CHARGERS AT REDSKINS
SUNDAY, 1 p.m. TV: CBS
Radio: 980 AM, 92.7 FM, 94.3 FM
1. How will Brandon Meriweather adapt in his return?
Suspended for the Redskins’ game against the Broncos a week ago, the free safety will make his return with an even greater focus on his tackling. Meriweather has vowed to change his hard-hitting style, but he made similar promises earlier in the season after being fined and didn’t seem to make much of an adjustment.
2. Can any other receiver step up to help the passing game?
Wide receiver Pierre Garçon has been the Redskins’ top target this year, leading the team with 47 receptions for 512 yards through seven games. None of the other four receivers, however, have been able to carve out a reliable role, with Leonard Hankerson, Joshua Morgan and Aldrick Robinson all struggling alongside Garçon and Santana Moss less reliable in the slot. If it were not for rookie tight end Jordan Reed, the Redskins would struggle to move the ball.
3. What kinds of mismatches will Antonio Gates provide?
The 33-year-old tight end appeared to be on the downswing of his career in 2012, when his 49 catches for 538 yards were the fewest since his rookie year in 2003. He’s enjoyed a resurgence this season, already grabbing 42 passes for 497 yards through seven games. The Redskins have struggled to stop tight ends in recent seasons but have fared well this season. Gates will face one of his toughest tests on Sunday.
4. Which team will win the turnover battle?
The Redskins had four takeaways against the Broncos on Sunday, but they also committed five turnovers in the fourth quarter. Their scoring has gotten a boost from the defense, which has scored five touchdowns already this season. Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers has thrown only five interceptions and has a 73.9 completion percentage, the highest in the league. Forcing him to make a mistake will relieve much of the burden on the Redskins’ offense.
5. Will the special teams continue to show improvement?
For the first time in four games, the Redskins’ punt coverage team did not allow a touchdown. That alone is a step in the right direction. The rest of the units, though, aren’t growing sufficiently enough to help the offense or defense. Morgan still hasn’t displayed fair judgment on punt returns, and his inability to get the ball to the 20-yard line on kickoff returns is also a problem. One thing saving the units: the directional punts and kickoffs, which have mostly prevented big returns.