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Previewing the Jets’ opposition: Washington

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NFL: Washington Redskins at Buffalo Bills Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Having already lost to “the league’s worst team”, the Jets have a chance to lose to an arguably even worse team on Sunday as one-win Washington comes to town. Their only win came in a game against Miami where the Dolphins dominated the second half and lost by a point when they opted to go for two rather than kick to send the game into overtime. However, Vegas still has the Jets as a slight underdog despite the fact they’re coming off a win.

Quarterbacks

First-round rookie Dwayne Haskins was named the starter for the rest of the season last week, taking over from Case Keenum, but his performances so far have not been good. He’s completed 27 of 44 passes, but has no touchdowns and is 4-for-13 with four interceptions on passes thrown beyond 10 yards. None of those four completions were 20+ yards downfield either.

You can expect more dinking and dunking from Haskins in this game, but he has to be given a chance to throw past the sticks, especially against a Jets secondary where all of the cornerbacks are either struggling or untested.

Keenum remains as the number two, with Colt McCoy behind him. Keenum actually posted respectable stats in his seven starts this year with a quarterback rating of just under 95.

Offensive Line

Washington’s offensive line is led by former first-round pick Brandon Scherff at right guard and solid young center Chase Roullier. Scherff is by far the best run blocker on the team.

Both Scherff and Roullier missed week four and five, but the offensive line has otherwise been intact all season. However, the rest of the linemen are less consistent.

Veteran tackles Donald Penn and Morgan Moses have given up 15 penalties between them. The 36-year old Penn has also been beaten for a team-high five sacks.

Former Giants bust Ereck Flowers is the other starter, having been moved inside to left guard. Obviously the line would be configured differently if the dispute with Trent Williams hadn’t caused him to miss the entire season. Williams is now on the non-football injury list.

When Scherff and Roullier were out, journeyman Tony Bergstrom took over at center and fourth-round rookie Wes Martin filled in at right guard. Both struggled though.

Another mid-round rookie, Ross Pierschbacher is also available, although he hasn’t seen any action yet. Reserve tackle Geron Christian has been seeing some action in jumbo pacakges.

Running Backs

Adrian Peterson still has some juice left despite now being 34 years old. He averages over four yards per carry and just posted his second 100-yard game of the season in last week’s loss to the Bills.

There’s a boost this week too, as Derrius Guice has just been activated following a stint on injured reserve. He had to have knee surgery after tearing his meniscus in the season opener. Guice, last year’s second round pick, missed his entire rookie year due to an ACL tear.

Wendell Smallwood and Chris Thompson have been backing up all year. Of the two, Smallwood has been the more effective runner, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. However, Thompson has 27 catches in his role as a third-down back. Thompson has been ruled out this week with a toe issue.

They also have a fullback - Michael Burton - on the roster, but he hasn’t played much.

Receivers

Rookie sensation Terry McLaurin came out of the gates fast but seems to have hit the rookie wall. After five games, McLaurin was setting a record-breaking pace with 23 catches for 398 yards and five touchdowns. However, he’s only caught nine passes for 99 yards and no scores in the last three games.

Trey Quinn is the team’s best slot receiver. He has 24 catches, but averages less than eight yards per catch.

Veteran Paul Richardson has 27 catches but he has been ruled out with a hamstring issue so two more rookies - sixth-rounder Kelvin Harmon and the undrafted Steven Sims - could be asked to step up. They only have 17 catches between them so far, but Sims showed his big play potential on a 65-yard touchdown run against New England.

Vernon Davis is listed as the starting tight end but he’s been sidelined with a concussion for some time and has been ruled out again. With Jordan Reed also on injured reserve, Jeremy Sprinkle has been starting and has 14 catches.

Undrafted rookie Hale Hentges is currently serving as the backup. He has just one reception so far this season.

Defensive Line

Washington is a 3-4 team with former Alabama linemen Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne joined by Matt Ionnadis in the starting line-up. Ionnadis leads the team with 4.5 sacks, six tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits, while Allen also has four sacks. The 320-pounder Payne mans the nose tackle position.

Trevon Hester and Tim Settle have been backing up all year, but Settle, who is the primary reserve, has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with a hamstring injury. Settle started in week two when Allen was out. That was the only game any of the starters have missed as they all typically play upwards of 50 snaps.

Linebackers

Washington’s linebackers have been underwhelming this year, as all of them have fewer than three sacks. The 31-year old Ryan Kerrigan has had at least 7.5 sacks in every season of his career, including double digits in four of the last five seasons, but he has just two this season despite playing in every game.

First round draft pick Montez Sweat looks set to take over from Kerrigan as the team’s primary rush option, but he has just 2.5 sacks and five quarterback hits so far.

Off the bench, Ryan Anderson and recent addition Noah Spence haven’t produced much yet.

At inside linebacker, fifth-round rookie Cole Holcomb has been forced into a starting role with Reuben Foster on injured reserve, but he’s been a liability in coverage. Veteran Jon Bostic is the other starter.

Shaun Dion Hamilton has been getting reps in a rotational role off the bench. He’s been more of a reliable option in coverage.

Josh Harvey-Clemons and Tanner Vallejo have yet to see action on defense this year.

Defensive Backs

Josh Norman, now 32, is Washington’s highest paid player, but he’s no longer even their best cornerback as the veteran is clearly past his prime. Quinton Dunbar has stepped up this year, leading the team with three interceptions. Norman has been beaten for five touchdowns and also has a team-high five penalties.

Reserves Fabian Moreau and Jimmy Moreland have seen plenty of action in the slot. Moreland was a seventh round pick in this year’s draft.

Washington also picked up veteran Aaron Colvin in September, but haven’t used him yet. Youngster Simeon Thomas rounds out the rotation.

At safety, three-time pro bowler Landon Collins is the team’s leading tackler. The other starter is listed as Montae Nicholson who has two interceptions this year but is dealing with an ankle issue and is listed as questionable.

Troy Apke has done a decent job as the third safety, starting the last two games in place of Nicholson. Veteran Deshazor Everett and youngster Jeremey Reaves are available as cover. Reaves was in the starting line-up two weeks ago and may be set to get an increased role. He can also man the slot.

Special Teams

Washington is ranked dead last according to PFF for special teams, although football outsiders has them in the middle of the pack at 19. The Jets should have an advantage here though, as those two sites rank them 8th and 3rd respectively.

Kicker Dustin Hopkins has missed three field goals, but punter Tress Way has done a decent job. He’s second in the league for both gross and net average.

In coverage, Washington has allowed 28 yards per kickoff return and over nine yards per punt return, albeit no touchdowns yet. Vallejo has been a culprit with five missed tackles, while Everett is leading the team in special teams tackles for the third year in a row.

Their own return game hasn’t done much with Quinn averaging just 6.4 yards per punt return. Moreland has struggled in the vice role, with three penalties. Sims has been handling kickoffs and did have a 45-yard return but has been otherwise underwhelming, averaging just over 22 yards per return overall. Smallwood is available as potential cover.