Behind Enemy Lines: Battle of the Beltway
Today, PFS Ravens' lead writer and I spoke about the upcoming Battle of The Beltway. Both teams have a lot riding on this game. The Redskins want to continue their winning streak, and the Ravens want to get back on track after last week's loss. See what James and I had to say, as we got Behind Enemy lines.
Julia Scanlon - How do you feel about the Smith/Norman matchup? Do you think Smith is going to struggle vs Norman? What will Smith have to do in order to be successful in that match-up?
James Reagan - I think that the matchup between Steve Smith Sr. and Josh Norman will be a crucial one in this game. I think the Ravens will struggle some if Norman is successful in covering Smith and right now, I like Norman to win that matchup. But unlike a lot of other NFL teams, the Ravens don't really have a No. 1 receiver. Even if Norman covers Smith well, they still have Wallace and Pitta, as two of their most targeted players. Smith vs. Norman should definitely be an intense matchup to watch and I think the only real edge that Smith will have is that he used to be a teammate of Norman's and so maybe he will remember some of Norman's tendencies from those days in Carolina.
JS - What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Ravens' OL?
JR - The strength of the Ravens' offensive line continues to be Marshal Yanda, who is still playing at an All-Pro level. Also Ricky Wagner has quietly put together a solid season, also on the right side. The left side has been more problematic. Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis have struggled some in run blocking. This past week, both James Hurst and Ryan Jensen had a difficult time containing the Raiders' pass rush. With Stanley again doubtful, the Redskins would likely feel better about going against Hurst or Lewis at left tackle.
JS - The last time the Redskins and the Ravens faced off, Kirk Cousins led the Skins to an overtime victory. What will the Ravens' have to do this time to prevent that from happening? If anything?
JR - The Ravens have to make defensive stops down the stretch. Against Oakland, they failed to do so, and it ended up costing them. On offense, the Ravens will likely need more support from the run game if they are going to have a successful game. Terrance West had a 100 yard outing this past week and rookie Kenneth Dixon is making his NFL debut. The Redskins are worse at defending the run than defending the pass, so the Ravens have to feel good about that matchup.
JS - Who do you think will be the Ravens' MVP of the game
JR - I think the Ravens' MVP will probably be Justin Tucker. I know it sounds crazy to pick a kicker, but he is such an important part of offense. If the Ravens' defense can do their part and contain the Redskins' offense, the Ravens can get by with most of their points coming from Tucker. He is nearly automatic, so the Ravens can feel very confident in him providing the deciding points if this is another extremely close game.
JS - Score Prediction?
JR - Going to go out on a limb here and actually predict a Redskins victory. I think they defeat the Ravens 24-16. The Ravens' offensive funk has been serious these past couple weeks, and I think the Redskins' offense will outpace them. But as suggested by the score, this should be a very exciting one-score game. The Ravens don't blow anyone out and they don't get blown out either.
James Reagan: The Redskins are still struggling with defending the run. Why is that still an issue for them and why have their offseason adjustments in run defense failed?
Julia Scanlon: I answer your question with another questions. What adjustments? The run defense has failed, because the Redskins haven’t made any noticeable adjustments. It's like Joe Barry moved someone over an inch...maybe. If they truly haven’t made any adjustments, as it looks right now, if it didn’t work last season, why did they think it would work this season?
JR - Through four games, who do you think is the most surprising player for the Redskins? Has this player helped or hurt the Redskins during their 2-2 start?
JS - He’s hurt this week and won’t be playing, but I have to say I have been pleasantly surprised by Su’a Cravens. At first he really had no impact, but I thoroughly believe that his pick against Eli Manning, clenching the victory over the Giants, got the ball rolling and really did a lot of the team’s confidence.
JR - Matt Jones got over 100 yards rushing last week. However, he has struggled some since taking over as Washington's lead back. Do Redskins fans have confidence in him as being a full time starting RB? Or is the team really more set up to be a one-dimensional team that succeeds with passing more than running?
JS - It's unclear, whether, Matt Jones was ever meant to take over as a starting running back. When Alfred Morris started to struggle last season, the team did their run game by committee. But Matt Jones had trouble with fumbling, an issue he quickly corrected by adjusting how he carried the ball. While his fumbling problem has gotten better, he sometimes struggles with identifying run lanes.
The Redskins still run by committee, because they have three running backs that all bring something different to the table. For example: Chris Thompson is a capable receiver, which works well in an offense that is mostly powered by passing. I as a fan have moderate faith in Matt Jones, but am happy that he doesn't carry the full work load and is sharing snaps with two other backs.
I would have to say that the team is pretty much one dimensional at this point, which is a dangerous circumstance for many reasons. 1) Kirk Cousins has trouble hitting his targets in crucial situations. 2) You’re going to have teams with strong secondaries, who can easily shut down passing plays. It’s impossible to be a one dimensional team and thrive in this league.
JR - During the Skins' 0-2 start, there was talk that the locker room was turning against Kirk Cousins. Is he still solidified as the team's QB or is there room for doubt if he struggles this season? With free agency a possibility next year, is Cousins still looking like he is the best shot to be the Skins' franchise QB?
JS - He is the team’s QB for THIS season; that much is true. There is definitely room for doubt in regards to his future with the team. He’ll definitely finish out the season, as the starter, but I’m not sure he is the long term solution. I’ve honestly never been sure he is the long term solution and I've made that pretty clear. I think he’ll probably end up testing free agency. Right now he looks like a back up and I have a feeling, if he doesn’t improve whether or not the team signs him, he’ll always be a back up no matter where he goes.
JR - Who do you think the MVP will be for Washington? What is your final score prediction?
JS - Much like you I am going to have to pick a kicker. I picked him last week and once against Dustin Hopkins seems like that obvious choice. The Redskins have a lot of end zone struggles and Dustin Hopkins always gets it done.
It would appear you have more faith in my Redskins than I do. I predict an abysmal loss. 30-17 Ravens.
Julia Scanlon is the NFC North Division Manager and a staff writer for Pro Football Spot's Washington Redskins Coverage. Follow Julia on twitter @justjulia12 and follow Redskins' coverage @spot_redskins.
James Reagan is the lead writer for the Baltimore Ravens on Pro Football Spot. You can follow him on Twitter @james__reagan. For more Ravens news, you can follow @spot__ravens on Twitter.