The Washington Post Sunday

Keys to the game

ANOTHER MEETING WITH A STALEY DEFENSE

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The Washington Football Team will have another shot at Brandon Staley’s defense in Week 1. The team’s worst offensive performanc­e last season came in Week 5 against the Los Angeles Rams when Staley was the defensive coordinato­r.

Washington finished with the fewest points (10), first downs (10) and total yards (108) of any game it played in 2020. Staley’s defense, which was ranked No. 1 in the NFL at the time, created issues for Washington by frequently using two-high safety looks that produced light boxes — meaning there were six or fewer defenders near the line of scrimmage before the snap.

But those presnap looks by the defense were a disguise, and often the Rams would send an extra defender into the box after the snap. As a result, Washington was able to average only 2.7 yards per carry and the offensive line gave up eight sacks.

Now Staley is the head coach of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Washington will open its season against his scheme with a new cast of defenders. “It’s different preparing for a team, looking at a lot of Rams film for scheme, but then [you] got to look at Chargers’ film for people, balancing the flip-flop between the two,” tight end Logan Thomas said.

Coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that the Rams were disruptive because of an “exceptiona­l inside pass rusher” in Aaron Donald, and he believes the Chargers could have similar success. Thomas stressed the importance of keeping three-time Pro Bowl defensive end Joey Bosa out of the backfield Sunday.

PROTECTING HERBERT

The Chargers’ revamped offensive line will face its first test against Chase Young and the WFT defensive front.

Four of the Chargers’ projected starters on the offensive line this season weren’t with the team last season, with right tackle Bryan Bulaga being the only holdover from 2020. The Chargers upgraded their interior line by signing center Corey Linsley and guards Matt Feiler and Oday Aboushi to offseason deals. They also used their first-round pick to draft tackle Rashawn Slater out of Northweste­rn to protect Justin Herbert’s blind side. Slater’s first NFL game will pit him against a familiar foe in Young, who lined up against Slater twice when he was at Ohio State and said he’s excited for Washington’s defensive line to get after the Chargers’ new front.

FITZPATRIC­K IS THE GUY

Ryan Fitzpatric­k will be the Washington Football Team’s 14th Week 1 starting quarterbac­k since 2000.

Only the Cleveland Browns have had more Week 1 starters in that time period, with 16. Washington’s quarterbac­ks are 9-4 since 2000 in their first Week 1 start with Washington. Fitzpatric­k himself has been a Week 1 starter for five teams since he entered the league in 2005.

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