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First-&-Ten - Redskins @ Chiefs on Monday Night Football!

October 1, 2017
As we detailed in “Inside the Numbers” the Redskins have one more game to play before their bye and could finish at a almost shocking (3-1) with significant upset wins over the Oakland Raiders and especially the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs at rowdy and insanely loud, Arrowhead Stadium. Or they could finish at (2-2), which certainly is not bad at all considering the schedule and a season opening loss at home to Philadelphia.

Now, it’s time to tackle how they can go about either scenario with a strong lean to what is more realistic than hopeful.

First….

Our "Monumental Matchup" has to be Kareem Hunt vs. the Redskins run defense

So far, Hunt has run for (17 – 148) and a score, (13 – 81) and two touchdowns against Philadelphia and (17 – 172) and a 69-yard touchdown last week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Quite simply, he can rip off chunks at a time and stick a dagger in your back, as he already has runs of 58, 53 (touchdown) and 69 (yes, another long touchdown). YIKES.

The good news? The resurgent Redskins run defense has been very good. They are # 2 in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game and # 7 in rushing yards allowed per play. 

Per ESPN’s John Keim and ESPN Stats & Information – the Redskins rank third in the NFL in least rushing yards allowed before contact at 1.41. The last two years were 2.68 and 2.98 rushing yards before contact.

Former NFL offensive lineman, Geoff Schwartz, whose brother, Mitchell, plays on the Chiefs did a great YouTube video breakdown of the Chiefs power-shovel game, along with some other great wrinkles off jet-sweeps, read-option and other concepts that they throw at you.

And …Ten (Quick hit items to watch or think about on Monday Night Football.)

1 – In addition to having their hands full with the rookie Hunt on running plays, watch out for his exploits on middle screens and check downs as the Redskins pass rush gets up the field. So far in three games, Hunt has been targeted nine times, caught all nine targets for receptions and 137 yards total with two more touchdowns. Oh yeah and another one – in that New England blowout, Hunt caught a 78-yard strike in stride.

The only good news? He had one reception for only 11 yards last week against the LA squad that should be in San Diego.

2 – As if that isn’t enough to be scared about – how do you go about controlling Hunt and Tyreek Hill? Hill has 16 catches for 253 yards, a 15.2 average and two scores, including a 78-yard strike-and-run. Notice a trend here??

The Redskins can’t fall asleep on Hill being used in running situations, like a jet-sweep to Hill out of a spread formation. He only has six rushes for 24 yards this year, but that can change very quickly. Last year, Hill, as a rookie ran for (24-267) with three scores including a 70-yard touchdown against Denver on Christmas night.  The way the Chiefs designed this particular score (video below via NFLGamePass) was astonishing. Kansas City lined up with three tight-ends on the left side, with Hill directly in the backfield. They motioned a tight end from left to right (Kelce # 87) and then took their right guard and Kelce and swept them both back in motion from the right to the left side, with Kelce laying a crushing block on the edge defender and it was off to the races for Hill.

 


Hill also caught 61 passes for 593 yards and SIX touchdowns as a receiving option last year.

3 – Oh and there’s more! Hill is very capable of hurting the Redskins in the return game. This year, he’s off to a very conservative start at five punt returns for just 25 yards. Not a big deal right? He has not returned kickoffs yet this year.

However, last year, Hill had 14 kickoff returns for 384 yards, a 27.4 average, and an 86-yard touchdown return in Denver. As a punt returner in his rookie season, Hill racked up 39 returns for 592 yards, a egregious 15.2 average, two touchdowns including a 95-yard punt return in the Chiefs final game of the regular season.

This is simply absurd production from two young kids who have revolutionized the Chiefs offense and return units.

4  - With all of the attention on Hill and Hunt – the Redskins cannot afford to forget about Chiefs stud tight-end, Travis Kelce. He’s off to a somewhat slow start with (14 – 144, 10.3, TD) but he was only targeted once for one catch and one yard last week. The week before against his brother and the Eagles? 10 targets, eight catches for 103 yards and a score.

Last year, he was brilliant. 85 receptions on 117 targets for 1,125 yards and four touchdowns, good for a 13.2 average.

The year before that (2015), Kelce had 72 receptions on 103 targets, 875 yards, a 12.2 average and five touchdowns.

The Redskins have not been good against tight ends in the past. As a matter of fact, they’ve been awful. As good as the defense is this year, they haven’t been great against the position through three weeks either.

