The Redskins take to the road for the first time this season, facing the New York Giants, who own a 2-0 record. Washington aims for its second straight win over the Giants after beating them last November. That game snapped a five-game losing streak to the Giants.
The Redskins (4 1/2-point underdogs) have a lot of work to do this week as they try to stop their slide.
Here are five questions facing the Redskins as they get back to work Wednesday:
1. Can Kirk Cousins get right? The quarterback has passed for 693 yards in two games. That’s third most in the league. But those numbers are deceiving. His quarterback rating (78.5) is seventh lowest in the NFL, and Cousins has thrown three interceptions and just one touchdown pass. He isn’t looking like the same sharp passer he was down the stretch of the season. Coach Jay Gruden said the quarterback is probably trying too hard to do too much. The coach and offensive coordinator Sean McVay need to find a way to ease pressure on Cousins and help him regain his top form.
2. Will they commit to the run? Here’s one way to help Cousins. Washington did poorly running the ball in the season opener, and although Matt Jones did better in Week 2, his coaches never seemed intent on using his effectiveness to their advantage. An 89-29 pass-to-run differential through two games is not the key to success for this team. The Redskins must exercise patience and guard against giving up on the ground game too quickly.
3. Can they fix the red-zone struggles? As with other areas of the field, Cousins has struggled inside the 20 as well, completing just 5 of 17 pass attempts. Two of his interceptions have come in the red zone. Washington has attempted only six runs inside the 20 this season. The fade routes haven’t worked. Top red-zone threat Jordan Reed has seen only limited action in this area. Whether it’s schematics or execution, something’s seriously wrong with this area of the offense. Gruden said “we’ve got to go back to the drawing board,” and this is certainly an area that will require some attention this week.
4. How will Joe Barry use Josh Norman? After saying that he would keep Norman on one side of the field and Bashaud Breeland on the other, Joe Barry scrapped those plans midway through the Dallas game and had Norman follow Dez Bryant all over the field. Norman did a good job of limiting Bryant’s production. But who does he cover this week? Obviously, all eyes will lock in on a pairing of Norman and Odell Beckham Jr. But the Giants have other weapons to account for, including Victor Cruz and Sterling Shepard. Which strategy gives the Redskins the best chance for success?
5. Can they fix the third-down woes? Third downs have been a problem area for Washington’s defense. Whether short or long, opponents have had great success converting on these money downs. The Redskins, meanwhile, have hurt themselves with poor tackling, blown coverage assignments and penalties. Washington ranks last in the league in third-down defense, allowing foes to convert 57.7 percent. Add this to the list of areas that Barry must correct this week as he prepares for the Giants, who rank 10th in the league on third downs, boasting a success rate of 48 percent.
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