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Need to Know: Five players who must step up for the Redskins to beat the Steelers

Sep 11, 2016, 5:45 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, September 11, one day before the Washington Redskins open their season against the Pittsburgh Steelers.


Today’s schedule: Walkthrough at Redskins Park, no media availability

—The Redskins last played a game that counted 245 days ago. It will be one day until they host the Steelers in their 2016 season opener.

Days until: Cowboys @ Redskins 7; Browns @ Redskins 21; Redskins @ Ravens 28

Five Redskins who will need to step up to beat the Steelers

QB Kirk Cousins—The quick scouting report on the Steelers is that they have a shaky secondary but a fierce pass rush (third in the NFL in sacks in 2015). Last year Cousins was very good when he was not under pressure but his efficiency dropped when the pass rush started to get to him (35th among 37 QBs with at least 200 pass plays per Football Outsiders). He will need to continue to be efficient when he has time to throw but he inevitably will find himself with defenders in his face from time to time. Cousins will need to step up and make some plays while dealing with the rush.

RB Matt Jones—He has been groomed to be the lead dog at running back all offseason. But his injury opened the door for undrafted rookie Robert Kelley to make a case that he is a viable alternative. If Jones wants to establish himself as starting NFL running back it starts on Monday with him perhaps grinding through some pain to deliver a solid performance.

G Brandon Scherff—If the Redskins are going to run the ball at all—and they likely will have to do it some if they are going to win—they will have to control Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt. He can be a one-man wrecking crew on either outside or inside runs. The favored alignment for him is in a three technique on the left side, which puts him over the outside shoulder of Scherff. The No. 5 pick in last year’s draft will need to take another step towards showing he was worth that selection by keeping Tuitt under control.

CB Bashaud Breeland—Breeland likely will spend some of the night on Antonio Brown as the coaches have said that Josh Norman will not trail the NFL’s best receiver wherever he lines up. But the real pressure on Breeland will come when he is guarding the Steelers’ “other” receiver. With Markus Wheat declared out that will be Sammie Coates with Darrius Heyward-Bey stepping in on occasion. There would be few worse scenarios than the Redskins keeping Brown under control but losing because  Coates has a big day.

S DeAngelo Hall—He played some safety towards the end of last year but the coaches didn’t put too much on him because of his mid-season conversion. At this point safety has been his position all through the offseason program and training camp so he gets the full package. If he is going to prolong his career at safety he needs to get off to a good start tonight. Hall needs to be assignment perfect and serve as a last line of defense to prevent Big Ben from racking up quick scores to Brown, Coates, or the speedy Hayward-Bey.

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  1. redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 5:56 AM

    It’s hard to argue with the five you have selected. I generally find, you’re only as strong as your weakest link so everyone on the field needs to play well.

    As someone pointed out this week, Jones did not lower his shoulder prior to his injury; it’s hard to imagine he’s going to do it now.

    I have a feeling that Compton, who needs to get the communication right, as Big Ben executes no huddle, is going to be critical. Same go for Lichtensteiger, to help Cousins recognize how the Steelers have lined up, so that Kirk effectively audibles at line of scrimmage.

    As far as individual match-ups, I would also highlight Phillips or whomever covers slot receiver Eli Rogers.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:34 PM

      Jones didn’t lower his should in preseason games??? Wow, time to panic!

    • David Brinegar - Sep 11, 2016 at 4:57 PM

      I agree. First Jones got hurt because he doesn’t know how to fall. The defender landed on him with his side, basically folding his shoulders together. You have to turn as or before you hit the ground.

      Lots of important guys, but Compton is near the top. Our OL as a group is in trouble. Not sure you can even single one or two out. And more important than breeland is Norman. If he doesn’t force the issue the safeties can’t help out on the third wr.

  2. redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    I keep hearing we have 7 new starters on defense — I know of four / five — Bruton, Norman, Golston, Hood and one could include Hall (started to transition to new position toward end of last season). Who are the two I am missing?