So far, in three games, Washington has allowed 18 receptions (5 th most in NFL), 250 yards (worst in NFL by 17 yards) and one score, which was last week to Oakland off a turnover.

 In 2016, per ProFootballReference.com, the Redskins allowed 114 catches for 1,178 yards and five touchdowns to tight ends. The most receptions and yards allowed in the entire NFL to the position group that Kelce leads.

5 – The Redskins could have some success against Kansas City’s offense if they can get home against Alex Smith and the Chiefs offensive line. So far thru three games, the Chiefs have allowed 12 sacks including five last week against the Chargers. Philadelphia got home four times and the Patriots sacked Smith three times.

Washington has only eight sacks on the year so far, but they’ve put a lot of pressure on and forced an intentional grounding along with a near sack against Carson Wentz, that turned into a big scoring play.

For the Chiefs, starting center Mitch Morse is OUT and starting left tackle/former # 1 overall pick Eric Fisher is questionable.

6 – Injuries are going to be a big story to watch.My pal, Ben Standig, among others were at Redskins Park on Saturday and when he posted this tweet, I became even more nervous. Mason Foster, Robert Kelley, Jordan Reed, Jamison Crowder and D.J. Swearinger are all among the players listed as questionable and who may or may not play Monday night. Standig added a note from Jay Gruden on Crowder saying the Redskins receiver is “up in the air.”

Based on multiple reports, it looks like Kelley will return to the Redskins attack, which is good and puts less pressure on Samaje Perine. Reed sounds like another game-time decision but in listening to Craig Hoffman Saturday afternoon after practice on 106.7 The FAN (with Nick Ashooh), I am much less confident than I have been. Crowder is a dagger blow, especially on third downs If he can’t go.

As for Swearinger, who missed the final full practice of the week, Jay Gruden told reporters at Redskins Park “It’s getting there. We’ll know more tomorrow.”

  7 – Defensive superlatives: The Redskins defense will be tested for sure. But Washington’s unit has been very good so far. Overall, Josh Norman ranks second in the NFL since 2014 in passes defended. Per the NFL, he has an interception, a forced fumble and six passes defended in his past four games on the road against AFC opponents.

Zac Brown leads the NFC with 32 tackles. The defense allowed only 128 net yards of offense last week and pitched a shutout on third down, for the first time in a non-week 17 game since at least 1991.

Junior Galette is still looking for his first full sack since becoming a member of the Redskins. He had one wiped away due to a penalty in the season opener. Galette had two sacks against Kansas City in 2012, when a member of the Saints.

8 – The Redskins must be better on special teams. Period. Jamison Crowder (if he plays) has to clean up the fumbles on punt returns. He’s already lost two and last week’s blunder led to seven points. Dustin Hopkins has already missed two 50+ yard field goal attempts and while nobody expects anybody to be perfect in this area – Jay Gruden’s thought process has to be affected.

Last week against Oakland, when Hopkins missed a 52-yard attempt, the Raiders took over possession at their own 42. In a tight game, I’m not sure how you trust a 50 + yard attempt on Monday night. I wouldn’t. This could affect play-calling on THIRD AND FOURTH downs in certain spots.

9 – Per NFL Next Gen Stats, the Redskins should have an advantage against the Chiefs secondary, especially if Crowder can play. Marcus Peters, the Chiefs lights-out left corner, should match-up most of the time with Josh Doctson. Terrelle Pryor lines up on the left side 63% of the time and should mostly draw the coverage of RCB Terrance Mitchell.

Crowder lines up in the slot 67% of the time so far this year. The Chiefs have allowed 271 receiving yards to slot receivers and 216 yards to receivers lined up on the left in 2017.

10 – The Redskins are averaging 33:23 in time of possession and have out-gained opponents by average net yards, 373.7 to 272.0. They've been much better on first-down running plays and their overall commitment to the run. 

Running the football well, will be crucial again. Per John Keim of ESPN with help from ESPN Stats & Info,  the Chiefs have allowed five or more yards on 37% of opponents’ rushing attempts this year. Only three teams are worse in the NFL entering week four.

 Clearly, both are going to be important, but they must avoid coming up empty in the red-zone and in points (the aforementioned field goal attempts), if the Redskins are to pull the upset. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (www.DCHotRead.com).  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN    





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