Well, folks, this is it.
All of the optimism spouted from some writer’s mouth means nothing if the Washington Redskins are unable to get a victory over the Oakland Raiders in week 4. Without a win, they drop to 0-4, and one team in NFL history has made the playoffs after such a horrendous start (’92 Chargers).
Will they win? Honestly, it’s anyone’s guess. There are lots of volatile parts to the winning formula, and all of them have to mesh for Washington to come away with a “1″ in the win column.
RGIII needs to play well
This is obvious, but it also cannot be stressed enough. Everything that the Redskins do on offense is affected if Griffin plays sub-par. He looked much improved last week, even if his mistakes left a lot of points off the board. The Raiders have given up only 244 passing yards per game; they are not the defensive pushover that many people make them out to be. Griffin must be sharp in his downfield accuracy and confident in his ability to plant and throw in order to have success Sunday.
He also has to be willing to run. We saw it more last week, but it needs to happen even more often than that. The threat of a QB run both opens up holes for Alfred Morris and slows down the pass rush, giving Griffin more time to go through his progression and make the best decision possible. The more time given, the more receivers can get separation, and the easier the game becomes as a whole. It’s not rocket science; unfortunately, it’s much harder to execute than it is to explain.
The secondary needs to step up their game
The photo to the right, courtesy of Staying Medium, shows just how porous the ‘Skins secondary truly is. Dave does a breakdown on the blog, but it’s pretty plain to see what’s happening there. Four burgundy-and-gold-clad men are standing in a clump in the middle of the field while two Lions receivers run by with quite literally no opposition. Josh Wilson (yellow circle) is also attempting to do something football related, I think, but I have no idea what that is. He just looks lost and in need of help.
This cannot happen against Oakland. Terrelle Pryor has surprised everyone with his play early on in 2013, and will cause problems with both his arm and his legs, if he can go. If he can’t, Matt Flynn will take his place under center, and he too is capable of lighting up a defensive backfield full of liabilities. Even though the Raiders do not have a clear downfield threat at receiver, they do have a collection of solid if unspectacular wideouts who will dink and dunk the Redskins to death if they let them.
Plus, honestly, look at the above picture again. The Raiders could pick their QB out of the stands on Sunday, and he/she’d be able to complete that pass. That’s embarrassingly bad coverage, and it will (and has) cost this team wins if it does not improve.
That improvement must begin in two days.
Shut down Run-DMC
No, not the 80s rap group. The running back, Darren McFadden. The oft-injured factor back is powerful and finally appears to be 100% after seemingly battling nagging injuries every year of his career. The talent is clearly still there, as McFadden ran for 129 yards on 19 carries in week 2 vs. Jacksonville (who only allow 12.7 YPG more than the Redskins on the ground, by the way).
If given the chance, DMC can break a game open, not to mention give Oakland a serious advantage in time of possession, something that Washington has lacked all season on their own. Perry Riley, who did not have his best stuff in week 3, and London Fletcher/Nick Barnett need to stuff the middle of the field and not allow McFadden to break free. If they can, it could lead to plenty of stalled drives, especially if Pryor’s threat to run isn’t there either.
Keep it simple, Shanny
The formula that the Redskins need to employ is nothing new. Run the ball more than you throw it, control the clock, win the turnover battle, and don’t take dumb personal foul penalties. It’s how they won the NFC East in 2012, and it’s how they need to play this season as well. We have all seen what happens when they try to spread out the offense and throw the ball 50 times a game; they lose. That style does not fit the way the team was constructed at all. Stick to feeding Morris and letting Griffin do what he does best.
If he does, I think the Redskins can walk away with a win.