that finished in the top 10 in yards allowed (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Carolina) and went 0-3 in those games, averaging 18.7 points. And they went 0-3 against defenses that ranked in the top 10 in points allowed (Atlanta, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh) and averaged 14 points per game. Seattle’s defense ranks fourth overall and first in points allowed.
14. What does all this mean? That I had a lot of time this morning to look up stats. But it does give you an indication of what each team has faced.
15. I’m anxious to see Russell Wilson. Always liked him in college, especially seeing him at Wisconsin last year. I know some people would not have even looked at him in the draft because of his height (talked to one former scout who said no way). But with his arm and intangibles, Wilson would have been a first-round pick if he were four inches taller. Knowing that, he was well worth the pick in the third round.
16. Seattle didn’t start running the zone read option until recently, so it’s not as advanced as Washington’s version. The Seahawks, at least in prior games, did not do things like have the tight ends come across the formation to block around the end; nor have they pulled their guards. More of Marshawn Lynch’s runs came out of I-formation with inside zones.
17. Here’s a good blog post on ESPN.com about the Redskins’ play-action game and how Seattle has fared vs. this tactic. It’s what I’ve kept going back to this week when looking at the matchup.
18. It’s very odd to be writing about the playoffs while a number of reporters covering seven other teams are worrying about a coaching search. Since 2000, I’ve covered four coaching searches and three playoff games.
19. It’s amazing the turnaround in the organization in terms of the confidence where this program is headed. There are enough people with experience who know the signs you need to see when it comes to having something special. They see it. Nothing is ever guaranteed – DeAngelo Hall reminded everyone of that when talking about his Falcons days with Michael Vick. But regardless of what happens Sunday the Redskins will enter the offseason with more momentum at any point in the last 20 years.
20. Enjoy the game.
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