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First-and-Ten: Can Redskins Slow Down the Saints?

November 17, 2017
The (4-5) Washington Redskins head to the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana this Sunday at 1 PM Eastern to take on the red-hot and resurgent Saints, who have not lost since week two.

The (7-2) Saints are off a drubbing of the Buffalo Bills, 47 – 9 in Western New York for their seventh straight win.

Washington lost at FedExField last week to the Minnesota Vikings and were gashed in every way by the Vikings offense, except for a couple of takeaways in the second half.

Now, we look at this very important NFC matchup and what the Redskins need to do to once again, shock the world.

First, our “Monumental Matchup” as part of our “First-and-Ten” feature.


Our “Monumental Matchup” focuses on the Redskins ability or probably inability and lack of desire to run the football the way the Saints have all year.

We broke down the New Orleans rejuvenated ground attack in “Inside the Numbers” from every angle and make no mistake about it, their success this year on both sides of the ball, is largely because of their emphasis and success on the ground. 

In order to have a good chance at winning Sunday, the Redskins are going to have to run the ball. Period.

It will be Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson and newly signed running back Byron Marshall to lead the way with Perine being the work-horse back and Thompson trying to shake it up.

My buddy, J.P. Finlay of NBC Sports Washington pointed out that the Saints racked up more rushing yards in their win last week (298) than the Redskins have had combined over the last four games (256)!

That must, obviously, change this week. Perine, once again, showed a few signs of life last week against the Vikings running for 35 yards on nine attempts, with a long rush of nine yards. Most importantly, he did not have any ball security issues and converted on a fourth-and-inches attempt (four yards) inside the Minnesota – 5.

The Redskins did run the ball 27 times last week, which is more than I thought they would but Minnesota and New Orleans both struggle a bit to stop the run.

The Saints have allowed 110.9 rushing yards per game and a whopping 4.71 rushing yards per play. That’s third-worst in the NFL.

Needless to say, the Redskins run game needs to be effective.

And Ten …

1 – The Saints and the Redskins are the two top teams in the NFL in screen-pass yardage gained, per ESPN NFL Matchup

The Saints have 295 yards and the Redskins have 264. They both easily out-distance the # 3 team (Carolina) but the difference between New Orleans and Washington is this – the Saints average 6.7 yards per screen pass/play. The Redskins are at 10.6 per screen.

Everybody’s definition of a screen is a bit different. Are we talking check-downs underneath or designed screens? There’s a difference in my mind. The Saints are more of a designed natural running back screen team where the Redskins are generally a varied screen team (more than just running backs) and check-down to backs more than anything.

Obviously Chris Thompson’s 74-yard screen against Oakland is a part of why there’s such a great disparity between the two teams, but it’s important to note how New Orleans does it and why they have had so much success over the years.

Last week, Perine had a 25-yard catch-and-run on a screen and has been getting better and better. Please, please, please make this a bigger part of what you do on Sunday and every week, Jay Gruden.

2 – Catching footballs – Much like the screen game, a drop is often in the eye of the beholder. Here’s what I know – the Redskins have too many of them.

For instance, only has Jamison Crowder at one drop on the year, while Vernon Davis, Ryan Grant and Terrelle Pryor are each listed with two. Again, a drop is subjective depending on who is doing the judging and that’s why you don’t see it as an official statistic.

Josh Doctson has one listed. Was that his non-catch in the back of the end zone against Kansas City? A very tough play but probably one he should make? Or was it the very easy drop on a critical 3 rd-and-7 against Dallas in the rain?

3 –  The Redskins have been OK on third down but nowhere near good enough. Great offenses are in the low to mid 40’s in terms of percent. The Redskins are at 37.1% and because they went for it on fourth down last week FIVE separate times, they are now 5-of-9.

Washington is # 22 overall on third down. That’s because they can’t and don’t run the ball, along with too many drops.

4 – Execution in red zone & scoring first  - The Redskins have scored points on seven-of-nine opening drives this season. If they can do that Sunday, it would tie the awful 2014 team for the most opening drive scores (both touchdowns and field goals) for a single season high since at least 1999.

They have four touchdowns (including last week’s brilliant catch by Maurice Harris) and three field goals.

