Though they secured a 27-22 victory with a late-game defensive stand, the Washington Redskins did a poor job of containing Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz last Sunday. The 6-foot-5, 249-pound Ertz caught 10 of his 13 targets for a game-high 112 yards, primarily against safety Duke Ihenacho and linebacker Mason Foster.
Monday night at FedEx Field, the Redskins defense faces a tougher challenge: Carolina Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, who has become Cam Newton’s favorite target this season, with a team-high 65 receptions for 907 yards and three touchdowns.
Olsen, 6 foot 5 and 255 pounds, is coming off back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons and in 2015 set a Panthers record for receiving yards by a tight end, with 1,104. (The most receiving yards Redskins tight end Jordan Reed has had in a single season has been 952, also in 2015.)
“He’s a matchup problem for anyone,” says Redskins safety Will Blackmon said of Olsen. “He’s either too fast for a linebacker or he’s too physical for a defensive back.”
Redskins Coach Jay Gruden, for his part, called Olsen a “matchup nightmare.”
“Somebody has got to step up and cover him, whether it’s [Deshazor] Everett, whether it’s Duke [Ihenacho], whether it’s Donte [Whitner],” Gruden said this week. “Maybe we put a corner on him — maybe it’s [Quinton] Dunbar, maybe it’s [Greg] Toler. But whoever is on him, it’s going to be a great matchup because he’s got the size advantage and he knows how to run every route with precision. … He’s going to get his catches. We just have got to try and limit the big ones. Obviously the red-zone ones are the big targets also.”
In the win over the Eagles, Everett intercepted a Carson Wentz throw intended for Ertz to stave off a first-quarter touchdown and prevent the Redskins’ deficit from getting out of hand early.
Olsen caught one of Newton’s career-high five touchdowns in the Panthers’ 44-16 rout of the Redskins in Week 11 last season.