Redskins look to get offense on track vs. Falcons

November 2, 2018 GMT

ASHBURN If there’s going to be a week for the Redskins to fix their subpar offense, it would be this one, right?

On Sunday at FedEx Field, the Redskins face the Atlanta Falcons (3-4) whose defense ranks 30th in points (30.3), total yards (419.4) and passing yards (306.7) per game. The Falcons are missing their two top safeties Keanu Neal and Ricardo Allen and their best linebacker (Deion Jones).

“Ouroffensewill be able to throw the ball eventually, with success,” coach Jay Gruden said Wednesday.

Don’t assume anything. Last month, the Redskins were set to face an underwhelming Saints defense, but were completely shut down and embarrassed on “Monday Night Football.”

Since that game, the Redskins have ripped off three straight wins and still haven’t had a complete offensive game.

The Falcons carry plenty of firepower. If the Redskins aren’t careful, Sunday could end up looking like a repeat of the Saints game. Here are five keys for Washington heading into Sunday’s game:

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Be better situationally

Halloween is over, but the Redskins’ red zone and third-down stats are worth looking at if you still want to be spooked. Washington is 22nd on third down (converting 37.89 percent of the time) and is 25th in red zone touchdown percentage scoring just 47.62 percent of the time.

Alex Smith hasn’t been terrible in those areas. In the red zone, the veteran quarterback has a 109.5 passer rating and is completing 60 percent of his passes. On third down, he’s completed 62 percent of his passes and has a QB rating of 95.5.

Still, the Redskins have blown prime opportunities to get points. They’ve made 21 trips to the red zone, for instance, and scored 10 touchdowns to nine field goals.

Stay patient and make the play

As closely scrutinized as the offense is, Washington has done a good job of protecting the football. The Redskins have had the second-fewest turnovers in the NFL this season with six (two interceptions, four fumbles).

That being said, there’s a fine line between protecting the football and being so cautious that you’re missing guys open down the field. Smith insisted the latter isn’t a problem. “I can’t think of a situation this year ever where I felt like I was being cautious with the football, not to say you don’t miss things, but it’s not because of that,” he said.

Smith, though, left plays on the field, even during this winning streak. One of his more erroneous examples came last week against the Giants with 3:33 left in the first half. On third-and-10, Smith settled for a four-yard completion to tight end Jordan Reed and completely missed Maurice Harris on a post route deep in the middle of the field. Kicker Dustin Hopkins proceeded to miss a 41-yard field goal attempt.

Be aware Falcons have weapons beyond Julio

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Fantasy Football owners surely have noticed this fact related to Julio Jones: the Falcons star wide receiver has yet to score a touchdown this season despite having 53 catches for 812 yards. That’s wild.

And yet, the Falcons still rank sixth in the red zone, scoring a touchdown 69.57 percent of the time. Enter Calvin Ridley Atlanta’s first-round pick from Alabama. The 23-year-old has six touchdowns, tied for fourth in the league.

“I’m anxious for you guys to see him and understand his speed and ability to go,” Falcons coach Dan Quinn told reporters. “When we scouted him, he had real ability to run full speed and then break somebody off with a cut ... Not everybody can do that.”

It’s positive for the Redskins that they should get back corner Quinton Dunbar (shin) this week.

No laughing matter

New Redskins safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix left no doubt that he would be ready for the Falcons despite being traded on Tuesday. “You can bet that,” he said.

Washington will need him. Montae Nicholson, who started opposite of D.J. Swearinger, had a “small procedure” on his hip earlier in the week and it’s unclear if he’ll be available against the Falcons. Nicholson’s health wasn’t the primary reason Washington traded for Clinton-Dix, though it doesn’t hurt.

Clinton-Dix, who touted his leadership and effort, said he can “take this team to another level.”

More bell cow?

Gruden said he doesn’t ever think about Adrian Peterson’s age or limiting his reps. Based on Peterson’s carries 127 in seven games he’s not lying. Washington doesn’t have any plans to stop anytime soon, either. ”...He’s playing so well right now, when we call a running play, he better be out there,” Gruden said.

While fans would like to see Smith throw for 400 yards, the Falcons could still be a good matchup for Peterson to run wild. Atlanta is giving up 112.3 rushing yards per game, 13th-most in the NFL.