At 2-4, the Washington Redskins would like to move closer to .500 before their bye week. Their opponent Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, are 2-3 and are coming off a bye.
Here are some key matchups to watch in this week’s game.
- Washington ILBs Keenan Robinson/Perry Riley vs. Tampa Bay RBs Doug Martin/Charles Sims
Robinson, Riley and their fellow defenders have struggled against the run in the past two games, but they need to rebound this week. Doug Martin, enjoying a resurgence after two down years, leads the Bucs with 405 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 90 carries (4.5 yards per carry) and also has a receiving touchdown. The Redskins also must be disciplined in defending the screen pass. Speedy back Charles Sims is averaging 13.8 yards per reception and leads the Bucs with 190 yards after the catch.
- Washington TE Jordan Reed vs. Tampa Bay FS Bradley McDougal
The Redskins received welcome news Thursday evening when they learned that the independent neurologist cleared Reed for action. With Reed sidelined the last two weeks with a concussion, Washington has struggled to move the ball, particularly on third downs. The team has also missed his size in red zone situations. Tampa free safety Bradley McDougal will have his hands full as he tries to neutralize the third-year tight end, who has produced first downs on 18 of his 24 receptions.
- Washington CBs Bashaud Breeland/Will Blackmon vs. Tampa Bay WRs Mike Evans/Vincent Jackson
It looked as if Washington’s secondary would struggle mightily without DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver, but Breeland and Blackmon contained Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Roddy White, and last week matched up well with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Breeland has four takeaways (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) in the last two games. This week they face a pair of imposing receivers in the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans and the 6-5, 230-pound Jackson. Jackson leads Tampa Bay with 20 catches for 306 yards and two touchdowns. He has 17 first-down catches. Evans and Jameis Winston still are working on their connection. Evans has 13 catches on 33 targets for 174 yards. Last season, Evans punished the Redskins with seven catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns.
- Washington RG Brandon Scherff vs. Tampa Bay DT Gerald McCoy
The rookie guard will face off with linemate Trent Williams’ former college teammate and close friend, McCoy, who leads the Bucs with 4.5 sacks. A force both in the pass-rushing and run-stopping department, McCoy will lead a charge that aims to turn the Redskins into a one-dimensional attack. Scherff has been solid this regular season, but last week against the Jets, he had some trouble defending stunts. He and right tackle Morgan Moses must communicate effectively and quickly recognize their assignments to avoid getting caught out of position. Meanwhile, on the other side of the offensive line, Washington gets a welcome return as Williams also has received clearance to play after a week on the sideline with a concussion. Williams will face off with defensive end Jacquies Smith, who has four sacks this season.
- Washington FS Dashon Goldson, LBs Ryan Kerrigan, Trent Murphy vs. Tampa Bay QB Jameis Winston
Washington’s defense hasn’t traditionally done well against rookie quarterbacks. They are 2-3 against the past five rookie quarterbacks taken No. 1. They’re not taking Winston lightly. Goldson and his fellow defensive backs will try to disguise their coverages and force Winston, who has seven touchdown passes and seven interceptions, into mistakes. Meanwhile, the guys up front will try to harass Winston and keep him from settling into a rhythm. Kerrigan and Murphy have yet to have a consistent impact. Winston has been sacked 11 times in five games, and the Redskins will try to add to that total.
- Washington RBs Alfred Morris/Matt Jones vs. Tampa Bay defensive front
Plenty of pressure is on Kirk Cousins following a fourth multiple-interception game. Getting the running game going is the best way to help Cousins. Anemic in back-to-back weeks, the run was supposed to serve as the foundation for the offense. Alfred Morris, Matt Jones and their linemen have to make an impact. The Bucs surrender 120.4 rushing yards a game, which ranks 25th in the NFL.