- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 15, 2011

1. Will the Redskins run the ball effectively? The first question entering last week’s game against the Giants returns to the top spot because the Redskins averaged only 2.8 yards per carry in the victory. Coaches and players insist that Tim Hightower was one block away from breaking the big one on a handful of attempts, but it never happened. Offensive linemen have to win their individual blocks more consistently this week.

2. Can the Redskins beat Arizona’s blitz? Top-overall pick Cam Newton passed for 422 yards against the aggressive Cardinals’ defense last week. Arizona gave up eight plays longer than 20 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown on a corner blitz, so Rex Grossman should have opportunities downfield if the offensive line is sharper in protection this week. Against the Giants’ blitz, Grossman was 6-of-12 for 84 yards, three sacks, one fumble and one TD.

3. How the will Redskins try to slow Arizona’s passing attack? Quarterback Kevin Kolb has revitalized a passing game that was one of the best in the NFL under Kurt Warner. Kolb’s numbers last week (18-of-27, 309 yards, 2 TDs) were similar to Rex Grossman‘s. Receiver Larry Fitzgerald makes catches even when he’s covered, and his supporting cast of receiver Early Doucet and tight ends Todd Heap and Jeff King give Kolb plenty of options. Pressuring him into quick decisions and bad throws is key, but if the Redskins blitz to do that, they expose themselves on the back end.

4. Will tight end Chris Cooley and the backup running backs play more? The Redskins’ two-time Pro Bowl tight end played 38 of 64 snaps against New York. Tight end Fred Davis, meanwhile, played 58. Cooley was coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for the entire preseason, but he fully participated in practice this week, so it will be interesting to see if he regains the top spot on the depth chart. At running back, Hightower played all but two snaps. Ryan Torain averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season, but he didn’t play at all.

5. How will Graham Gano rebound from last week’s missed field goal? After making all 10 of his attempts in the preseason, he pushed a 39-yarder on his only try against New York. Redskins coaches remain unsure whether Gano can handle the mental rigors of the job, but a strong game this week would calm their doubts. In a game that figures to be high scoring, his contributions could be decisive.