Redskins vs. Steelers: Five areas to monitor ahead of Sunday’s game

October 24, 2012

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins must work in some new pieces on offense this week. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins hit the practice fields today and begin preparation for Sunday’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.

 Washington once again will try to get back to the .500 mark and put a crushing loss to the Giants behind them.

 The Redskins have to scramble on a couple of fronts thanks to injuries and roster moves.

 Here are five areas to monitor in Week 8:

 1.) Cooley’s comeback – The franchise’s all-time leader in receptions by a tight end is back in the fold after an eight-week absence, and Cooley will try to fill the void left by Fred Davis’s season-ending injury. Cooley went through a full offseason program, training camp and preseason, but hasn’t played since the end of the preseason. He insists he’s in shape, but the Redskins won’t really know how game-ready he is until he goes through his first practice today. Cooley says he expects to step in and play a large role. That would mean overtaking Logan Paulsen and Niles Paul for the starting job.

 2.) Fletcher’s health – Inside linebacker London Fletcher missed a significant portion of the second half of Sunday’s game after suffering a hamstring injury. That left a big void – not as much from a play-making perspective, but from a leadership and recognition perspective as Fletcher sets up his teammates in the right positions, calls out opponents’ formations and makes adjustments on the fly. Redskins coaches will monitor his health this week and see if he will be able to play (and keep his streak of 231 straight games played alive), while also prepping Lorenzo Alexander to run the defense with efficiency.

 3.) Williams’s return – The Redskins on Tuesday brought back running back Keiland Williams, who appeared in 15 games as a rookie with the team in 2010 and served as the primary third-down back. Williams is expected to challenge Evan Royster for third-down duties. The LSU product, who spent last season and six games this season with Detroit, is solid in pass coverage, and probably is a little quicker than Royster. He’s currently listed as third on the official depth chart that was released Tuesday, but that could change.

 4.) Pressure on wideouts – The need for someone to step up on the receiving unit already existed, but even more pressure is now placed on the shoulders of Leonard Hankerson, Josh Morgan, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Banks and Dezmon Briscoe. Davis’s injury robbed the Redskins of their only remaining explosive playmaker, and their best threat in the mid-range passing game. Hankerson has good size, but struggles with consistency. Morgan has yet to have an impact after signing as a free agent from San Francisco in the spring. Robinson has good speed, but has been in and out of the lineup, as has Banks. And Briscoe hasn’t capitalized on the few opportunities he has received. Garcon will be evaluated today, but isn’t expected to return this week.

 5.) Planning for Pittsburgh – When it comes to yardage, the Steelers own one of the stingiest defense in the league, ranking first against the pass, and fifth against the run. However, they have recorded only 11 sacks and only seven turnovers all year. And, they allow 22 points a game. The Redskins will work to come up with a plot to mask their increased deficiencies. Which offense will they attack the Steelers with: the option-heavy attack seen last week, or the more traditional scheme with which they also have shown they have an ability to succeed?

 

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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Keith McMillan · October 24, 2012