Key Player Match-Ups
By: The Game Day Staff 
Posted: 2003-09-12
Category: Washington Redskins News
The Redskins head into Atlanta for the second game of 2003, fresh off of their 16-13 victory over the Jets. They will be trying to start the season 2-0 for the first time since 1991. Here are this week's featured match-ups:

Bruce Smith vs. Bob Whitfield
Laveranues Coles vs. Ray Buchanan
Patrick Ramsey vs. Falcons' Secondary
Jeremiah Trotter vs. Falcons' RB's
Champ Bailey vs. Peerless Price

Bruce Smith vs. Bob Whitfield
By Rich Hilts

This can be considered a battle of the anchors of their respective lines. Bob Whitfield has an amazing amount of experience in this league, setting records for consecutive starts for the Atlanta Falcons. He is their offensive line's Rock of Gibraltar, having only missed one game in the past 11 years since becoming their starting left tackle.

Atlanta primarily seems to like to run outside the tackles, and Bob Whitfield is one of the reasons. Running off of left and right tackle, the Falcons last year amassed 951 yards on 185 carries – a healthy 5.1 yard per carry average. The left side, with Whitfield anchoring, is their favorite side, and last Sunday against Dallas reinforced last year's statistics. While running for 4.2 yards per carry to the left on 5 rushes, the middle run produced only 1.6 yards per carry on 11 rushes.

With Bruce being predominantly attuned to munching on quarterbacks, this may possibly be a weakness Atlanta may wish to use to their advantage. If Bruce, who has been known to miss runners due to pursuing the quarterback, gets turned in an obvious passing situation, draws and pitches to the left could be more effective, producing long runs.

If Bruce and George Edwards make adjustments to Bruce’s rush lanes, the runs to the left could be disrupted, leaving the running backs open to being swallowed whole by the linebackers. Keep a watch on the left side of the offensive line to see which situation develops. Look for larger runs to the left early followed by tackles for loss by the linebackers and safeties later in the game.

Advantage: Whitfield

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Laveranues Coles vs. Ray Buchanan
By Frank Hastings

Ray "Big Play" Buchanan is a flamboyant performer who at times has lived up to his nickname. He was named as a Pro Bowl starter following the 1998 season (opposite the loser / cowgirl lover that is Deion Sanders). Originally drafted a third round (65th pick overall, Louisville) draft choice by Indianapolis in 1993, he was signed by Atlanta as a restricted free agent on March 3, 1997.

Buchanan is getting up there in age at 31, but does have 11 years experience. He had a streak of 140 consecutive starts, dating back to his rookie season of 1993, snapped last year in Week 16 due to an abdomen injury. He also got popped with a four-game suspension after last year's season opener for violating the NFL policy on anabolic steroids and related substances. In 12 starts last year he recorded 47 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions (his lowest pick total since '96).

Buchanan must have gotten an upset stomach watching Coles light up the Jet secondary in the first half of last week's contest with 5 receptions for 106 yards (21.2/avg), including a 48 yard gain. Wade Phillips is a good defensive coordinator however and will get Buchanan some safety help on Coles.

Coles is bigger, faster and younger than Buchanan and will win this matchup regardless.

Advantage: Coles

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Patrick Ramsey vs. Falcons Secondary
By Martin Collinson

The popular theory before last weeks season opener was that Redskins would live or die on the arm of QB Pat Ramsey. So the 'Skins went out and ran the ball down the throats of the Jets with biggest play of the night coming when Ramsey (not often confused with injured Atlanta QB Michael Vick) rambled 24 yards to take Washington into range to kick the winning field goal.

It will not be often Ramsey makes his biggest impact running the ball.

Last week the young Redskins' QB was very solid throwing the ball against a decent Jets defense. He went 17-23 for 185 yards with 1td and 1int. Most of those yards came in the first half when Ramsey was nearly perfect going 12-13.

This week he throws against an aggressive Falcons defense which likes to blitz from its base 3-4 alignment putting pressure on both the quarterback and its own secondary who are often in single man coverage - a dangerous thing to do against a team with the speed of the Redskins.

However the Falcons have some injury concerns in their secondary. Both starting safeties, SS Cory Hall and FS Kevin Carpenter, are hurting and are doubtful for Sunday. They are also nicked at CB were both starters are healthy but depth is questionable.

Last week they gave up big pass plays and 254 passing yards against a Dallas team lead by the very average Quincy Carter.

