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Week 4 Game Preview: Redskins at Buccaneers

Skins running back could have a big day running against a weak Tampa defense, but will it be enough? Zuma Press/Icon SMI

Three weeks into the NFL season, worrisome trends have emerged for the Washington Redskins. The two most important units on a pro team are the offensive line and the defensive secondary, and the Skins are weak at both. What should concern the team's fans is that prospects for improving either area are limited until the offseason.

Of course, these flaws were evident last season and early in the offseason. It's my feeling that they didn't move more aggressively to add quality personnel on the O-line or the secondary because of that preposterous salary cap penalty -- the one imposed despite the fact that the Skins had broken no rules and done nothing wrong. Except, of course, to not go along with the illegal collusion to limit player salaries engaged in by the other owners.

To digress for a moment, it's worth mentioning that Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen still haven't used all of the cap space they had available for this season. They also could have released highly-paid veterans who have either seen diminished productivity, or were likely to be less productive in the future. I'm thinking of players like DeAngelo Hall, Chris Cooley (who they cut in training camp), and Jammal Brown. Those three players alone account for more than $17 million in cap space this season. Just Cooley and Brown would have been nearly $11 million.

But I'm way off topic now. There's one significantly encouraging aspect of the season, and it's more important than the negative (even if the negatives hamper the Skins from being as good as they could have been this season): the emergence of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III. While the O-line and the defensive secondary are the most important units, quarterback is the most important position, and the most important person on the team.

Get the right guy at QB, and everything else is fixable in time. The Meme of the Week was hand-wringing about Griffin getting hit. I'm personally a bit less concerned about the running plays — I'm more worried about some big schlub falling on his knee when he's in the pocket. That said, the option plays are a bit of a concern. The Skins will be changing Griffin's technique on those plays to avoid some of the bigger hits. I'm hoping they'll also run the option less frequently and limit Griffin's runs to semi-designed scramble plays when defenders are more spread out.

In this week's matchup with Tampa Bay, I'm anticipating another high-scoring game even though Tampa's offense has been feeble this season. This could be their "get well" game — New Orleans, St. Louis and Cincinnati all had their best offensive outputs of the young season against the Skins.

Meanwhile, Washington's offense has found success in each of their three games, albeit in different ways each time. Tampa's defense has been unimpressive — teams have been able to run and throw successfully against them this season.

I anticipate seeing a more pro-style offense from Washington — at least early on. Griffin should be able to throw effectively against a Bucs team that has the league's second worst pass defense. Running back Alfred Morris should also have reasonable success running the ball against one of the league's weaker run defenses.

Meanwhile, I expect to see Josh Freeman have his best game of the year throwing the ball against the woeful Washington secondary. Tampa has emphasized the run this season — to middling effect — but I think their game plan will be predicated on passing.

Three things I want to see from Washington this week:

  • Fewer penalties — they currently have the league's highest penalty rate, which means they're giving away key yardage.
  • Move the ball in a more conventional pro set — in other words, use the option sparingly.
  • Consistent pressure on Josh Freeman — they're going to struggle in coverage, so a stout pass rush will help.

Prediction

Tampa Bay Buccaneers — 34

Washington Redskins — 31


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