The Redskins head to Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday to meet a struggling Buffalo Bills team. Both teams will be looking to stay ahead of .500 and move to 4-3. here are some of this week's key player match-ups:
Travis Henry is a versatile running back; however, he is not putting up very impressive numbers so far this year (averaging just 2.7 yards/rush on 96 carries). Last week against the Jets, however, Henry also demonstrated his skills as a receiving, logging 7 of his 13 catches so far this year in the embarrassing 30-3 loss to the previously winless Jets.
This week, however, Travis Henry has a little "extra" motivation. Why? Because Willis McGahee is expected to start participating in practices with the team on Wednesday and this will likely push Henry to work just that much harder this week against the Redskins.
Unfortunately for Henry, he will have to go up against Jeremiah Trotter. Trotter is still leading the Redskins defense with 36 tackles (31 solo). Trotter, however, logged his fewest number of tackles last week (3) against the Bucs.
The Bills rushing game has looked far from impressive lately, and to make matters worse, they will be facing a linebacker in Trotter with something to prove this week: to show that his low number of tackles last week was an aberration. This week, look for Trotter to be more of a force against the Bills' weak running attack and, as a result, look for Travis Henry's yard per rush average to falter.
Before the season started ex Skins great Joe Theismann predicted that the Redskins would go as far this season as the play of QB Pat Ramsey and the five guys in the offensive line allowed us. It was not exactly a stunning insight – the QB and offensive line are important, who would have thought it? But it is nonetheless -- exactly right.
So far Pat Ramsey has done everything you could have asked about a second year QB – and quite a bit more. All evidence to date is that we have something a bit special in Ramsey – he could be the man behind centre in Washington for a LONG time. If he lives that is. So far this season Ramsey is the most sacked QB in the NFL and has taken multiple vicious hits that don’t show up on any stats sheet but do show up on the wear and tear on the young QBs body.
The guy who needs to set the standard for the rest in regards to pass protection is Left Tackle Chris Samuels. The left tackle is the most important guy on the line since he protects the QBs vulnerable blind side. Samuels was picked with the 3rd overall pick in the 2000 draft (one pick after La Var Arrington) with the intention that he follow in the lineage of Joe Jacoby and Jim Lachey in being a shut out LT. Despite two Pro Bowls there is still a feeling among the Redskins faithful that we have yet to see the best of Samuels – he has been inconsistent and has had some problems with speed rushers beating him to the outside.
This week he should be matched up against Bills DE Aaron Schobel. The ‘should’ is there because often Samuels has been asked to help out rookie guard Derrick Dookery inside leaving the DE to a TE or RB. Simeon Rice's 4 sacks last week suggest that this is a tactic which needs to be changed. Just let Samuels play.
Schobel is a smallish DE at 6-4 262, who was 2nd round pick in 2001 for the Bills. He was recruited to College as an outside linebacker but was converted to DE in his freshman year and his biggest attribute is a burst off the ball and an ability to turn the corner and close on the QB. Physically he is outmatched playing Samuels who is 50 lbs heavier that Schobel – so running behind Samuels early right at Schobel might not be a bad idea.
Look for Samuels and the rest of the line to respond against a Bills team which is short on confidence. Both teams need this win badly – if Samuels shuts out Schobel that will be a big step in what I expect to be a Redskins win.
Antoine Winfield (5'9", 180) is considered one of the best tackling cornerbacks in the NFL, despite his size. He is currently tied with London Fletcher with a team-high 12 tackles. He was selected by the Bills with the 23rd pick (Ohio State) of the 1999 draft and was the third cornerback taken. Ahead of him were Champ Bailey (7th) and Chris McAlister (10th, Baltimore). Antoine has since started in 48 of the 62 games he has played, had 5 picks, but none in 2002 or 2003 thus far.
Laveranues Coles is currently 3rd in NFL receiving yardage with 573 yards on 39 grabs. He is 2" taller than Winfield and almost 15 pounds heavier. To go along with that height and weight advantage, Coles can flat out fly and is faster than Winfield. Coles' attitude in recent weeks' losses has proven to be a welcome sight in Washington. Despite challenging records for consecutive games with 5 or more catches, Coles has told coach Spurrier that he can and should be playing better.
If the Redskin's offensive line can give Ramsey enough time for Coles to run something other than wide-receiver screens, expect Coles to have day filled with big plays on deep routes. However if the Redskin's offensive line continues to struggle, and Spurrier, in his effort to protect Ramsey, continues to throw wide-receiver screens, expect Winfield to showcase his tackling abilities.
Regardless, Coles will 'juke' his way past Winfield on more than one occasion with his excellent run after the catch abilities and have a big day. Expect Coles to have at least six catches and resume his 100+ yards per game receiving.
Once again, we look to see the matchup between Bruce Smith and his opponent at left tackle. Jonas Jennings has not been in the league more than three years, and he is part of a line that has allowed 19 sacks in 6 games so far this year.
While the advantage would seem to go to Jonas because of Smith’s tendencies to overpursue and to work the play way too hard, the advantage on this weekend would have to probably go to Bruce. The emotional factor of returning to Buffalo, chasing the sack record and being with his old team is going to be a bit much for the youngster at LT to overcome.
Don’t be surprised to see Smith’s motor high all day as he looks to garner the record of his lifetime at the place that he almost set it in the first place. You know this is what he wanted.