ASHBURN — In theory, the Redskins’ home opener Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts would fall under a classic “trap game” scenario.
The Colts, after all, went 4-12 last season and arguably have a bottom-five roster in terms of talent, even with the return of quarterback Andrew Luck. The Redskins, too, looked dominant against the Cardinals in a 24-6 victory.
But, coach Jay Gruden said, the Redskins aren’t in that position.
“We’re not good enough to be thinking about that anyway,” Gruden said. “We’re trying to find our way as a football team, identity on offense and defense, a consistency to our football team. We had a great start last week, but we’re all about ball right now, trying to get better today and get ready for a very good, very talented, well-coached Indianapolis football team.”
Washington, though, can’t afford a setback, despite it being early in the season. After this game, the Redskins start a brutal schedule, beginning with the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints. The Redskins must take advantage of winnable games like the Colts.
Here are five things to watch heading into Sunday’s matchup:
Returning from a torn labrum, Luck was sharp in his first game since the 2016 season. Against the Bengals, the 2012 first overall pick went 39-for-53 for 319 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Luck, though, is still recovering and got the ball out quickly, averaging just six yards per attempt. He was extremely accurate when not under pressure, completing 91 percent of his passes, according to Pro Football Focus. The Colts‘ offensive line is still a question mark, despite adding guard Quenton Nelson with the sixth overall pick. They allowed 18 pressures in Week 1.
Taking advantage of the Colts‘ “simple” schemes
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus is a disciple of Rod Marinelli, who holds the same position for the Cowboys. In Indianapolis, Eberflus has implemented the “Tampa 2” defense — a scheme not known for its complexity, but instead for its effectiveness when disciplined. The Colts, however, couldn’t keep their composure against Cincinnati, blowing a 13-point lead in the second half.
“They play it real safe,” Redskins receiver Paul Richardson said. “They have young guys in the secondary, so they run the same defenses. But the couple of defenses they run, they do it well. We’ve just got to be able to win our battles.”
Ryan Grant returns
After leaving the Redskins in free agency to sign a one-year, $5 million deal with the Colts, Ryan Grant had a productive Week 1 — hauling in eight catches for 59 yards. The Colts, like the Redskins, are finding out quickly that Grant is reliable. “Hard worker,” Colts coach Frank Reich said. “You know, really a talented young receiver. We’re really excited to have him.” Wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight end Jack Doyle are the Colts‘ primary targets, but the Redskins will need to account for Grant, as well.
Adrian Peterson workload
Adrian Peterson said Thursday the Redskins will manage his workload on a game-by-game basis. The 33-year-old running back had 26 carries for 96 yards — and Peterson admitted he felt sore the next day. “It didn’t feel like that after the preseason game, I’ll tell ya that,” Peterson said.
The Colts allowed 101 rushing yards on 20 carries last week against the Bengals, though they were the 10th-most efficient run defense last season, according to Football Outsiders.
FedEx Field is not expected to feel the effects of Hurricane Florence, with only a 20 percent chance of rain Sunday, according to Weather.com. But if there’s a last-minute shift, the Redskins are prepared to adjust. “I wish I had a secret or something that made it easy,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “No, it’s tough; fundamentals, attention to detail when you handle the ball every single play in weather, and obviously that’s a premium, you know, ball security, ball handling, in the pocket and things like that.”
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