Colts QB Luck and Redskins CB Dunbar set for Sunday showdown
LANDOVER, Md. — Quinton Dunbar watched in middle school as Larry Fitzgerald caught passes in the NFL.
Years later, Fitzgerald was patting Dunbar on the helmet for a job well done.
Dunbar helped shut down Fitzgerald and other receivers in Week 1, picking off Sam Bradford and looking like the kind of player the Washington Redskins envisioned when they converted him from wideout to cornerback. His next challenge is Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts’ passing attack as the Redskins look to start 2-0 for the first time since 2011.
“Tough matchup,” Dunbar said. “He’s up there with the best of them in my opinion. You watch him, you see a guy who’s tough, smart, understands defenses.”
Dunbar has already intercepted Carson Wentz, Eli Manning and Bradford in his career, evidence his instincts are worthy of the coaching staff’s faith. He had to embrace the “heart and mentality” of being able to make tackles, and he had five at Arizona.
“I think it was one of his better games as a pro here,” coach Jay Gruden said. “He’s got to continue to make strides to get better and keep studying the game and the people he is covering.”
Dunbar should continue to get plenty of playmaking opportunities because he’s starting opposite 2015 All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman. Luck, who missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury, is coming off a 39 of 53 passing performance with 319 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in the Colts’ season-opening loss to Cincinnati.
Luck — and then Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in Week 3 — are significant tests for Dunbar, who insists he looks forward to every matchup and doesn’t take anyone lightly. What he does is trust what he sees on film, combined with what coaches have taught him about the position. He’s has gotten to the point where he’s not a work in progress anymore.
“I’ve been comfortable for a while,” Dunbar said. “(I’m) just trusting what the coaches wanted and the vision they had for me.”
Some things to watch when the Colts visit the Redskins:
Hurricane Florence shifting south is likely to spare the Colts and Redskins from even rain on Sunday, but players and coaches are prepared.
Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri is three field goals away from tying Morten Andersen’s career record of 565 and is ready in case the conditions aren’t ideal.
“I don’t know if you get a lot of practice in those types of conditions, you just have go out pregame, try and work through some stuff, kind of find out what the parameters are, and then the game dictates your attempts anyway,” said Vinatieri, who won two Super Bowls with last-minute kicks and helped the Patriots win their first Super Bowl by making two kicks in the snow of a divisional-round game following the 2001 season. “The game sometimes dictates that you’ve got to go out and try a kick that normally, maybe, you wouldn’t.”
Redskins QB Alex Smith has likewise played through everything during his NFL career, but doesn’t have any secrets about dealing with wacky weather.
“It’s tough: fundamentals, attention to detail when you handle the ball every single play in weather, and obviously that’s a premium, you know, ball security, ball handling, in the pocket and things like that,” Smith said. “I wish I had some kind of secret sauce or something, but I don’t. I just try to do the best I can.”
Luck was sacked twice last week and took seven additional hits.
While offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni was impressed with the effort, the Colts’ offensive line was not at its optimal. Longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo missed the game with an injured hamstring, forcing Joe Haeg to move from the right side to the left, and veteran J’Marcus Webb played right tackle.
This week, Castonzo is expected to be back and Haeg is likely to swing back to the right side — where he spent most of his first two NFL seasons. Webb went on injured reserve with a hamstring injury Tuesday.
“It’s extremely tough because you want to be out there, helping the team,” Castonzo said. “So I’m looking forward to getting out there, yes.”
Washington’s 182 rushing yards in Week 1 led the NFL as Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson put together the mix-and-match, one-two punch Gruden hoped they’d be. While Thompson is a weapon in the passing game and can turn on the speed outside, Peterson has the straightahead style and ability to bounce runs anywhere.
“When he’s on time, he’s great,” left tackle Trent Williams said. “When he’s not on time, he improvises and is still able to do some great things. He’s just a Hall of Fame back and he’s one of the best to ever touch the football, so he’s going to allow you things like that where he just makes plays.”