The Washington Post

Redskins-Rams: Five storylines to follow Sunday

The Washington Redskins face the St. Louis Rams on Sunday with the hopes of opening the season with a 2-0 record.

Brian Orakpo, Stephen Bowen and the Redskins sacked Rams quarterback Sam Bradford seven times in their meeting last season. (Associated Press).

 The Redskins enter the game as three-point favorites over the Rams, who have suffered eight straight losses dating from last season.

 This is the fifth consecutive season in which Washington has played St. Louis. The Redskins have gone 2-2 against the Rams in their four previous meetings.

 Here are five storylines to follow Sunday.

 1. Expansion of the playbook: The Redskins gave the Saints a lot of looks last week, but they haven’t come close to exhausting the playbook. Quarterback Robert Griffin III again will be the focal point. The Rams have the benefit of being able to study film from the season opener, but offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will throw a number of wrinkles into the gameplan this week.

 2. Run defense: A big game from running back Steven Jackson would go a long way toward helping the Rams to victory, so a week after limiting the Saints to 32 rushing yards, Washington again will try to shut down the run. That puts more pressure on St. Louis quarterback Sam Bradford, who has few weapons to work with.

 3. Garcon’s status: Wide receiver Pierre Garcon made his presence felt in the first quarter before injuring his right foot. His status for this week’s game is currently up in the air. If he’s able to go, how effective will he be? If he sits, who steps up in his place? Aldrick Robinson had a strong game last week and could start. But it also could be a player at another position: possibly Fred Davis, Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen. Detroit’s tight ends combined to record 12 catches for 126 yards against the Rams last week.

 4. Morris’ next step: Rookie Alfred Morris had a solid NFL debut, rushing for 96 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints, but he and his offensive linemen believe that they could have been more effective in the running game. Morris still is learning to play in this scheme and aims to trust his quarterback and line more this week while also executing better on his cutbacks at the line.

 5. Special teams: The Redskins have a new long snapper in Eric Snow, and he and punter/holder Sav Rocca have been working to quickly gain comfort with one another as they aim to avoid disruptions on field goal attempts and punts. The Redskins also hope to avoid the special teams gaffes that plagued them in the season opener: missed assignment that led to a blocked punt and Saints touchdown, two fumbles by return man Brandon Banks.

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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