Look for Atlanta to play more zone they would like to and providing the 'Skins can figure out their pass protections Pat Ramsey will have a big day.

Advantage Ramsey

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Jeremiah Trotter vs. Falcons' RB's
By Jake Russell

Jeremiah Trotter came out in the season opener versus the Jets, and was a force with seven tackles. Last Thursday night showed that Trotter feels comfortable going all out with his repaired knees. When he sees an uncovered receiver, pursuit is imminent. Which is good when Dunn lines up at receiver and just so happens to be unmatched. Trotter is faster than Duckett and can match his power. He is now starting to feel comfortable and will continue to improve against a young, fast offense that is grossly inexperienced.

Many people questioned why the Falcons took T.J. Duckett in the 2002 Draft when they had two proven runners in their backfield in career Falcon, the Dirtybird himself, Jamal Anderson and recently added veteran Warrick Dunn, who was acquired that March. Anderson was released a few months later to make way for Duckett. The combination of Duckett and Dunn proved to be pretty effective last year with Dunn having 230 carries for 927 yards and Duckett getting 507 yards on 130 carries. Dunn will also be put in receiving situations as was evident versus Dallas last week. On one specific play, Dunn lined up at receiver near the redzone and drew a cornerback on him, which allowed tight end Brian Koslowski to run into the endzone to catch a pass that Doug Johnson overthrew. T.J. Duckett is a huge powerback who has good speed and is great in short-yardage and goalline situations.

Advantage: Jeremiah Trotter.

Champ Bailey vs. Peerless Price
By Eric Johnson

This is one of the great matches to watch this game. Atlanta signed Peerless Price away from the Buffalo Bills where he had 94 receptions for 1,254 yards and 9 TDs last season. His acquisition was one of the highlights of the NFL off-season, as many observers believed that he was exactly what the doctor ordered for young QB Michael Vick--a speedy WR ready to step into the limelight, with good route-running and yards-after-the-catch (Price was 4th in the NFL with 463 yards, whereas Atlanta had ranked 25th in that category last year).

But there's a little tarnish on that quicksilver dream. First, Price no longer has Vick throwing to him: journeyman Doug Johnson has taken over after Vick broke his leg in the preseason. Also, Price has yet to prove that he can elevate his game to be a true #1 receiver--in Buffalo, he was #2 alongside Pro-Bowl WR Eric Moulds, who commanded the most attention (and double-teams) from defenders. Last week against Dallas (and their young secondary), Price was held to two receptions for 30 yards.

Rather than look on going against double-teams as a challenge (he was regularly double-teamed in Dallas, but not constantly), Price has begged to be put in the slot "because it's harder to double-team a guy there." It appears that teams had already started figuring him out the second half of last season, when he had five games of 60 yards or less and 3 TDs, as opposed to 6 TDs in the first eight games.

There's no question that Price has the physical tools to be regarded as one of the top receivers in the league. As Champ Bailey said, "He's a polished receiver. It's his fifth year. He's fast. He's got great hands. He makes all the acrobatic catches he can make. He presents a lot of problems that a lot of receivers don't. I put him in the top 10 receivers in the league right now. He's definitely a guy you've got to be prepared for."

And the preparation will pay off for Bailey. He and Price match up very well together, which will be a great part of the fun of this game. They're both cat-quick and very fluid, with excellent body control. Both have top speed (Bailey clocked a 4.4 in the 40 and Price a 4.56). Both are capable of the big play and the eye-popping play on the ball.

But the advantage in the end will go to Bailey--he's put the time in in the film room this off-season and comes very close to taking away half the field every game. This year he's playing man-to-man against the top receiver on the opponents' team. In the opener against the Jets, top WR Curtis Conway only made one catch against Bailey for 11 yards. Mostly QB Vinny Testaverde was forced to check down away from Bailey. Bailey wants to step his game up a notch this contract year and start making opponents pay for ever throwing against him. And with #2 WR Brian Finneran (last year's #1) out with a broken hand, the Falcons just don't have another top WR to take the pressure off Price--which simply means more opportunities for Bailey.

Look for some truly astonishing acrobatics in this fight. Bailey will be on Price’s hip the entire game and they will seem to cut and swing around the field as one man. Bailey will get his first INT of the season when he breaks on the ball just before Price makes his move.

Advantage: Champ Bailey.


The full Game Day section will be up tomorrow.

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