First Look: Kirk Cousins promises test for Saints defense against up-and-down Redskins

Wednesday, 15 November 2017, 12:11:53 AM. WHEN: Noon

WHEN: Noon

WHERE: Mercedes-Benz Superdome

TV: Fox

RADIO: WWL-AM, 870; WWL-FM, 105.3 in New Orleans; KMDL-FM, 97.3 in Lafayette; WDGL-FM, 98.1 in Baton Rouge; en español: WGSO-AM, 990; WVDU-FM, 97.9

RECORDS: New Orleans 7-2; Washington 4-5

COACHES: Saints, Sean Payton, 11th season, 101-68; Redskins, Jay Gruden, fourth season, 25-31-1


LAST WEEK: One week after toppling the Seattle Seahawks to remain in the NFC playoff race, Washington failed to take down another NFC contender in a 38-30 home loss to a Minnesota Vikings team that torched the Redskins' defense. 

OFFENSE: Kirk Cousins is having a Pro Bowl-type season for a Washington offense trying to overcome mounting injuries. Cousins ranks third in the NFL with 2,474 passing yards, eighth in passer rating at 98.6 and has tossed 14 touchdowns while throwing just five interceptions. With Cousins directing the attack, the Redskins rank ninth in the NFL in passing and 13th in offense overall. What's made his performance even more impressive has been the uncertainty in Washington's receiving corps; running back Chris Thompson leads the team with 38 catches and ageless tight end Vernon Davis has 30, but the receiving corps has largely been a by-committee approach due to injuries to Jamison Crowder, Terrelle Pryor and tight end Jordan Reed. A New Orleans pass rush that has kept quarterbacks on the run will have its chances against Cousins, who has been sacked 23 times behind an injury-plagued offensive line. Five-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams is playing through pain on a knee that needs reconstructive surgery, right tackle Morgan Moses is battling ankle injuries, guard Brandon Scherff has missed time with a knee injury and fellow guard Shaun Lauvao has been battling a stinger. Making matters worse, Washington's inconsistent rushing attack (23rd in NFL) took another blow when starting running back Rob Kelley suffered a high-ankle sprain and an MCL sprain on Sunday. Without Kelley, the rushing attack will be led by rookie Samaje Perine, who has 210 yards on 66 carries this season, and Thompson. 

DEFENSE: Washington possesses a formidable pass rush that largely has little to do with former Saint Junior Galette, who has one sack as a backup edge rusher. Veteran Ryan Kerrigan leads the Redskins with six sacks and Preston Smith has added 4.5 off the edge, and defensive tackle Matt Ioannidis has been formidable inside with 3.5 sacks. Washington can also get pressure from its linebackers; leading tackler Zach Brown has 2.5 sacks. Like the offense, the defense has suffered its fair share of injuries. First-round pick Jonathan Allen is on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury in his foot, the same injury that hit linebacker Will Compton last week. With a secondary that is led by the talented Josh Norman and cornerback Kendall Fuller, the Redskins have been opportunistic, picking off 10 passes from quarterbacks harried by the pass rush. For all of that talent, though, the Redskins are just 20th in the NFL in total defense, with middling marks against both the run (14th) and the pass. A lot like the rest of the team's season, the defense has had trouble stringing games together, as evidenced by giving up 28 points in the first half to Minnesota one week after holding Seattle to 14 points. 

SPECIAL TEAMS: Former Saints kicker Dustin Hopkins went on injured reserve with a hip injury earlier this year, leading Washington to sign Nick Rose, who has made seven of his eight field-goal attempts so far. Punt returners have had a chance against the Redskins, averaging 9.0 yards per return, but Washington's own return men rank near the bottom of the league. 

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