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ESPN Insider:Scouts Inc: Redskins will lean on running game


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There's no questioning Washington head coach Joe Gibbs' resume, as he has led the Redskins to three Super Bowl titles in four visits. However, he hasn't coached a regular-season game since 1992. Can the most successful coach in Redskins' history bring football glory back to the Washington area?

Tampa Bay will be without some familiar faces on defense, as DT Warren Sapp is now a Raider and SS John Lynch is a Bronco. Replacing their leadership on the field as well in the locker room could prove difficult. Tampa Bay's ability to handle their departures is critical to fielding yet another strong defense in 2004.

Gibbs isn't the only one Redskins' fans have high expectations for this year. Washington traded shutdown corner Champ Bailey to Denver to acquire RB Clinton Portis. If Portis struggles early, he's almost certain to hear it from the crowd in his first home game as a Redskin.

tam_34_rf.jpgWhen the Buccaneers have the ball


Michael Pittman will miss the first three games serving a league suspension and RB Charlie Garner will get the majority of the carries in his absence. However, FB Mike Alstott should get his fair share of touches as well and should play a big role in this game.

OLBs LaVar Arrington and Marcus Washington have the speed to prevent Garner from consistently turning the corner, so Tampa Bay will need to attack the Redskins' run defense between the tackles. Alstott is a far more powerful runner than Garner and has the size to wear down Washington's front four over the course of the game. In addition, OC John Wade should have success reaching MLB Mike Barrow, who has been slowed by knee injuries and isn't shedding blocks as quickly.

Tampa Bay can help slow Arrington and Washington when it does run outside by using some misdirection, draws and screen. If Arrington and Washington don't maintain their backside responsibilities or get caught flying upfield, the result could be some long gains on the ground. Garner has excellent vision and can cut back if he sees the Redskins' linebackers overpursuing the play. At the very least the talented linebackers will have to read the play a second longer before reacting.

Passing: New Washington defensive coordinator Gregg Williams has been impressed with LDE Renaldo Wynn's play during the offseason and likes Wynn's ability to drop back into coverage. Williams will use Wynn's versatility to his advantage by running some zone blitzes that allow Arrington and Wynn to come off the edge.

QB Brad Johnson must recognize when Williams brings additional pressure and adjust quickly. The Buccaneers' offensive line has undergone some radical changes during the offseason and it doesn't help that injuries have prevented it from playing together during the preseason. A few breakdowns in the protection can be expected with so many new starters adjusting to one another.

Unlike Mark Brunell, Johnson has never been a mobile quarterback. He must get rid of the ball when either Arrington or Washington coming off the edge or he will take some big hits. However, Johnson cannot rush his decisions either. If he doesn't a defensive lineman dropping back, he could throw right into the coverage.

Redskins FS Sean Taylor has all of the physical tools to develop into a superstar, but he is still a rookie and the Buccaneers will test him when he is in the game. If Taylor bites on play-action or just gets caught out of position, Tampa Bay will take some chances downfield. WR Joey Galloway still has the speed to get behind CB Shawn Springs and the inconsistent but dangerous TE Rickey Dudley is always a threat to work the seam.

was_34_rf.jpg When the Redskins have the ball

Rushing: The loss of ROT Jon Jansen, who is one if not the best run blocker in the league, to a season-ending Achilles injury during the preseason is significant. However, Washington should still have success moving the ball on the ground. The Redskins will regularly use motion and run counters creating better blocking angles. Tampa Bay's linebackers explode of the ball and they are relentless in pursuit, but those strengths could become weaknesses in this game.

If the linebackers react to the original motion of the counter and take a false step, Washington's H-backs and tight ends will have success reaching their blocks at the second level. The problem is the Buccaneers can't read and react either because they don't have the size in the front seven hold up at the point of attack.

Although FS Jermaine Phillips and SS Dwight Smith will need to help out in run support, they must play with discipline. They cannot get caught out of biting on play-action and, more importantly, they must take excellent pursuit angles to Portis. If they get caught out of position or misjudge Portis' speed, Portis is more-than-capable of breaking some long touchdown runs.

Portis will have his chances to showcase his talents on the outside, but the Redskins should show a steady commitment to running the ball inside. Tampa Bay lacks great depth at defensive tackle. Consistently pounding the ball between the tackles will help wear down the interior pass rush and keep it on its heels late in the game.

Passing: Brunell isn't nearly as mobile as he was earlier in his career, and he needs more time in the pocket to be effective. With that in mind the matchup between LOT Chris Samuels and RDE Simeon Rice will be paramount to Brunell's success. Rice is one of the best pass rushers in the league and Samuels is an excellent pass blocker, so this should be an absolute battle.

Although Samuels is nursing an ankle sprain, he is expected to play in this game and the injury shouldn't hinder him. If he can keep Rice out of the backfield with little to no help from his backs or tight ends, the Buccaneers will be forced to play more man coverage and blitz more often than they would like.

Cover-2 defenses are vulnerable to tight ends who have the burst to get behind the linebackers and the size to cause matchup problems for the defensive backs. While Chris Cooley won't start, he fits that mold and could play a big role in the passing game. Cooley should have success getting open off play-action with the commitment to the running game setting up play-action. He'll also benefit from speedy WR Laveranues Coles drawing some safety attention to the outside, which will open up the middle.

Scouts' Edge

Johnson is a veteran quarterback who will help keep Tampa Bay in this game. He will overcome the Buccaneers' lack of a consistent running game and the Redskins' pass rush by consistently moving the ball with a conservative passing attack. Johnson won't panic if Tampa Bay falls behind on the road either, but it won't be enough in the end.

Washington will make enough big plays to build a lead heading into the fourth quarter. Its running game will wear down the Buccaneers' front seven over the course of the game, allowing the Redskins to control the clock and protect that late lead. In the end,

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