The Washington Football Team is coming off of a 30-15 Week 2 loss at the hands of the Arizona Cardinals this past Sunday. Washington once again got off to a slow start, down 20-0 at the half, but this time, they couldn’t come back like they did Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Dwayne Haskins and the offense struggled mightily in the first half, but looked better late as the Cardinals sat back on defense. Kyler Murray led the Cardinals high-octane attack and made some big plays against the Washington secondary, while containing the pass rush.
Last week’s questions were headlined by the running game, which looked a lot better in Week 2. Some of it could be attributed to being down early, but Antonio Gibson ran well between the tackles, while J.D. McKissic carried Washington to its first points of the game. Gibson had 13 carries for 55 yards, while McKissic had eight rushes for 53 in a balanced attack.
This week, Washington welcomes the 1-1 Cleveland Browns, who are coming off of a 35-30 Thursday night victory against the Cincinnati Bengals. Similar to the Cardinals, the Browns have a pair of star receivers in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry. However, this team is lead by pair of running backs in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. Washington will have their hands full in containing the running game, and limited damage by the wide receivers. Here are the five questions heading into an important Week 3 matchup.
Five Week 3 Questions for the Washington Football Team, Featuring Dwayne Haskins
1. Getting Off To a Fast Start
Washington has been throttled in the first half of their first two games, even in the win against the Eagles. In the first half, Washington has been outscored 37-7, with the only points coming in the final two minutes of the half in Week 1. This means Washington has yet to score a first-half point until the two-minute warning. There are many factors that lead into this as Dwayne Haskins has not been accurate early in games, they have yet to commit to a running game, and the defense has gotten off to rough starts in the first two weeks. Part of this could fall on the shoulders of Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner, who has acknowledged the need to get into a rhythm early in games.
Getting on the board first could also keep Washington out of passing situations later in the game to help a vulnerable offensive line. Staying out of these obvious passing down can allow Washington to contain Myles Garrett off the edge and keep him honest with play-action and misdirection. Through two games, Washington leads the NFL in sacks with 11. Being up early also allows for the Browns to veer away from the running game, and allow Jack Del Rio to unleash the vaunted pass rush. Given all of these potential benefits, it is imperative for Washington to get on the board early against the Cleveland Browns.
2. Get Dwayne Haskins into a Rhythm
Hand and hand with question one, Dwayne Haskins must get into a rhythm early against the Browns. Haskins has struggled with his footwork early on in the first two games, causing him to miss many open receivers. In Week 1, Haskins started three for 12 passing, and he missed a few open receivers in Week 2 such as Dontrelle Inman on third and two. Later in the game, when Washington moved to a no-huddle, Haskins began to look more comfortable, so it will be interesting to see if Washington ups the tempo early on. Another possibility would be to open up the offense early and take some shots downfield. This could push Karl Joseph and Andrew Sendejo out of the box, which could help establish the run.
In addition to playcalling and Dwayne Haskins, the offensive line has to also hold up early against the Browns. Geron Christian held his own for the most part against Chandler Jones, but he still struggled at various points. Giving Haskins more time could allow Scott Turner to open up the deep ball in the playbook.
3. Preventing the Big Play
Last week was a week to forget for Troy Apke. Apke allowed a big 54-yard play to Andy Isabella, and missed a few tackles on the elusive Kyler Murray. On the big play, Apke got caught looking in on a crossing route, and Isabella ran right past him. In Week 1, Ronald Darby got beat by Jalen Reagor on a deep ball early in the game as well. Last week, Beckham had a 43-yard touchdown against the Bengals, and Jarvis Landry has chunk yardage potential as well. Although Washington has limited the big yards after catch plays, there have been missed tackles in the secondary that could prove costly this week.
Washington does get help in the secondary this week as Kendall Fuller is expected to return after missing the first two weeks with a knee injury. Fuller will most likely replace either Fabian Moreau or Darby on the outside, although he could move inside in place of Jimmy Moreland in some situations. However, it will be a tall task for Washington to contain Beckham, Landry, and Austin Hooper if the Browns offensive line plays like it has the past two weeks, giving up only one sack.
4. Containing the Browns Two-Headed Monster in the Backfield
Although Cleveland is known for its star receivers, they are led by an excellent duo in the backfield in Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb. Hunt has started to look like his old self thus far as he had 72 yards in Week 1 and 86 yards in Week 2. Paired with Hunt, Chubb rushed for 124 yards in Week 1 and 6.0 yards per carry in Week 2. Behind a revamped offensive line, with rookie Jedrick Willis at left tackle, both of these tailbacks pose a large threat to the Washington defense.
Washington has contained the well run thus far, outside of 67 yards by Kyler Murray, with just 57 rush yards in Week 1 and 93 in Week 2 (not including Murray). Facing Baker Mayfield, Washington does not need to give as much attention to the designed quarterback runs, or scrambles on passing plays. Although Washington has a highly touted pass rush, Chase Young and Montez Sweat set the edge well with Da’Ron Payne is a force in the interior. Tim Settle could have a bigger role this week as well.
5. Establish the Running Game
While stopping the run is important for Washington on defense, it is equally important for Washington to establish the run on offense. After struggling in Week 1, with Peyton Barber leading the team in carries, Washington looked better in Week 2 as Gibson and McKissic combined for 108 yards on the ground. A surprising development was the ability of Antonio Gibson to run between the tackles as he ran hard in the first quarter before Washington got away from him. With the Browns sub-par linebacking core, a running game could open up play-action for Haskins and eventually a shot to McLaurin.
Supplementing the ground game, short passes to running backs could also open up the field for Haskins. Washington has a pair of mismatches, Gibson and McKissic, but they have yet to deploy them in the air attack. McKissic and Gibson have combined for four catches and just six yards through two games. With two running back sets, it would be interesting to see if Scott Turner would utilize the halfback screen more with the aforementioned Cleveland linebacking group.
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