Redskins-Rams: Key matchups for Sunday’s game

The Redskins on Sunday take on a familiar opponent in the St. Louis Rams, whom they have faced the past four seasons, posting a 2-2 record.

Right tackle Tyler Polumbus will be charged with protecting quarterback Robert Griffin III from Rams defensive end Chris Long. (The Washington Post/John McDonnell)

As they prepared for Sunday’s game, some Redskins joked that it almost seemed like the Rams should be in their division considering they play so often. But at the same time, Washington’s players were preparing to face a very different St. Louis team now that Jeff Fisher has taken over as coach.

 Linebacker London Fletcher said the Rams have started to improve under Fisher’s leadership and appear to play harder now.

 The Rams lack playmakers on offense, where quarterback Sam Bradford is trying to rebound from a disappointing season and live up to his status as the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft. But St. Louis’ defense isn’t bad. Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan noted the additions of cornerbacks Cortland Finnegan and Janoris Jenkins and said that, despite their loss last week to the Lions, Fisher has the team on course for a turnaround.

 “When you take a look at the game against Detroit, you take a look at three interceptions in your secondary and one for a touchdown,” Shanahan said. “They’re ahead of the Lions with 15 seconds to go in the game. That’s when they score and the Lions have got to go two 80-yard drives to beat the Rams, especially in Detroit, who is supposed to have an excellent football team. They played extremely hard. They should’ve won the football game and lost in the last second. That kind of gives you an idea how much those defensive backs have helped their defense on their football team.”

 Redskins RT Tyler Polumbus vs. Rams DE Chris Long: Polumbus will draw the assignment of trying to stop the Rams’ top pass-rusher, who recorded 13 sacks last season. Polumbus also must be on-point as he tries to neutralize Long in the run game, because a fair amount of action could be coming that way. Of the Redskins’ 43 run plays last week against the Saints, 25 went to the right for 80 of the team’s 153 rushing yards.

 Redskins ILBs London Fletcher/Perry Riley vs. Rams RB Steven Jackson: Jackson’s production likely will be very telling. If Jackson, who has ripped off seven consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, can consistently gain yardage, the Rams’ offense operates much more effectively, and the pressure eases on Sam Bradford, who has limited weapons to work with.

 Redskins TE Fred Davis vs. Rams linebackers: The Rams’ linebackers struggled to defend tight ends when they faced Detroit last week. The Lions’ tight ends combined to record 12 catches for 126 yards against the Rams last week. That could translate into a big game for Davis, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen. Production from those three could be key for the Redskins, who will need players to step up if wide receiver Pierre Garcon is unable to play because of a foot injury.

 Redskins defensive line vs. Rams offensive line: The Redskins’ defensive linemen did well against the Saints and were active in limiting both New Orleans’ running and passing games. The Rams have a battered offensive line that is missing its starting center and could be without their left guard and left tackle as well. The Redskins’ defensive players have aspirations of progressing from good to elite. If those goals are realistic, they should be able to put on a dominant performance Sunday.

 Redskins WR Josh Morgan vs. Rams CB Cortland Finnegan: Morgan last week had one catch for 21 yards on two targets in his first game as a Redskin. He was signed this spring to help upgrade Washington’s receiver position. With Garcon either sidelined or limited for this game, the opportunity arises for Morgan to have an impact in the passing game. He could face a tough challenge, however, as he likely will draw the coverage of Finnegan, who last week recorded an interception (returned 31 yards for a touchdown) to go with two pass breakups and 10 tackles.

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