If last week's Panthers game presented a tough test for Atlanta's run defense, Week 5's tilt against the Redskins is equally daunting, if not more so. Exciting rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has used his strong arm and sprinter's speed to get the 'Skins out to a 2-2 start using head coach Mike Shanahan's creative offensive scheme for the young QB. Atlanta's offense will score points, but the defense needs to bring their running shoes against Washington.
Falcons Run Defense vs. Redskins Zone-Blocking Scheme
With RGIII under center, the Redskins are a threat to run on every snap. Shanahan has given his quarterback an offensive scheme specifically designed for his unique skills. Washington's rushing attack is tops in the league, averaging 175 yards a game. Atlanta's run defense allowed Carolina 199 yards on the ground last week and they've allowed their opponents an average of 146 yards per game this season. A Falcons win will begin and end with some stops in the running game on Sunday.
Redskins Outside Pass Rush vs. Falcons Tackles
The Redskins aren't sacking the quarterback a ton (only seven sacks this season) entering this matchup with the Falcons, but the Panthers weren't either last week. When the dust settled after the comeback win, Falcons QB Matt Ryan had been sacked seven times. Washington's pass rush is hindered with the loss of Brian Orakpo, but second-year outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is following up his solid rookie year with a strong season. He's the Redskins' top threat and Tyson Clabo and Sam Baker will have their hands full with him as they look to rebound from last week.
Julio Jones and Roddy White vs. Redskins Cornerbacks
The Redskins have had their struggles against the pass this season. Their 326 yards allowed per game is ranked 31st in the league and DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson will have their hands full this week. Against the Panthers last week, Jones was doubled by the defense and White made them pay to the tune of eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns. If the Redskins run game is the top priority for the Falcons, the passing game of Atlanta is the top priority for Washington. Either Jones or White, or both, can torch the Redskins and a big day from either will be a big part of an Atlanta victory.
Falcons Linebackers Defeating the Redskins and what they do on offense could rest squarely on the broad shoulders of the three Falcons linebackers. Sean Weatherspoon, Stephen Nicholas and Akeem Dent have their work cut out for them Sunday. Stopping RGIII will be one thing and then slowing running back Alfred Morris, a prototype for Shanahan's one-cut, zone-blocking scheme, will be another. A highly disciplined game will be required from the three of them and additionally they're charged with defending tight end Fred Davis. So far this season the talented TE has been kept out of the end zone as a pass catcher (one rushing TD), but his connection with Griffin III is growing with each game. He's a dangerous tight end and with the secondary defending the deep pass from RGIII's big arm, the linebackers will need to key in on Davis and the intermediate safety pass from Griffin III to Davis.