If you’re in the Washington, D.C. area tonight and want to relax and talk a little football, I’ll be making my annual pilgrimage to the Bier Baron, which, when it was formerly the Brickskellar, was a must-visit place for it’s vast beer menu. It’s very low-key. Just come grab a beer and say hi.
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For this week’s supersized installment of 5 questions, we check in with Rick Maese of the Washington Post, who knows the team as well as anybody.
1. Why has this team gone 2-8 since starting 2-0?
Maese: “The easy answer is injuries. The Redskins needed everything to go right for them to win this season. Five of their Week 1 starters are finished for the year — tight ends Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, running back Tim Hightower, left tackle Trent Williams and guard Kory Lichtensteiger. That’s a lot for any team to overcome. Their depth chart just doesn’t have the depth. It certainly wasn’t helped when Williams and Davis were slapped with four-game suspensions this week for failing multiple drugs tests.
To compound matters, the Redskins midseason quarterback change — from Rex Grossman to John Beck — essentially symbolized the beginning of the end. It came after one bad game against Philadelphia. The locker room preferred Grossman, and after watching Beck a couple of weeks, it was easy to see why.
2. Who is the one Redskins player most Patriots fans don’t know right now, but will by the end of the game on Sunday?
Maese: The Redskins are relying on a pair of rookies — one on each side of the ball. Running back Roy Helu has three strarts and topped 100 yards receiving in the first one and 100 yards rushing each of the past two Sundays. On defense, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is the only player to have played every single snap this season. He’s a natural pass-rusher and leads the Redskins with 6.5 sacks and four forced fumbles.
3. What do the Redskins do well on offense?
Maese: The Redskins have a good, aggressive mix of play-calling. The problem has been, they don’t always have the talent to execute them. But since Grossman returned to the starting rotation, they’ve shown an ability to find a rhythm and move the ball. However, it will be much tougher to do this week without Davis and Williams.
4. Where do you think the Patriots will try to exploit the Redskins’ offense?
Maese: It’s not a difficult formula: Once you stop the run, you force Grossman to pass. And when you’re looking for Grossman to win the game for you, critical errors often follow. The Patriots want to eliminate the running game in the first half, and all they need is the slimmest of leads. In nine games, Grossman has 20 fumbles and five fumbles — compared with just 10 touchdowns.
5. What do the Redskins do well on defense?
Maese: Washington’s front-seven is good, they give a variety of different looks and they have several players who can find the quarterback. Last week against the Jets was the first time this season the Redskins were held without a sack, but they’re still tied for fifth in the league with 33 sacks on the season.
6. Where do you think the Patriots will try to exploit the Redskins’ defense?
Maese: Washington is prone to giving up big plays. As good as cornerback DeAngelo Hall is at times, he still makes costly mistakes. The Redskins hoped they’d bolstered the defensive backfield by pairing Oshiomigho Atogwe with LaRon Landry, but both have been battling injuries this year and the secondary has suffered as a result.
7. Finally, Redskins win on Sunday if….
Maese: Grossman, who’s playing without his blindside blocker (Williams) and favorite target (Davis) outplays Tom Brady. So let’s just say they might need the stars to line up perfectly for that to happen.