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For Thursday's key matchup, we take a look at the Redskins' shorthanded secondary facing off against the Ravens' talented but inconsistent receivers.
Redskins secondary vs. Ravens receivers
The Redskins could be in trouble if CB DeAngelo Hall can’t play this weekend, although head coach Mike Shanahan said he expects Hall to go. He’s hobbled with an ankle injury he suffered Monday night, and though Hall is not an elite cover corner, he’s competitive, physical and can match up with the Ravens’ Anquan Boldin, who quietly leads the team in receptions.
Boldin has been a key weapon for this team on first downs (25 of his 55 receptions, more than 40 percent of his yards) as offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has taken a pass-heavy approach, especially in running situations. Boldin has never had great deep speed — and at age 32 he’s even a step slower than he was — so he runs savvy routes and uses his physicality to get open.
His running mate, Torrey Smith, is the speedball of the offense, but lately he and Joe Flacco have missed on a lot of deep connections. Smith has only caught 23 of the 60 passes Flacco has thrown his way the past seven games, many of them well downfield.
Smith’s speed has other effects, such as drawing safety help and opening up the run game, but at some point the Ravens need to hit on these. Redskins CB Josh Wilson can run, but this will be his first time seeing Smith’s speed. Wilson’s one season with the Ravens was in 2010, when Smith was still in college at Maryland, so they never faced off in college — or in the NFL.
The Ravens will look to establish better tempo and accuracy against a Redskins secondary that will have Hall banged up and No. 3 CB Cedric Griffin (suspension) out for the remainder of the regular season. There also are backups starting on the defensive line, at linebacker and at both safety spots, so they are dealing from a short deck. Blitzing helped them in the second half against Giants QB Eli Manning on Monday, as it could do so in this game, but they can’t afford to lose too much more.
Griffin was playing as much as two-thirds of the snaps in games, and it could be down to seventh-rounder Richard Crawford, who hasn’t played since Oct. 14, and D.J. Johnson, who played two snaps on defense last game and gave up a catch.
Size is also a concern — the Redskins’ corners are primarily short, and the Ravens’ receivers are all 6-foot or taller, including their skilled tight ends. Flacco will look to go high with some jump balls if the opportunities are there.