On Sunday, the Washington Redskins will try and put their first-half demons behind them against the Detroit Lions at FedEx Field. It won’t be easy, as the Lions seemingly match up very well with the Skins, but quarterback Robert Griffin III knows the team is talented enough to do so.
“We will figure it out . . . we work too hard not to,” the reigning NFC Offensive Rookie of the Year tweeted after last week’s defeat at the hands of Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. The team came into the 2013 season with extremely high expectations after winning the NFC East in 2012. WR Pierre Garcon thought so highly of the offense that they had the potential to be the “greatest ever”. It was a pretty far-fetched notion when he said it originally; now, it’s simply laughable.
It hasn’t just been the offense that has labored, though. The Washington defense has allowed 201.1 rushing yards per game, the worst in the league, and over 300 yards passing per game on top of that. Both games have essentially been over by halftime, even though the team has played improved football in both second halves. What has to change for the Skins to get in the win column against Detroit?
Well, the defense will have to complete the nearly-impossible task of stopping Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, who burns defenders like a blowtorch burns toast. QB Matt Stafford knows to feed him the deep ball, and the Lions are extremely dangerous if that combination is on its game. Throw scatback Reggie Bush (officially “questionable” for this game with a leg injury) into the mix, and you have one of the most versatile offenses in the league, and one seemingly designed to attack all of the Redskins’ weaknesses (the safety position and open field tackling).
Skins rookie DBs David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo must play well for Washington to have a shot. The linebacking corps, specifically Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, needs to have a strong game as well. The more pressure Stafford is under, the less accurate he gets, and the less effective the offense will be.
On the other side of the ball, it really begins and ends with Mr. Griffin III. The word coming out of Redskins Park this week is that the coaches are planning on using more bootlegs and fakes against the Lions, perhaps a sign that RGIII is finally feeling comfortable enough to run the Skins high-energy attack from a year ago. Griffin also said in his weekly press conference that he is willing to run more if he feels its what the team needs him to do.
If he’s up to speed early, this may be the game where the offense takes flight. The threat of RGIII running will also open up more lanes for RB Alfred Morris, who managed to rush for over 100 yards in week two even thought the team fell behind early. One bright spot on offense thus far has been rookie TE Jordan Reed, who has seemingly overtaken incumbent starter Fred Davis on the depth chart. Reed has proven himself to be a reliable 3rd down target with hands made of glue, and causes tons of matchup problems in the red zone. Don’t be surprised if Washington goes to him more and more as the season drags on.
Honestly, until RGIII proves that he’s “back” and plays like he did in 2012, the Redskins are going nowhere fast. Their offense revolves around him, and their defense revolves around playing with a lead. Is this the week he puts it all together? Your guess is as good as mine, and anyone else’s. But some pieces are in place: they’re at home, playing a good-but-not-great defense, with more of the playbook at their disposal.
Hey, it certainly can’t get much worse, right?