    • sidepull - Sep 11, 2016 at 6:51 AM

      Spaight, Cravens?

      • redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 7:13 AM

        Aren’t Compton and Foster starting over Spaight and Cravens?

        Depending on the package, we may have Golston or Phillips on the field; don’t feel this should count as two because that would be “double counting” the number of new starters.

        • rtcwon - Sep 11, 2016 at 11:50 AM

          They’re counting Compton/Foster as new starters over Robinson/Riley week 1 last year.

        • Rich Tandler - Sep 11, 2016 at 11:57 AM

          While you’re at it you could count Preston Smith as a hew starter. Murphy had 15 starts at ROLB, Smith had one.

        • redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:14 PM

          Thanks! Re Robinson / Riley vs. Compton / Foster and Murphy vs. Smith

        • bangkokben - Sep 11, 2016 at 2:21 PM

          Breeland wasn’t an opening day starter last year either. If you are counting opening day starters then the new ones are: Hood, Golston, Smith, Compton, Foster, Norman, Bruton, Breeland, and Hall in a different position. NINE!

  3. sidepull - Sep 11, 2016 at 6:50 AM

    Fierce pass rush. I dont like the sound of that. Reed, Djax, screens to Jones, Thompson…..make em pay. Our pass catchers need to step up and make em pay. No dropped balls, no fumbles. Burn em.

  4. colorofmyskinz - Sep 11, 2016 at 7:29 AM

    Agreed with all of these. Jones in paticular. If he is going to start he needs to run violently because that is his style. If he gingers his shoulder it will not fair well for him. If he starts, he needs to run within his style.

    If running is not working, then he or whoever is the RB on the field needs to be assignment perfect on when to pick up blitz, on who and at what pad level. This will be absolutely critical with their rush to give Cousins the time to take advantage of our pass catchers.

    If Reed is on the field, and his number is NOT called, he needs to step up big time and show he can either help the run or protect the QB. These are areas he has struggled with in a huge way. He needs to show he has a purpose on the field when he is not intended to catch the pass.

    Kory is going to be overwhelmed with pressure. I watched him in the preseason get pushed into Cousins when Cousins was 10 yards behind his other OLinemen that were actually going forward. This will be critical that Kory can hold the line like the rest of the line if we expect Cousins to manage the pressure and find our world class receivers. As well on running plays Kory needs to be moving forward like the rest of the line does, not slammed into the ground or pressed backward like we also saw in preseason against even second stringers. Kory was a big miss on this list to step up.

    Kedric needs to tackle Williams and RBs. He can’t just be present. He has to find running backs coming his way and be the primary tackler.

    Whoever is opposite of Baker need to get to Big Ben and take him down. Bake will get double teams allowing the other side opportunities. Whoever that is they need to take advantage of no double team and get to Big Ben and not just leave that up to the OLBs.

    Preston needs to show better flexibility similar to a Demarcus ware or Von Miller. When those guys are coming around the edge, their bodies are almost at a 25 degree angle from the ground and they are very low to the ground. Then they use their flexibility to explode from that low position to get an arm on the QB. Preston needs to get lower more flexible and show explosion to be that feared rusher.

    Kerrigan needs to be a relevant outside edge rushing threat to give Prestons looks to take Big Ben down. Kerrigan holds his edge but has not been edge rushing well. He needs to show that the stealers need to be concerned about him of Preston will never get there.

    Dhall needs to show he can tackle period. So many plays in preseason of him just holding on to a guy with a ball hoping one of his defensive brothers will be the tackler. He needs to be a tackler if he is going to occupy a position with an S in it period. No more holding on to a guy with a ball and being just a waiter, TACKLE it is in his role, he needs to show he can do it.

    Did I miss anyone?

    Com’on Skins! Show the Monday night viewers you deserve to be feared!!

