- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2017

ASHBURN — Redskins cornerback Bashaud Breeland said the only receiver that made him feel like a rookie during his first year in the NFL is when he went up against Arizona Cardinals wideout Larry Fitzgerald. That day — Oct. 12, 2014 — Fitzgerald had six catches for 98 yards in a 30-20 win.

Breeland said Fitzgerald used all sorts of veteran techniques that he wasn’t sure how to counter at the time.

“He was just holding where they can’t see,” Breeland said. “You feel like you’re supposed to be jamming him, but he jamming you!”

For that reason, Breeland said he’s been looking forward to a rematch ever since.

But Breeland also knows the importance of a win. The Redskins have lost two straight games, each a disastrous one-sided loss. Last week against the Los Angeles Chargers, Breeland was benched for most of the game, too.

Breeland said a win for the Redskins would “give us life.”

“We just want to get that taste out of our mouth,” Breeland said. 

In theory, the Redskins should be able to win. Vegas oddsmakers peg the Redskins as 4-point favorites on Sunday.

At 6-7, Arizona has also had a nightmarish season. The Cardinals have had just as bad luck with injuries as the Redskins, losing quarterback Carson Palmer and star running back David Johnson early in the season.

Arizona recently placed left tackle Jared Veldheer (ankle) and running back Adrian Peterson (neck) on injured reserve. The Cardinals’ offensive line has been a MASH unit this year with three starting offensive lineman on IR. Against the Redskins, Arizona will use their seventh different offensive line combination of the season.

It’s no coincidence, then, that Cardinals quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been sacked 15 times over the last two weeks. Gabbert has been the starter for the last four games since he took over for backup Drew Stanton.

“They’re physical up front in the running game,” Redskins linebacker Zach Vigil said. “They do a nice job of running the football. Obviously, they have some tremendous targets with their tight ends and receivers. But the biggest thing for us is we’ve got to worry about what we’re doing and be on the same page.”

A number of Redskins defenders have said communication needs to be better going forward. Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger also created a stir when he blasted the team’s preparation last week.

Swearinger, who played for the Cardinals for two seasons, said the Redskins have been doing a better job this week.

The defense, though, hasn’t been the only area where the team has struggled. Kirk Cousins turned in one of his worst performances of the season against the Chargers and the Redskins offense couldn’t get anything going, mustering just 201 yards.

The Cardinals defense, meanwhile, has still been strong this year, ranking fifth in defensive DVOA. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu are two of the best defensive backs in the league.

“We didn’t do really anything that well,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said of his team’s recent offensive struggles. “We had some opportunities to make some big plays, we just missed them and we didn’t capitalize on the opportunities. That’s the big thing. We had protection from time to time and we missed some throws. We didn’t have protection and we had guys wide open, so it’s just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities and we failed to do that last week.”

Gruden has defended his team’s preparation — “We didn’t spend all week last week playing checkers,” he said, but added he needed to give his players a better game-plan they could “sink their teeth into.”

Gruden said he thinks everyone on the Redskins has moved on from the last two games, but acknowledged a win would “get us out of the doldrums a little bit.”

“We lost [two] in a row, two bad ones, and now I think people are excited to get back on the field and try to change course a little bit,” Gruden said. “A win does a lot for your mental state of mind — everybody — coming to work and practicing and all that good stuff.

“Guys are hungry right now and hopefully they’ll go out and show it.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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