Lions-Washington scouting report: Matchups, trends, players to watch

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Here's a scouting report ahead of the Detroit Lions' Week 11 matchup with Washington. 

Key matchups

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on offense

There are some big names in Washington's secondary. Cornerback Josh Norman and safety Landon Collins have both earned All-Pro honors during their career, and Washington is paying them well for those resumes. But the team's true standout in the back end this year has been fifth-year cornerback Quinton Dunbar. 

Dunbar's path to success has been interesting. A receiver at the University of Florida, he signed as an undrafted free agent and converted to cornerback in the middle of his rookie year. Making that drastic of a position change is highly unusual at this level, but to achieve a high-degree of success is even more rare. 

Quinton Dunbar

Playing primarily on the outside, Dunbar wins with speed and length, allowing three or fewer catches the past five games on throws in his direction.

The Lions will counter with Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay. A highly productive duo, each receiver has eight touchdown catches on the year, which is tied for the league lead. It will be interesting to see if the Lions will challenge Dunbar or throw more at Norman, who hasn't been nearly as effective this season. 

Matchup to watch when the Lions are on defense

Lions rookie defensive end Austin Bryant is expected to debut this week after missing the first 10 games with a pectoral injury. A capable edge rusher for Clemson, he'll probably be leaned on a little more than the Lions would like with defensive end Trey Flowers sidelined by a concussion. 

At the bookends of the offense line, Washington has experience in Morgan Moses and Donald Penn, but neither have played particularly well in 2019. Each offensive tackle has committed eight penalties this season, while Moses has allowed 24 quarterback pressures. 

Bryant is ideally suited to line up on the left side of Detroit formation, where Devon Kennard typically plays. If that's how the rookie defender is used this week, he'll see more of Moses than Penn. 

Chris Thompson

Underrated opponent

He's battled through a number of injuries the past three seasons, but it looks like running back Chris Thompson will get the green light on Sunday after missing the previous four games with a toe injury. 

Washington's change-of-pace option in the backfield, behind starter Adrian Peterson and recent second-round pick Derrius Guice, Thompson is one of the NFL's best receiving backs. If the Lions try to cover him with a linebacker, it could spell trouble. He's made 14 tacklers miss as a pass-catcher in the past 16 games. 

Statistical trends

Washington: When Guice crossed the goal line late in the fourth quarter against the Jets last week in marked the first time Washington had scored a touchdown in 16 quarters. That's four full games without an offensive, defensive or special teams touchdown.

It was the NFL's longest such streak since 2001. 

And it's tough to get excited about the streak-snapper, since it came against soft defensive coverage in the waning minutes of a blowout. They added another touchdown with 1:11 remaining, against the same tissue-paper coverage. 

Detroit: For the Lions, it's the defense that's struggling, particularly in coverage. The past five quarterbacks the Lions have faced have posted a passer rating above 116. To put that into perspective, Seattle's Russell Wilson leads the NFL with a 114.9. 

You'd have to go back to Detroit's Monday night loss to Green Bay in mid-October to find the last time the team held an opposing passer in check. 

Montez Sweat

Players to watch

Dwayne Haskins, QB: Every start’s an audition for the rookie now, entering his third game as Washington’s starter. He’s appeared in four games, going 46 for 79 for 498 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. The awful Redskins at 1-9 have tripled the losses Haskins saw at Ohio State, where he backed up J.T. Barrett as a freshman for a 12-2 Buckeyes team in 2017. He was the starter in 2018, leading the Buckeyes to a 13-1 season, Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl win. Haskins destroyed records along the way in 2018, going 373 for 533 for 4,831 yards and 50 touchdowns, becoming just the sixth NCAA quarterback to hit the half-century mark in touchdowns. He also set single-season Ohio State and Big Ten records with his 4K-plus yards. So where is he now? Directing the league’s worst in scoring (12.5 per game) and second-worst in total offense (255.7 per game.).

Adrian Peterson, RB: In his 13th season, the seven-time Pro Bowl player has 124 carries for 516 yards and a touchdown. That’s good enough for staying in the top 20 – it could be worse since he’s playing for the league’s 26th rushing offense (85.9 yards per game). Peterson has 516 of Washington’s 859 rushing yards and is sixth on the all-time NFL list with 13,834 yards. A toe injury kept the future Hall of Famer out of Thursday’s practice, but “he’ll be ready for Sunday. No question in my mind,” Washington coach Bill Callahan told reporters. The Lions have the NFL’s No. 24 rush defense (124.2 yards per game).

Montez Sweat, LB: He started his college career at Michigan State but played just two games for the Spartans in 2014 before transferring to Mississippi State. He had 22.5 sacks in two seasons with the Bulldogs and was drafted in the first round, No. 26, this year after running a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. He has been a starter since Week 1 and has 34 tackles and 2.5 sacks.

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers

Julie Walker contributed to this report.