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Colts vs Redskins: Matchups to watch in week two

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts missed an opportunity to start out their season with a win, but this week they’ll head on the road in hopes of preventing another 0-2 start, which has been the case for them since 2014. They’ll head to Landover, MD to face the Redskins, who are returning home from a dominant road win against the Arizona Cardinals.

The Redskins are a formidable opponent, to be sure, and the Colts will need to be ready to go for them. A quick look at the stat line tells a little, but the full picture is, as always in the film. I had a look at the Redskins in their week one matchup, so with that knowledge in hand, let’s take a look at some key matchups to watch in the Colts’ week two meeting with the Redskins.

Colts’ Front Seven vs Chris Thompson

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most noticeable and impressive parts of the Redskins game was running back Chris Thompson. Thompson is just plain explosive as a runner, and even more so as a receiving back. He averaged 13 yards per carry and his longest run was 16 yards, so this was not an illusion created by a crazy 90-yard broken play. He was really that good.

Don’t get me wrong, Adrian Peterson was good as well, and had 96 yards on 26 touches, but he isn’t the back that I think will trouble the Colts. Thompson’s speed and vision to the outside allowed him to amass big yards in the first half as a receiving back and he had a couple big runs in the 2nd half as well to help close out the game.

The Colts’ defense will need to be very disciplined and work hard to keep contain, because Thompson is an incredible talent and will absolutely eat this defense up if they don’t keep the running game locked down. When he is in the game, they’ll have to be even more conscious of this, because his ability to break to the outside is very dangerous.

Colts’ Offensive Line vs Redskins Pass Rush

First let’s point out the obvious: Andrew Luck is not Sam Bradford. Bradford made bad throws, got squirrely in the pocket, and just wasn’t very good on Sunday. This was in large part due to pretty consistent pressure from the Redskins front seven.

If Anthony Castonzo is in the game on Sunday, this offensive line is significantly better than the Cardinals’ line, which couldn’t offer much in the way or pass or run blocking. That’s a big “if” too, because Castonzo was missing today from practice when it began. It could be that he is resting today. It could be that he was seeing training staff and would join the team later. Or it could be gamesmanship on the part of the coaching staff. But if it isn’t those things and Castonzo will miss more time, this line is going to struggle.

They played a very admirable game on Sunday, but lost J’Marcus Webb to a hamstring injury while he tried to chase down Fejedelem on the fumble recovery that ended the Colts’ chances. They’ll need a similar performance against a very good defensive front of the Redskins to be successful on Sunday.

Frank Reich vs Greg Manusky

NFL: Washington Redskins at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It was notable while watching the Redskins vs Cardinals that there were very few times when the Cardinals had an open receiver in space. Credit should go to the Redskins for swarming to the ball and playing in tight coverage, but it also felt like a very familiar watch from an offensive playcalling perspective. I felt like I was once again watching Chuck Pagano’s uninspired Colts while the Cardinals forced the ball to David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald, who were both smothered and largely unable to do anything.

The problem for the Redskins is that Frank Reich designed plays in week one that got players open all over the place. Luck hit 9 different targets on Sunday, and that was by design. The Colts will get players open, and Luck is smart enough and accurate enough to get them the ball. The Colts were 11 of 17 on third down conversions. Compare that with the Cardinals who were just 1-8 against the Redskins.

Again, credit the Redskins defense for a great effort, but don’t think for a second that the Colts will provide that same kind of opportunity. The Redskins defense stayed fresh because they weren’t on the field very long. The faced nearly constant 3-and-outs from the Cardinals’ offense. They were good, but the Cardinals’ offense was weak, one dimensional, and unimpressive.

Frank Reich knows this Redskins team well, and he will have prepared this team very well offensively for what they will face from the Redskins’ defense. He will be drawing up plays to get this team moving the ball well and keep the ball in the hands of Andrew Luck rather than Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson.

Greg Manusky will dial up blitzes, and his personnel with the team is undoubtedly much better than anything he was ever given as a part of the Colts coaching staff. However, the Colts got relatively poor play from both Jack Doyle and T.Y. Hilton in week one. As those are their two best players, I wouldn’t count on a repeat performance, and a few plays by either of those guys would have been a win last Sunday.

T.Y. Hilton vs Josh Norman

Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

As I said before the season, the Colts have typically gone as T.Y. Hilton goes. When he has big games, this team wins. It is important that they don’t revert entirely to that formula, because it can be too easy to game plan for. Frank Reich moved the ball around amongst various players on Sunday and got them all involved in the game, which is a very valuable way to combat defenses.

Having said all that, Hilton is still their most dangerous and talented weapon as a pass catcher, and they need that to be obvious on Sunday if they want to get a win. Josh Norman is a very good cornerback, and I don’t anticipate that the Colts will throw at him often, but Hilton needs to be able to get some wins in that matchup, and he needs to get them early. This is a team that can grind out a game on the ground against a young Colts team, and Hilton can make that really difficult if he shows up ready to go.