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:45 PM

      Jones style has NEVER been to run violently. Just because he has the size of Marshall Lynch doesn’t make him the same type of runner. This guy is fast and elusive for his size which is what makes him exceptional. If he followed your and some other fans demands on how to run then he’d never succeed. He needs to run lower but doesn’t always need to lower his shoulder to take a hit when he can dodge one.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:47 PM

      Dude, anytime Reed steps on the field for a pass play, his number is called. He is the best and most consistent threat on offense. I can live with him not being an elite blocker. That is NOT primary role. Someone that good can live with defincies in other areas. Many elite players are not fully rounded. Reed is elite, period!

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:49 PM

      I’m totally with your regarding the Center situation. It’s a MAJOR concern and Cousins well being may depend on it.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:52 PM

      I again agree with you on Baker. I think teams will start double teaming him assuming he is the biggest threat on the line. I wish we could have put Preston Smith on the other end with Galette at OLB. That would have been a seriously string pass rush w/ Kerrigan and Baker on the other side. Okay, I digress but it’s hard to imagine what type of pass rush we could have had with Galette. No frustrating that he goes out two years in a row before even stepping into a game.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:54 PM

      Regarding that 25 degree angle, I think you are mixing Preston Smith up with Galette. They are not the same player. Smith gets free with great hand techique and surprising strength for a guy his size. He is NOT an edge rushing and NEVER will be.

    • redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 1:01 PM

      I think you missed Normand and Breeland! They both to provife coverage at a high level to compensate for a weak Dline. Big Ben won’t even go down with some of those guys pursuing on their own. Baker can get him down on his own and maybe Hood which I still won’t carry much hope on since he only looked good in preseason.

  5. garg8050 - Sep 11, 2016 at 7:35 AM

    I think the ‘Skins will open the game with a quick, short passing game to get Kirk into a rhythm and to counter the pass rush. WR screens, option routes to Reed, etc. Especially if the running game struggles early. With the Steelers offense as prolific as it is, the ‘Skins can’t afford too many 3-and-outs. Once the offense starts to get into a rhythm, then we’ll see some of the play-action and deeper routes. I’d like to see Kirk make some plays off schedule, step up in the pockets, and use his legs when needed. He’s more athletic than he plays sometimes.

    • redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 7:36 AM

      This is what I am hoping for.

    • dcfaninecuador - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:30 PM

      Gee… If you “know” what the skins are gonna do, don’t you think the Steelers might have a clue as well?

  6. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 11, 2016 at 7:49 AM

    Steelers defensive end Stephon Tuitt, the player who went just before Trent Murphy in the 2014 draft.

  7. troylok - Sep 11, 2016 at 9:05 AM

    I watched a little Steelers’ preseason and I was not impressed with the play of the offensive line. I realize in the preseason it is all plain vanilla offense, but blocking is blocking and those guys up front had some issues. Having said that, I think the guy who needs to have a big game is Preston Smith. He can get to the QB in this game and he needs to make the most of it. If the defense doesn’t end up with at least five sacks, it will be a poor showing.

    • redskins12thman - Sep 11, 2016 at 9:12 AM

      This would delightfully surprise me. I believe the Steelers have a very solid offensive line, Ben generally has a quick release and even if we manage to get to him in an expeditious manner, he’s one of the hardest to bring down.

      • ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© - Sep 11, 2016 at 9:30 AM

        Football Outsiders has Pittsburgh at number 8 for 2015 in both run blocking and pass protection..

        (We were 21 and 10, according to them.)

  8. redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:31 PM

    That is a solid list of players that need to step up for a win Monday. I think Cousins will have a very good game and I hope the staff lets him work down field more. He can rip up this defense which is a shell of the defense it once was in the NFL.

  9. redskinsnameisheretostay - Sep 11, 2016 at 12:33 PM

    This will be a fairly high scoring affair IMO. I’m not sure where the score lands but I at least expect high twenties for both teams.

  10. bug ace - Sep 11, 2016 at 11:29 PM

    Not the steel curtain no chance Steelers win 27 14

  11. Michelle Briggs - Sep 12, 2016 at 1:44 AM


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