Researching the Redskins

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The Redskins started off the season hot with a 4-1 record, before an upset loss to the St. Louis Rams. They again rebounded by scraping together wins over Cleveland and Detroit to get back in the divisional race with a 6-2 record. The Redskins then dropped five of their six next games, including a loss to the Bengals, who had won only one game up to that point.

The Redskins entered that Cincinnati contest only one game behind the Dallas Cowboys for the final remaining playoff spot; the loss greatly dimmed their post-season hopes.

Afterwards, Redskins head coach Jim Zorn remarked, "I just feel like the worst coach in America," promising to examine his approach to the game.

Zorn had a week to do so and regroup his team for a divisional showdown against the Philadelphia Eagles, and sure enough the Redskins pulled it out with a 10-3 victory.
Despite the win, the Redskins' playoff hopes were distinguished, and they'll head to San Francisco with only pride to play for.

49ERS Rank REDSKINS Rank
Total Offense 24 Total Offense 20
Passing Offense 15 Passing Offense 22
Rushing Offense 26 Rushing Offense 8
Total Defense 16 Total Defense 4
Run Defense 15 Run Defense 8
Pass Defense 24 Pass Defense 6
KOR Average 12 KOR Average 20
PR Average 14 PR Average 9
KO Coverage 14 KO Coverage 4
PR Coverage 17 PR Coverage 26
And that's been enough to fuel the 49ers in their last six games as San Francisco owns a 4-2 record during that stretch.

Offensively, the Redskins have some weapons for the 49ers defense to contend with.

Pro Bowl running back Clinton Portis' 1,407 yards are good for third in the NFL. Portis has been dealing with a knee injury and hasn't had a 100-yard rushing game in a month, but he fuels this Redskin offense, and holds a season long 4.5 average yards per carry.

He also ended a seven-week scoring drought with a 1-yard touchdown run in Sunday's victory over the Eagles.

Quarterback Jason Campbell has had a pretty solid season for the Redskins, completing 62.4% of his passes for 3,089 yards, 12 TD's and 6 interceptions. Campbell started off the year by setting a franchise record for the most pass attempts (271) without an interception. That streak, which dated back to the 2007 season, came to an end in the Redskins November 3 Monday Night Football game with the Steelers.

Campbell has been sacked 37 times, which ties him with Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick for the fourth most sacked NFL quarterback.

The Redskins offensive line took an enormous hit when Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels was placed on injured reserve. They've also gone the last two weeks without their starting right tackle in Jon Jansen, who has a knee injury. Jason Fabini started in place of Jansen, while Stephon Heyer has moved into the starting role for Samuels.

The Redskins interior line is experienced. Ten-year right guard Randy Thomas is the best of the bunch, with both the size and strength to move guys out of the way in the trenches. Seven-year veteran Casey Rabach starts at center, working alongside a thirteen-year veteran in left guard Pete Kendall.

Even when he has time to throw, Campbell doesn't take a lot of chances down the field. He's smart with the ball and doesn't take risks. But if he can get a man clearly open, he'll fire the cannon, usually to his deep threat in receiver Santana Moss.

Moss leads the team in receiving yardage with 976 yards on 73 catches. He has six touchdowns, including a pair of touchdowns for 50 yards or more.

Campbell has thrown the majority of his passes however to Pro Bowl tight end Chris Cooley who has 77 receptions for 792 yards.

Although receiver Antwaan Randle El hasn't been used on gadget plays recently, he's more than capable. The dynamic player has good hands and will work out of the slot. He's third on the team in receptions and yards with 50 catches for 577 yards, and three touchdowns.

The Redskins defense isn't a flashy bunch with a lot of sacks or turnovers, but the unit is one of the fiercest the 49ers have faced this season, and they are a well-coached group to boot.  From the line to the backend, they are athletic football players who play hard and with excellent motors.

Tackle Cornelius Griffin is the anchor of a defensive line that also features a former 49ers player in defensive end Andre Carter, who has three sacks on the year.

Perennial Pro Bowler Jason Taylor has had a down year by his standards, first dealing with an obscure calf injury that kept him out a few weeks and then losing his starting job. But Taylor is still the X factor for the Redskins. He's playing mostly in a reserved role when the defense is in nickel and dime packages, but they move him all over the place and it's worked recently. He had two sacks last week and a forced fumble that led to the Redskins only touchdown of the game.

Sacks haven't been a Redskins specialty this year though, as the group has registered only 23 on the year. Taylor and defensive end Demetric Evans are tied for the lead with four apiece.

The Redskins premier player at linebacker London Fletcher, who even in his eleventh NFL season, is still the man. Fletcher has excellent instincts, and the speed to get from sideline to sideline. He's been their most productive defender with 124 tackles.

The Redskins also possess the most loaded defensive backfield the 49ers have seen all year. The group includes four former first-round picks including cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall, Carlos Rogers, and Shawn Springs and safety LaRon Landry.

Springs and Hall are now starting at corner with Landry and seventh-round pick Chris Horton working at the two safety positions. Horton plays mostly down in the box, with Landry deep and Springs and Hall usually playing man to man coverage.

In nickel and dime packages, the Redskins will play a lot of zone coverage with Springs moving into more of a free safety role while Rogers comes in at corner.

Fred Smoot also plays a role in the secondary, and in fact, teamed up last week with Landry to stop the Reggie Brown just inches from the goal line and prevent Philadelphia from tying the game.

On special teams, the Redskins feature Shaun Suisham at kicker, Ryan Plackemeier at punter, Antwaan Randle El at punt returner, and Rock Cartwright at kickoff returner.

The 49ers know what to expect from Plackemeier, who is a familiar foe having formerly punted for the Seattle Seahawks.

But as a whole, this isn't a team the 49ers are too familiar with, having not played the Redskins since 2005. The Redskins dominated in that meeting on their home turf in a 52-17 thrashing. The 49ers will look to repay the favor this Sunday as they close out their 2008 season at Candlestick Park.

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