Welcome to Week 1! In just a few days, the Washington Football Team will kick off year two of the Ron Rivera era against the Los Angeles Chargers. This year brings a lot of excitement as there is a serious buzz surrounding Washington.
Multiple members of the media are predicting Washington to be back-to-back NFC East Champions. Some power rankings have them as high as 12, a significant improvement from the bottom dweller projection for Washington entering the 2020 season.
The 2021 season will be a good baromoter for where the Football Team, is at in their rebuild. Can they live up to expectations? How will they perform against a tougher schedule? Those are all questions that will need to be answered.
Speaking of a tougher schedule, Washington opens against the defending Offensive Rookie of the Year, Justin Herbert, and the Chargers. Their potent defense will be immediately put to the test to see how good they can be.
The Washington Football Team has the most optimism surrounding the franchise since 2013. Hopefully, 2021 will be a much more positive story to tell than 2013. And it all starts Sunday against the Justin Herbert-led Chargers.
Here are three things Washington must do to get a season-opening win against the Chargers.
Washington Football Team: 3 keys to defeating the Chargers
3. Prevent the big play
Justin Herbert put the league on notice in his rookie year. The NFL has a new star quarterback on their hands. Herbert is quickly becoming one of the NFL’s most respected signal callers. What makes Herbert so dangerous is the physical tools he possesses.
He has a rocket attached to his right arm, allowing him to make any and all throws. He also has solid speed and quickness allowing him to be a capable quarterback outside of structure. He is elite at escaping pressure.
One of the keys to beating the Chargers and Herbert, on the surface, should seem to be creating pressure. Make Herbert’s life as hard as possible. However, according to Football Outsiders Herbert ranked as one of the league’s best against pressure, finishing with the fourth-highest DVOA under pressure.
Combine a calm quarterback in the face of pressure, with elite physical traits and any defense has a problem on their hands. That is why Washington’s main goal on defense should be play to assignment-sound defense.
Allowing coverage gaps on the backend will only make things easier for the opponent, with an uber talented quarterback and a plethora of weapons, headlined by star reciever Keenan Allen.
The Chargers also have one of the NFL’s dangerous weapons out of the backfield – Austin Ekeler. Ekeler is potent both as a runner and as a reciever. He can be a headache for any defense so always accounting for him in the passing game, as well as filling gaps correctly in the run game will be key.
It is worth noting that Austin Ekeler was listed as a “did not practice” in the Chargers Wednesday’s practice. His status for the game will be one to watch.
With the abundance of resources at his disposal, Jack Del Rio may want to flex his muscles on the equally talented Charger offense. However, in a league geared towards the offense, that may be a losing battle. Washington’s goal on defense should be to play disciplined football to prevent any momentum-changing big plays.
Not being overagressive and allowing big plays will be key in silencing the Chargers offense.