Packers' next opponent: Washington will get off the bus running the ball
The Green Bay Packers head back to Lambeau Field for the first time since Nov. 10 fresh off a victory in New York and looking to make it two in a row over NFC East opponents.
Basics on Washington
Washington climbed out of the cellar of the NFC East with a surprising 29-21 victory over Carolina, its second straight victory. Washington propped up rookie QB Dwayne Haskins (13 of 25, 147 yards) with a running game led by Derrius Guice (129 yards, 2 TD) and Adrian Peterson (99 yards, TD). The defense intercepted Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen and also recovered a fumble.
Washington began the year under head coach Jay Gruden, who ran a West Coast-style attack with veteran quarterback Case Keenum that was built on short passes and a run game. The offensive structure remains the same under interim coach Bill Callahan, but there is a decidedly stronger emphasis on the running game.
Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky runs a “3-4” scheme and is a disciple of longtime and respected NFL coordinator Wade Phillips. But he’s been starting just two down linemen and rolling out four linebackers in order to create pressure.
Wins in a row for Washington, which it had not managed since Oct. 21 and Oct. 28, 2018.
Yards per rush attempt by 34-year-old running back Peterson.
Sacks by rookie linebacker Montez Sweat, who was removed from some teams' draft board with a heart condition.
Completion percentage for rookie QB Dwayne Haskins in six games.
Total tackles by safety Landon Collins.
Players to watch
Derrius Guice and Adrian Peterson, RB
Green Bay's defense was burned by Peterson for 120 yards on just 19 carries (6.3 avg.) and two scores in Washington's win last year. He has two 100-yard games this season and continues to produce. He has been rejoined in the backfield by the dynamic but oft-injured Guice, who was a second-round pick in 2018. He had his breakout performance in the NFL last week, averaging 12.9 yards per attempt.
Terry McLaurin, WR
The third-round pick out of Ohio State has emerged as the team’s best pass catcher, averaging 15.4 yards per reception on 42 catches. He also has five touchdowns. He looks slight but is a sturdy 6-foot, 210-pounder who can create after the catch.
Matt Ioannidis, DT
The shortest distance to the opposing quarterback comes from the interior defensive line, and Ioannidis has continued to drop QBs at an impressive rate. The 25-year-old, fourth-year pro has already equaled his career-high with 7.5 sacks, and he took down Aaron Rodgers last season.
Reasons to worry
There are a lot of similarities with the New York Giants that can cause some concern for the Packers. While Washington overall is not very good, there are some talented players who can probe the Packers' weaknesses, particularly those in the newly emphasized running game under Callahan. Callahan, a well-respected offensive line coach and the former coach of an Oakland Raiders team that went to a Super Bowl, will test the Packers’ run defense and limit risk for rookie QB Haskins. Washington would like to shorten the game.
Defensively, like the Giants, Washington does nothing particularly well. It is 15th against the pass only because it is 27th against the run, and ranks No. 22 in the NFL in points allowed. But, they do have some individual players who can wreak havoc – namely defensive tackles Ioannidis and Jonathan Allen (12.5 combined sacks) and safety Collins (8 tackles for loss).
Reasons to relax
Like the Giants, Washington has turned its offense over to a rookie quarterback in the 22-year-old Haskins, the No. 15 overall pick out of Ohio State. Physically impressive (6-3, 230), he is having all the growing pains one would expect. He’s barely completing one out of every two throws and has thrown six interceptions while being sacked 22 times in just six games. And the precipitation and cold at Lambeau Field should be interesting for him, as the coldest weather he has played in as a professional is 42 degrees in Buffalo on Nov. 3.
Washington is playing better of late as it has relied on the running game, but its offense remains the NFL's worst in total yards, scoring, first downs earned and passing. It’s a one-dimensional attack that should allow even the Packers to slow down the run game. And Green Bay will likely get several chances to turn Haskins over.