Washington Redskins (0-3) at Oakland Raiders (1-2)
Sunday - 4:25pm on Fox
Raiders lead the all-time series 8-4 (Including a victory in Super Bowl XVIII)
This week's opponent, the Oakland Raiders, have scrapped and clawed to a 1-2 record behind their third ranked rushing attack, which mainly consists of running back Darren McFadden and quarterback Terrelle Pryor. In order for the Redskins to win on Sunday and get their first victory of the season, they MUST do the following:
1) Improve the tackling - This was the number two key to victory last week, and this week it is number one. Dan Ciarrocchi, our friend here at Hogs Haven and an analyst at ProFootballFocus.com, pointed out after Week 3 that the Redskins defense missed twelve tackles last week. In the process, they allowed 448 yards against the Lions and have now allowed the most yards (1,464) of any team through the first three games since 1966. These numbers would make even Steve Spurrier wince. What else can be said here? NFL players must be able to tackle.
2) Contain Terrelle Pryor if he plays - A big offensive asset for an opposing team to have against a defense that struggles to tackle and gives up a lot of yards is a quarterback who can make plays with his legs. Pryor can and will do that, having rushed for 198 yards already this season. The Redskins may catch a break, however, as he has been struggling with concussion-like symptoms and might not suit up. Redskins' fans should thank the beard of Zeus if the Raiders end up having to start backup quarterback Matt Flynn instead, as he is not nearly as mobile and would force Oakland to play a more traditional drop back offense.
3) Attack the Raiders' secondary - The Raiders will be without their starting strong safety Tyvon Branch due to a leg injury and starting cornerback Tracy Porter is also questionable because of a concussion he sustained last week. Against Detroit, it was good to see the Redskins offense finally start to resemble the offense we saw in 2012. If it had not been for a dropped ball by Aldrick Robinson in the endzone, the Redskins could be looking at a 1-2 record instead of 0-3. What I liked, however, is that they went for the deep ball and opened the playbook up a bit more last week, including more play action and rollouts. That will need to continue against a Raiders defense that is ranked 16th in the league against the pass and will potentially be down two starters in the secondary.
4) Protect the ball - As usual, the team with the least amount of turnovers usually wins the game. Two of the other crucial plays last week that cost the Redskins the victory, outside of the Robinson drop, were Griffin's interception and then later his fumble, both of which occurred deep inside the Lions' territory. Griffin was amazingly good at protecting the ball last year in fifteen games, throwing only five interceptions and having only two lost fumbles. Through less than a quarter of this year, he has already thrown four interceptions and has one lost fumble. The Raiders are -1 in turnover differential in 2013 and the Redskins are at -2.
5) Griffin has to learn how to slide - There has been a lot made of this in the media all week. The bottom line is that it's becoming a problem. Griffin knows how to run and is apparently getting better at moving around with the recovering right knee. Everyone, including Griffin, knows he can't keep taking hits. When he manages to get downfield and is not near the sidelines, he suddenly becomes a fish out of water. This was very evident in the head-first dive and fumble that occurred last week in the fourth quarter. If the Redskins have not done so already, they should hire a specialist immediately and have him start working with Griffin on a daily basis. If sliding with the brace is a problem, then he must learn how to slide on the opposite leg. Annoyingly, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson has mastered the art of the slide and he frustrates defenses quite a bit by running and then getting down before they can touch him. This will be an extremely important skill for Griffin to master as well if he is to have the long career we all want him to have.
Notice, I did not include "run the ball more" on this list. The reason I did not include it, is because even though I would like to see Morris get more carries overall, I felt Kyle Shanahan ran Morris when he could last week. While the production was there in the first half with eight yards per carry on seven carries, it dropped off in the second half to two yards per carry on eight carries, which forced the Redskins into more passing situations. I trust Shanahan will continue to run Morris when he can this week. The Redskins can and should beat the Raiders on Sunday to get their first win of the season, especially if Pryor does not play. It may be hard to start feeling positive vibes about an 0-3 team, but as I mentioned above, if the offense can continue to show flashes of 2012 and if the defense can just clamp down a little bit (as in, not giving up historical amounts of yardage), this team can still make waves in the NFC East.
It better start in Oakland.