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
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
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.