5 – Junior Galette – The former Saint makes his return to New Orleans where his career blossomed and took a major turn for the worse. The Redskins have received mixed results from Galette in his first season of play for Washington (after missing the last two years with injury).

If there’s a game for clean revenge, it has to be this one for Galette. He has 12 combined tackles and only one sack, but had one taken away because of defensive offsides and he does have six quarterback hits per NFLGSIS.

Galette signed a big deal with the Saints and because of anger issues and problems off-the-field was released. It was ugly and as long as he plays under control, this could be the game Galette breaks out.

If he lines up on the right side of the Skins defense, he’ll draw a matchup with athletic left tackle, Terron Armstead. I would try to get Galette on the left side as much as possible against rugged first round pick, Ryan Ramczyk, who is a better run blocker than pass protector.

6 – Pass rush pressure & 3 step drop – The Redskins did not have a single sack last week, the first time since their week nine loss in New England, way back in 2015. That obviously can’t happen again this week. It wasn’t even no sacks, but it was a complete lack of sustained rush, especially from the interior without Matt Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen.

Per PFF, the Redskins “generated just 10 total pressures” with Preston Smith leading the way at three (QB hit and two hurries) along with Ziggy Hood and Galette having multiple pressures.

The Redskins  have been very good at getting after opposing quarterbacks this year as a whole and have applied the most pressure by percentage in the NFL this year at 32.7%.

The problem is that Drew Brees is very good at getting rid of the football quickly. With only eight sacks allowed, and a 94.4 passer rating (31-34) on passes with a three-step drop, the Redskins are going to be challenged even more than normal.

Can you not blitz at all? No. Can you get home? You have to by maybe overloading either the A or B gap and trying to break down the Saints protection.

7 – Tackling Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram will be huge if the Redskins have a chance. Per NFL NextGenStats, when Kamara faces a “loaded” box (defined as defenders in the box outnumber blockers), he has SEVEN 5+ yard gains. Ingram has FOUR such runs.

The Saints are fourth in the NFL in most rush yards after contact at 556, behind the Cowboys, Jaguars and Eagles, per NFL Matchup on ESPN.

It goes without saying that the Redskins are going to crowd the line of scrimmage and the box area. They must make tackles when they have numbers and when they have a chance. Especially Martrell Spaight and edge players like Ryan Kerrigan and Preston Smith.

8 –  As you would probably figure, the Saints lead the NFL in the most short throws at the line of scrimmage or behind the line of scrimmage.  Drew Brees and New Orleans have 97 easily out-distancing Alex Smith, who comes in at # 2 and 85 such passes. 

That doesn’t mean they can’t stretch the field. With the Redskins likely having to cheat and jump the box area, Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland probably won’t have a lot of safety help and if they do, it will be a single-high brand. Can’t you just see a coverage bust off the line of scrimmage or a jump ball outside the numbers and a battle going the wrong way for the Redskins?? Whether it’s Ted Ginn or Michael Thomas (59 – 662, 2 TD), it really doesn’t matter. Probably Ginn, who has 29 receptions for 483 yards and three scores.

9 – The Redskins special teams didn’t execute an onside kickoff late last week but that was really their only negative last week. Nick Rose was 3/3 on field-goal attempts with a long of 56 late in the fourth quarter. He also connected on three extra point attempts.

Tress Way had a 52-yard punt in his only attempt. Jamison Crowder did not fumble once, which is a major victory. 

The Redskins averaged 26.0 yards per kick return on four attempts, split between Chris Thompson, Maurice Harris and Samaje Perine, which is about as good as you can ask for this group.

In other words, for a second consecutive week, the unit did not have any major issues and cost the Redskins, which is a cause for celebration, especially after the “Dallas Debacle.”

10 – Flushing last week and playing with a sense of urgency will be of extreme importance this week. Nobody is giving them a chance again and as I’ve always said – this Redskins team is terrible at handling prosperity (coming off a huge win) and great at handling adversity (coming off a frustrating loss).

The Redskins weren’t happy with practice last week and I’m sure that led to a different level of crispness this week that hopefully will translate better.

For some reason, I have confidence in this Redskins team in these spots where they should probably lose.

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 (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN