Will Brandon Meriweather be available? His appeal will be heard Wednesday, according to multiple reports. But he’s a repeat offender who was flagged for two personal fouls, the second of which was egregious. It’s hard to believe they’d cut a two-game suspension to zero, which means he’d likely miss at least Sunday’s game. The Redskins won nine games he did not play in last season so it’s not as if Meriweather can’t be replaced. But two of Washington’s safeties, Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson, have combined for nine NFL snaps. And Reed Doughty also is questionable because of his concussion. Even if they re-sign Jordan Pugh, it’s not like they have good depth here. That’s the real problem.
Can they keep the two-headed monster going at running back? Absolutely. The reason both Alfred Morris and Roy Helu got a lot of work Sunday? The Redskins converted third downs and ran 73 plays on offense, which means more opportunities for both. Morris is the more consistent runner; Helu is hit or miss as a ball carrier. But his longest runs (two 14-yard carries) have come inside the 20-yard line. If a defender is overaggressive pursuing the ball in this area, he’ll make them pay with quick cuts inside. They both can hurt a defense and provide a spark and add swagger; Morris with leg-churning, get-out-of-my-face runs and Helu with did-you-see-that-move runs.
Can they stop Peyton Manning? He’s been more mortal the past two weeks, yet he’s thrown a combined five touchdown passes to two interceptions and has yet to post a passer rating of less than 92 this season. He’s thrown 25 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. Stop him? They have to limit him because Manning and this offense will move the ball. But the Colts did show Sunday that if you hit him a lot (four sacks, lots of pressures) then he’s a bit more mortal. Then again, Baltimore sacked him three times -- and he threw seven touchdown passes. A big key will be the Redskins’ offense; no slow starts allowed Sunday. Otherwise, replay the Green Bay game.
Have the special teams been fixed? Hardly. I get that they saw some progress Sunday -- they need to boost the confidence of this group and maybe what they saw was more effort and caring. But they also saw another punt return for a touchdown. Have the standards been that reduced? They still have a mix of young, inexperienced players with veterans not all of whom want to be playing special teams at this stage of their career. That breeds inconsistency, for now at least. It leads to players getting out of their lanes, allowing a dangerous returner to get outside. They still haven’t had a productive return, either. The longest punt return? Eleven yards. Longest kick return? Twenty-eight yards. It’s too simplistic to just blame the special teams coach. For a variety of reasons, this unit was not built to have great success.
Can Jordan Reed do it again? Nine catches for 134 yards? That would be tough. But he’ll continue to be a threat because he’s athletic, talented and a trustworthy target for quarterback Robert Griffin III. Also, Denver has done a poor job defending the middle of the field, which is where Reed can hurt teams. But certainly after last week he’ll receive more attention; the Bears did not seem prepared for Reed. It’s one thing to catch a lot of passes; it’s another for defenses to feel like a guy can beat them. Reed can beat them. It’ll be interesting to see how teams adjust, starting Sunday. The good part for Washington is that they move Reed around a lot -- he caught passes from a variety of positions Sunday. That makes him tougher to defend.