Detroit Lions (1-1) at Washington Redskins (0-2)
Sunday - 1pm on Fox
Redskins lead the all-time series 30-12
This week's opponent, the Detroit Lions, are now 1-1 in this young season and are led on offense by all-world wide receiver Calvin Johnson and on defense by NFL bad boy Ndamukong Suh. Detroit has never won a game in Washington. In order for the Redskins to win on Sunday and continue their home winning streak against the Lions, they MUST do the following:
1) Communicate better in the secondary - The Redskins do not have the personnel to stop Calvin Johnson (no team really does). They will have to scheme around him and make sure they are positioned correctly on the field to contain the damage he will cause, unlike last week where there were several big plays allowed due to miscommunication between the corners and safeties. Mental lapses from time to time are to be expected, especially from rookies, but they have to quickly solve this problem. The Lions will not make the process any easier, as Johnson will stretch the action down the field and leave the middle, where the slot receivers, running backs, and tight ends roam, even more susceptible. Through two games in 2013, the Redskins have already done a poor job covering in the slot. I hate to say it, but it may be time to start giving Nick Barnett some snaps over London Fletcher, as it appears he has been struggling with the speed of the game. On top of that, Bacarri Rambo needs to grow up in a hurry and Brandon Meriweather needs to stop leading with his helmet when tackling and start staying healthy. I like big hits as much as the next fan, but he easily could have cost his team two fifteen-yard penalties last week and is no good to the defense when he is sitting on the sidelines.
2) Shore up the tackling - The Redskins are the worst team in the league in giving up 422 yards after the catch (YAC) and have struggled mightily with allowing yards after initial contact. Lions running back Reggie Bush, if he is healthy enough to play, currently ranks third in the league with 146 YAC and has probably been frothing at the mouth watching film of what this defense has done so far. In addition, they also have running back Joique Bell to worry about, who currently ranks twelfth in the league in YAC with 96 yards and has made teams pay this year with 164 combined yards and two touchdowns. Missed tackles led to James Starks' big day last Sunday and Bell and Bush are certainly capable of doing the same thing, or worse.
3) I'll say this again - Make Griffin a running threat. Last week, he was not (again) and the offense did not perform well (again). Without a doubt, Griffin is not the same quarterback when he is mostly taking three-step drops and firing. This has become a real problem and there were no apparent changes from Week 1 to Week 2. Thus far, Griffin has shown that he is more apt to having issues with batted balls and inaccuracy when purely throwing from the pocket. Some of that may be rust and getting used to defenders around his knees, but I believe more of it is that historically, he has less experience in that style of offense. If the Redskins come out this Sunday and run the same offensive scheme, it could be an indication that based on where Griffin is with his recovery right now, they have no plans of changing it. If they run the same offense and get the same results, grumblings about seeing Kirk Cousins come in will grow louder. I'm not saying Griffin is incapable of being a three-step drop back quarterback, I'm simply saying what makes him deadly is when he is using everything in his repertoire, including rollouts and real read option plays. Troy Aikman even pointed out during the broadcast last week that they are running out of the read option formation, but everyone knows Griffin is not going to keep the ball. If everyone knows that, the effectiveness of it is almost completely lost.
4) RUN MORRIS!!! - This is another repeat from last week (only this time with more caps and exclamation points). Morris only has 25 carries through the first two weeks. Now, I realize a lot of this is because they have been playing from behind. That's what happens when you are outscored 50-7 in the first two halves combined. If the offense can stay on the field and create long, sustained drives, at a minimum it will help improve their average field position, and at best will lead to points. Also, giving the Redskins defense longer stretches on the sidelines will work wonders for them. Lions defensive linemen Nick Fairly and Ndamukong Suh are great at what they do, but if you keep pounding on them they will get tired. Going into this game, the Lions rank 22nd against the run with an average of 80.5 yards per game allowed.
5) Help Griffin out - The Redskins lead the league with 10 dropped passes through two weeks. Some of these have been because Griffin did not put the ball where it needed to be, but others have been flat out drops. In addition, Griffin is averaging 11.6 yards per completion, but if you subtract out YAC he is only averaging 5.3 yards per completion. If the Redskins can start taking some shots down the field, that will loosen up the defense and give the receivers more room to breath on the underneath patterns. Part of the problem with the three step drops that they've been running is that this offensive line is not built to consistently pass protect in that kind of offense, and he does not have a lot of time to find an open receiver downfield. The Redskins' offensive line is built to move and pull, so going back to more rollouts and boot legs will give him more time and should open up the deep game more, like it did in 2012.
As I stated last week, much of this is common sense. That being said, they aren't doing it. In a way, I am inclined to grant them a pass in the first two weeks. The Redskins were the first team to see the new Chip Kelly offense in Week 1 and, quite frankly, did not match up well with an Eagles team that has above NFL-average speed. In Week 2, they had the task of going into Green Bay, where the Packers almost never lose, and playing a well oiled machine of a team that is led by a quarterback who might be the best in the league. The cherry on top is that the Redskins are being led by a second year quarterback coming off of reconstructive knee surgery who did not play in any preseason games. Their best chance for victory comes this Sunday. Now, if they lose this one and the offense continues to look as stagnant as it has, look for a lot of Armageddon talk next week.
Hopefully, it won't come to that.