Sean McVay (a/k/a “the one who got away”) returns to DC for the first time since 2016, where he served as offensive coordinator for the then-Redskins. McVay has his Rams sitting at 3-1 on the season, and is coming off a physical 17-9 victory over the New York Giants.
Meanwhile, “Riverboat” Ron Rivera has the Washington Football Team sitting at 1-3 and looking for answers at the quarterback position. Washington is coming off a 31-17 loss against the Baltimore Ravens, a game in which Dwayne Haskins threw for career highs in completions and passing yards while not committing any turnovers.
This is where I would have liked to discuss Haskins’ major improvement over that of his play in the first three games. However, head coach Ron Rivera, in a surprising move, demoted Haskins to third-string.
It remains to be seen if Haskins had done anything behind closed doors to piss off management. As of now, all that is known is that Rivera believes Kyle Allen gives Washington its best chance to win in the short-term. Alex Smith will serve as Allen’s backup, marking the first time he’s dressed for a game since his horrific injury back on November 18th, 2018.
Generate Gibson’s Ground Game
Coming into the season, Washington’s backfield was a muddled mess. Four weeks in, and Antonio Gibson has established himself as the lead back and the second-best offensive weapon behind Terry McLaurin. He’s coming off a career game in which he finished with 128 total yards and a touchdown. He also played an integral role in the passing game, catching four passes, one of which he took 40 yards.
The Rams rank in the top-five in pass defense, but they can be had on the ground. Four games into the season, they’re giving up an average of 123.5 yards per game, good enough for 18th-best in the league. On the flip side, Washington has the 30th-worst rushing offense, averaging a mere 92.3 yards a game. Something has to give. Both of the Rams’ starting linebackers Kenny Young and Micah Kiser come into this game nursing injuries. Scott Turner received a glimpse of what Gibson is capable of if the ball is just put in his hands. This is Allen’s first start in over a year; expect Gibson to get his heaviest workload of the year to make life easier on the signal caller.
Revert. Rinse. Repeat.
Speaking of making life easier on the signal caller, Kyle Allen will need to make life easy on himself as well. This is his first start in a Washington uniform; however, it doesn’t mean everything is new to him.
Allen played under head coach Ron Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner in 2018 and 2019 while he was a member of the Carolina Panthers. Allen’s familiarity with the offensive scheme should help him, but he will need to get even more familiar with the game plan from when they played the Ravens.
The fans of the burgundy-and-gold won’t like this, but in order for Washington to be successful on Sunday, they will need Allen to play copycat to Haskins. Last year, Allen started off on fire and even looked to possibly be the successor to Cam Newton. However, his play took a downward tailspin as the season went on, and was ultimately benched for Will Grier. This is not the game for Allen to try to be Superman.
Shutdown corner Jalen Ramsey lurks in the secondary and All-Pro defensive-end Aaron Donald looms on the line. It’s tough enough to face Donald with a healthy offensive line; however, it’s downright scary when the O-line is at less than full strength. Starting center Chase Roullier and backup guard Wes Schweitzer are both questionable for Sunday’s game. The only thing that’s not questionable is that Allen will need to get rid of the ball fast. It’s not flashy, but Washington’s best bet is to revert to the dink-and-dunk offense that worked against Baltimore.
The Rams are littered with offensive talent, and currently sport the seventh-overall ranked offense. Receivers Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp lead the charge as both are coming off of 1,000-yard seasons. On the ground the Rams are sporting somewhat of a three-headed monster. Leading the way is six-year veteran Malcolm Brown. Second year running back Darrell Henderson is next in line and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry which is good enough for 11th best in the league. Meanwhile, rookie back Cam Akers is beginning to get his feet wet.
Contrary to football of old, the Rams are one of the few teams that use their play-action to set up the run. Woods and Kupp are the perfect receivers for what Los Angeles likes to do. Shifty wideouts that use smooth double-moves to get open in space. Rookie DE Chase Young looks set to make his return after a brief one-game absence. If he does, it should make things a bit easier for Washington up front.
Believe it or not, Washington’s secondary has been sneakily-good so far this season, ranking fourth-overall. Kendall Fuller has already nabbed two interceptions in just two games played. Kamren Curl has filled in nicely at slot corner, and Pro-Bowl Safety Landon Collins roams the deep-end of the secondary. That’s not to say that there haven’t been problems. Tackling remains an issue, as Collins already has nine missed tackles, which equals his total from last season.
Overall, this is a decent match-up on paper. Jared Goff and his arsenal of weapons provide a real test for Washington’s defense. If Young and Montez Sweat can identify the pass versus the run, it will go a long way in disrupting Goff’s strength.
Washington has the talent to win up front on the defensive side of the ball, but I don’t see them being able to slow down this passing attack all that much. The Rams just have too many talented pieces on offense, and I don’t think Washington has enough to match. Yes, Washington’s secondary has improved; however, it’s somewhat a case of fools’ gold.
On the offensive side of the ball, I expect Washington to use this week to improve their run game. Gibson will see an increased amount of touches and will have his best game of the year, even better than his game against the Ravens. The difference in this game will be the quarterback play. I stated that I believe Allen needs to simplify the passing game and copy what Haskins did last week; however, I don’t see him doing so. Allen is still young as he’s only in his third year in the league. He will try to prove to everyone that he’s the right guy for the job. In doing so, he will end up doing too much and forcing passes that will result in a few bone-headed plays.
The last time Kyle Allen took the field, he was bad. Until I see “good Kyle Allen,” that’s all there is to go off of. I like the Los Angeles Rams to take this one, 33-20.