Opponent Preview: Washington Redskins
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Fair or not, the careers of St. Louis Rams QB Sam Bradford and Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III – and the paths of the Rams and Redskins franchises as well – will be compared for the foreseeable future.
The Rams’ decision to pass on Griffin III – though some would argue there was no decision – and the subsequent trade of the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s draft to the Redskins makes this weekend a matchup of two higher-touted quarterbacks to enter the league in the past few years.
For the man called RGIII, his NFL debut was an impressive one. Griffin torched the New Orleans Saints defense last Sunday, going 19-for-26 for 320 yards and two touchdowns. He also rushed nine times for 42 yards, an element of his game that made him so coveted in this year’s draft.
“He did a great job,” Rams head coach Jeff Fisher said. “He managed the offense well. He extended plays, made throws and clearly caught the Saints a little bit off guard. We’ve got our hands full, no doubt. He’s an extra dimension.”
Another facet of Griffin’s game is the deep ball. Sure to be his favorite deep target as the season progresses is new Redskins WR Pierre Garcon. Garcon made his presence known when he took a Griffin pass 88 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter Sunday. In total, Garcon caught four passes for 109 yards. Garcon has been limited in practice this week, making his status for Sunday a question mark, but if he plays he’ll be the biggest concern for the Rams defense.
Newcomer Aldrick Robinson also caught four passes and a touchdown Sunday. Tight end Fred Davis, who only caught two passes Sunday, may also cause problems for the Rams safeties that struggled with coverage in week one.
The Redskins have three running backs that are all capable of handling a full workload but the order in which they rank is constantly in flux. Alfred Morris rushed 28 times for 96 yards and two touchdowns in week one, making him the odds-on favorite to start for Washington against the Rams. Backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster loom if Morris falters, with Helu in line to handle the majority of the third-down duty.
The Redskins defense is underrated, led by former Rams linebacker London Fletcher and former Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Fletcher is in his 15th season and has never missed a game in his NFL career. More than the leading tackler, Fletcher is the emotional leader of the Redskins defense.
“He’s actually one of my favorite all-time linebackers to pair up against,” Rams RB Steven Jackson said. “15 years now and still counting, he looks really good. He’s running down the field with tight ends, matched up on running backs out of the backfield. He led the NFL in tackles the last four years, I believe. Unbelievable, statistically, what he’s accomplished and how he’s overlooked a lot. He’s had an unbelievable career and it’s still going.”
While Fletcher leads the team in tackles, linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo pose the biggest threat to Bradford. The pair combined for 16.5 sacks last season in Haslett’s blitz-heavy defense. With defensive backs DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and Brandon Meriweather, the Redskins aren’t thin on playmakers in the back end, either.