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Packers vs. Washington Q&A: Personnel moves have transformed Washington’s offense

Ken Meringolo of SB Nation’s Washington blog Hogs Haven answers our questions about the transition from Kirk Cousins to Alex Smith, the new backfield rotation, and what he expects from Packers vs. Washington.

Indianapolis Colts v Washington Redskins Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

On Sunday, the Green Bay Packers make their first road trip of the regular season to take on Washington. Ken Meringolo of Hogs Haven was kind enough to answer some of our questions about Washington and provide insight into the team’s strengths and weaknesses.

APC: Washington made one of the biggest personnel decisions of the 2018 offseason, acquiring veteran quarterback Alex Smith from the Chiefs and letting Kirk Cousins depart in free agency. While only two weeks of the regular season have passed, what do you see as the biggest positive change and most significant issue with that swap?

Jay Gruden has called Alex Smith the smartest quarterback he has ever worked with, which--if true--is certainly a positive. If the Redskins can benefit just from a better head coach/quarterback relationship than the one this statement at least makes it seem Gruden and Cousins had, I will chalk it up to a win. Players in the league have called Alex Smith “dirty tough,” which is a compliment I don’t recall being given to Kirk. I liked Kirk and would have loved to see him in a Redskins jersey, so this isn’t about me thinking we got the most unbelievable upgrade in the history of football, but Alex Smith is a professional and a veteran. Jay Gruden thinks Smith’s experience makes his mental calculator better than what Kirk is rocking in his dome at this point in Kirk’s career. The organization is standing firmly behind Jay Gruden, so if this is what the coach thinks, the move was a good one for the team.

APC: The plan for Washington’s offensive backfield changed multiple times this offseason, with second-round pick Derrius Guice tearing his ACL and Adrian Peterson joining the rotation. How has the running game looked thus far, and how do you expect Washington will divide the workload against the Packers?

Well, the running back position has been and continues to be a problem spot for this team. Losing Guice was simply a Daniel LaRusso crane kick to the groin. I can still feel it. Peterson is a great addition because he doesn’t cost much (our kicker, long snapper and punter all make more than him), he has immediate credibility in the locker room and he just may be the kind of athlete who can produce past the age where most running backs completely disappear. Rob Kelley is on the IR now, so it comes down to Samaje Perine and Chris Thompson to round out the stable. Thompson is a stud, but he has seen his share of injuries and the team has to fight the urge to overburden him. The success of our running game could come down to the production out of Perine, which is not music to Redskins fans ears.

APC: Washington has gotten off to a strong start defensively, coming in fourth against the pass by DVOA and eighth overall. Are those rankings merely a reflection of the competition Washington has played (Cardinals and Colts), or is the defense going to carry the team this season?

The defense is going to be a strength as long as these young and talented defensive linemen stay healthy. Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne are for real, and they represent the best Redskins fans have seen at the point of attack in a very, very long time. As long as they are healthy, they should make it a little easier for both the linebackers and the secondary. We very much look forward to testing this defense against all comers...and the schedule is set to deliver those opportunities.

APC: If you were game planning against Washington this week, how would you attack the team on offense? On defense?

I am definitely going to ask you the same thing (I will get your answers to the Redskins coaches ASAP.) On defense, crossing patterns killed us last week. I expect to see Randall Cobb running crossers all day, and if he can do what T.Y. Hilton did to us last week, the Packers should be pretty happy. On offense, we seemed to be very easily removed from any semblance of rhythm from a play-calling standpoint. I think some of that had to do with the defense trying to take away Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson, so if I was the Packers defensive coordinator, I would not try and get too smart/cute. Take away Alex Smith’s underneath stuff and make him throw it to wide receivers. He has traditionally struggled there (which is clearly not something on Smith’s LinkedIn page).

APC: Finally, it’s prediction time. Which team wins on Sunday and why?

The Pack is favored by 2.5 or so, depending on when you placed your bet. That says folks see Green Bay as about five or six points better, which makes sense, but since I need to be the Redskins promoter here, I will give the Skins a one-point win on the strength of our defensive line. If Aaron Rodgers is not as mobile as he has traditionally been, I think that works to the strength of this Redskins defense, and could end up being the difference. On a game-winner at the buzzer, Dustin Hopkins is the hero and Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne will be credited with leading the Redskins in this victory.

We’d like to thank Ken and Hogs Haven for answering our questions. Be sure to check out our Q&A session over there, as well as their fantastic coverage of all things Washington. As always, keep your internet machines tuned to Acme Packing Company this Sunday for our comprehensive game-day coverage of Packers vs. Washington.