The Redskins come into Sunday's match-up with the Green Bay Packers fresh off of a bye week. Washington needed the time to get some bodies healthy and will look to stop the surging Packers. Green Bay destroyed both Dallas and Detroit in their last two games while putting up almost 80 points, and their offense seems to have really found a groove now that Mike Sherman is calling the plays. Here are some of this week's key player match-ups:
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila vs. Chris Samuels
By Scott Hurrey
Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, or KGB as he is called, is one of the elite pass rushers in the NFL. KGB is small for a defensive lineman at 6’2” / 252 lbs, yet surprisingly strong. He has had an impressive career in Green Bay, starting on the practice squad in 2000 and working his way to full-time starter and his first Pro Bowl appearance last year – the first Packer defensive lineman to do so since Reggie White in 1998.
After only five seasons (54 games, 27 starts), KGB is already fourth on the Packer’s all-time sack list with 37. He is also the first Packer in history to record three consecutive seasons with 10 or more sacks. While KGB has been effective the last few seasons, he is off to a slow start in 2004 with17 tackles and 1.5 sacks. All of the sacks came in the loss to the Giants.
KGB is a well-rounded pass rusher, using a multitude of techniques depending on what the Tackle gives him. If the outside is open, he can use his speed to come around the corner. If the tackle blocks outside, he has the speed to go inside and the power to bullrush his man into the backfield.
Chris Samuels is a perennial pro bowler. A core member of the “Dirtbags”, his performance can dictate whether or not the Redskins offense is successful on any given week. With Jon Jansen out, other offensive linemen are asked to help Jansen’s replacement leaving Samuels on an island at times. Still, the right defensive ends he has faced have only registered three sacks this year. Samuels came into this season healthy and close to his ideal playing weight and it is evident in his play.
Early in Samuels’ career, the burly left tackle often had trouble picking up a bullrush. He has amazingly quick feet for such a large man, and that foot speed may have led to Samuels relying on his ability to catch up to the rusher. This would cause the bull-rushing defender to get the jump on him and push him into the backfield. Since those early troubles, Chris Samuels has improved his reaction time and can typically pick up the bull rush, although Alex Brown from the Chicago Bears used it successfully on at least one occasion, pushing Samuels back far enough to block a Brunell pass.
KGB has had quite a bit of success in his two previous games against Washington. In 2001, KGB came in on pass-rushing downs and recorded 1 tackle and 1 sack. The following season, he started the game against Washington and recorded 7 tackles (6 solo), 2 sacks and a forced fumble.
Samuels will have to use his quick feet and his superior size to counteract KGB’s speed and versatility. Given KGB’s slow start and the fact that the Packers are susceptible to the running of Clinton Portis, KGB will have limited pass-rushing attempts and therefore Samuels will have the advantage.
Advantage: Chris Samuels
Fred Smoot vs Javon Walker
By Dan Hines
This match up features two young rising stars, Redskins cornerback Fred Smoot and Green Bay wide receiver Javon Walker. Both are making strong cases for their first Pro Bowls respectively.
As Brett Farve's favorite receiver, Walker comes into this game leading the league in receiving. (726 yards, 41 receptions) He has posted four 100 yard games already this season, including a 200 yard game (11 receptions, 3 TD's) against Indianapolis. At 6-3, 215 Walker creates problems for most cornerbacks in the NFL. Walker has become the "go to" receiver on the NFL's # 2 rated offense.
After playing in the shadow of Champ Bailey for the past three seasons Fred Smoot is enjoying his finest year as a pro. He is now the #1 cornerback on the NFL's #1 ranked defense. What Smoot lacks in size he makes up for in heart and his physical play. Smoot suffered a pinched nerve in one shoulder and a strained rotator cuff in the other in the Redskins last game against the Bears. He remained in the game and made a key tackle late in the in game to help preserve the win.
Smoot will face his toughest challenge of the season this Sunday. The bye week came at the right time for Smoot. He, along with fellow defensive starters Lavar Arrington and Phillip Daniels are healthy and scheduled to be in the lineup on Sunday. Smoot will need their presence in this game. Just as Smoot will be ask to help the defensive line stop Green Bay running back, Ahman Green. The line and linebackers will be asked to help Smoot by getting pressure on Brett Farve. The Packers have one the best offensive lines in football, if they establish the run and give Farve time, Smoot will be one frustrated cornerback come Sunday.
RB Ahman Green v. LB Antonio Pierce
By Fran Farren
Which Green Bay Packer team will show up at Fed Ex Field on October 31st? For that matter, which Ahman Green will show up?
Ahman Green started out the 2004 season fairly strong, rushing for 119 yards on 33 carries (3.6 yards/carry) and 2 touchdowns in game one and 128 yards on 24 carries (5.3 yards/carry) in game two. In the next four games, however, Green rushed for only 239 yards on 63 carries (3.8 yards/carry) and no touchdowns.
Just when fantasy owners were surely about to give up on Green, Green had his “break out” game of the year last week against Dallas, rushing 15 times for 163 yards (10.9 yards/carry) and two touchdowns, including a 90-yard run for a touchdown at the end of the 3rd quarter. Without that 90-yard run, Green would have rushed for only 73 yards on 14 carries (5.2 yards/carry).
As a running back, Green is quick to hit the hole and has very good down-field vision. He is also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield. Green fumbled once in four of the first six games of the year, however, which has certainly not helped his reputation as a secure ball carrier. This is why Green has not been able to claim the title as one of the league’s “premier” running backs. Which Ahman Green will show up this week?
Redskins fans should not worry. There is no chance that Ahman Green will have similar success this week against the NFL’s #1 rushing defense.
Entering the 2004 season, many fans and critics of the Redskins were quick to condemn the Redskins defensive line to a season of mediocrity. While they may not be among the elite defensive lines in the league this year, the Redskins front 4 are certainly holding their own. When it comes to rushing defense, however, it’s not just the front 4 doing the job. A large part of that success against the run this year is also due to the play of LB Antonio Pierce and the other Redskins linebackers.
Antonio Pierce has been filling in quite nicely for injured LB Mike Barrow thus far. Pierce is constantly swarming on defense and always seems to find his way to the ball. When he is not making the tackle himself, he always seems to be assisting another player in making the tackle. Simply put, Pierce is one of the more aggressive players for the Redskins on the defensive side of the ball.
While the Green Bay Packers and RB Ahman Green may be somewhat inconsistent this 2004 season, the play of LB Antonio Pierce has been nothing but consistent. Look for him to continue his aggressive play this week against the Packers and RB Ahman Green. For the Packers to succeed against the Redskins, it will have to be in the “air” because Green will surely be limited to under 100 yards this week against a solid Redskins rushing defense.