Today, people all across the world will put a final X on the calendar for October, and turn the page to November. That means the NFL season is ready to hit its stretch run, and for teams who got off to less-than-ideal starts to the year, it means that there is no longer any margin for error.
When the Washington Redskins (2-5) take on the San Diego Chargers (4-3) at FedEx Field on Sunday (1:00 PM ET, CBS), they cannot afford to lose. Somehow, the struggling ‘Skins are only 1.5 games out of first place in the NFC East, but a loss Sunday (combined with a likely Cowboys win against Minnesota) would make a second half run akin to 2012’s almost impossible.
I’d love to use this space to rant about how talented the Redskins really are, and that they’ve just been underperforming thus far in 2013. But the reality of the situation is this: Washington is an extremely mediocre football team with very little depth and sub-par coaching.
The ‘Skins’ WR depth is abysmal. Pierre Garçon is solid, but really is more of a #2 receiver than a #1. Leonard Hankerson has been a disappointment and still has issues with drops. Aldrick Robinson cannot get separation from NFL CBs, and Santana Moss has seen his age finally catch up to him this season. When a rookie TE (albeit an extremely talented one) is your first/second best option in the passing game, you have some issues.
There isn’t much to say about the quarterback situation either. Robert Griffin III just does not have the accuracy he had last year. Until he finds it again, the offense will be crippled severely.
Defensively . . . yeesh. Before last week, the unit seemed to be making strides. And then Peyton Manning and the Broncos scored 38 unanswered points en route to a blowout.
That’s, uh, not good. They couldn’t stop either the run or the pass, and this week they get to face the energized Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, Keenan Allen, and the rest of the skillful Chargers offense. I feel like I write a paragraph similar to this one every week, which is not a good sign, but once again I cannot foresee the Washington defense stopping San Diego offense unless the defensive line gets pressure up front. They didn’t last week.
Speaking of pressure, the Redskins’ O-line must be a whole lot stouter than they were against Denver on Sunday. RGIII, while not playing particularly well, never had a chance to plant and throw, getting hit on almost half of his dropbacks and being forced to scramble out of the pocket on a higher percentage than that. Pretty much everyone on the line besides Trent Williams is replacement-level talented or worse. Nothing can be done about it now, but this is a position that MUST be upgraded in the offseason, or Griffin will keep taking big hits and increasing his (already high) injury risk.
Some keys to victory for Washington on Sunday:
– Get the ball to Jordan Reed, like, a whole lot: He had 8 catches last week for 90 yards, and honestly should have had more than that, as he was targeted by RGIII 14 times. I’ve said it a lot, but the guy is simply a monster, and it’s not just me tooting his horn anymore. Noted NFL analyst Andy Benoit (Sports Illustrated, The New York Times) said on Twitter this week that Reed would be the second best TE in the NFC at this time next season.
– Run run run never stop running ever: The team has relied on the pass way too much this season, including last week. OC Kyle Shanahan has had a tendency to get away from the running game even when it’s working, as evidenced by Alfred Morris going almost 8 minutes of game time with only two touches to start the fourth quarter against Denver (he averaged 5.5 YPC). San Diego has only an average run defense (16th overall, approx. 105 yds/gm), so Washington needs to utilize the read option and get them on their toes.
Keep getting Roy Helu Jr. into the mix as well, to keep Morris fresh. This is what the Redskins are designed to do. It baffles me when they abandon the run, and if they do it Sunday, they’ll lose. Again.
– Keep Rivers under pressure: I touched on this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: No pressure on the QB, no victory. Not with this secondary.
Enjoy Halloween weekend, everyone. Hopefully watching this game Sunday is more of a treat than a trick.