The Washington Redskins take on the New York Jets Sunday and hope to pick up back-to-back victories for only the second time this season.
The vibe around Redskins Park this week has been one of overall encouragement. The offense has finally started to click and generate big plays. The defense got stops against Seattle and had a solid outing.
Now, can the Redskins build on last week’s win, which looks a bit more impressive considering the Seahawks have now won three out of four and whooped up on the Eagles Thursday night? Can Washington pull off another solid outing against a 6-5 Jets team that’s favored by three points, or was the display in Seattle simply a brief escape from the norm?
Here are five storylines to follow in this week’s game.
1.) Roy Helu’s encore – For the first time in six weeks, the Redskins had a potent rushing attack Sunday, and they will look to Helu to provide similar spark and balance. Helu rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown last week, and posted 54 receiving yards. The Jets likely will focus much of their attention on stopping Helu to force Rex Grossman to throw often. But if Helu can help in a variety of ways, it will help keep New York off-balance and pave the way for a more effective offensive attack.
2.) Pressure on Sanchez – The Redskins’ defense will have a similar mind-set: Stop running backs Shonn Greene, Joe McKnight and LaDainian Tomlinson so quarterback Mark Sanchez has to shoulder a heavier load. Washington’s defensive players believe if they can do this, they’ll have an easier time overwhelming the young quarterback and forcing him into mistakes.
3.) Ball security – Rex Grossman’s teammates say he is playing with more confidence this time around. The quarterback is determined to block out any negatives and remain in an aggressive mode. But he does need to recognize the need to do a better job of taking care of the ball, especially against a talented secondary that features ball-hawking cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie. The Redskins have turned the ball over at least once in 25 consecutive games. That’s not exactly the mark of a successful team.
4.) Field goal execution – This has been a problem all season. Last week featured the low-point, with both a field goal and extra point blocked. The Redskins have allowed five blocks this season (four field goals and one extra point). Graham Gano has had five other misses. Of all of the units on the team, this one needs to have a good game or some changes could be made.
5.) Struggling secondary – With New York boasting some talented pass-catchers in receivers Plaxico Burress and Santonio Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller, the pressure will be on Washington’s secondary to provide strong coverage. There could be opportunities for cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson to make plays, but the safety position is less-than-stable right now, with LaRon Landry (groin) and Oshiomogho Atogwe (knee, toe) banged up, so there’s also the potential for breakdowns in the secondary. Hall and Wilson are coming off solid games, and safeties Reed Doughty and DeJon Gomes could see a lot of action. The defensive backs must step up.