November 23, 2014

OPINION: History shows future is cloudy for Redskins’ Griffin

The last three times the Redskins made the playoffs, it was on the back of a second-half surge in 2005, 2007 and 2012. The Redskins entered their bye week at 3-6 much like they did in 2012, but this year, the defense is forcing fewer turnovers. The only game the Redskins were actually out of in the first nine games of 2012 was against Pittsburgh. They had given up a victory with a blown coverage late against the Giants.

Robert Griffin III was fully healthy and playing well back then, after a sensational debut in the first game of the season against New Orleans. With RG3’s health an unknown variable in 2014, the Redskins would be best served trying to find out what kind of quarterback he will be coming off his dislocated ankle. The good news is that this time, no one has made Redskins head coach Jay Gruden backtrack on his comments that he’ll use RG3’s running skills.

Tony Dungy commented that RG3 is no longer the stunning athlete he used to be. He doesn’t have to be. At RG3’s peak, the only quarterback faster than him was Michael Vick, even though many have pointed out that RG3’s speed is more straight-line and not as elusive as Vick’s, even though it doesn’t keep either of them from getting injured. At his best, Mark Brunell ran around a 4.6 40. That’s all you need as an NFL quarterback to make defenses account for you as a running threat, assuming that he was equally good at passing.

It would be best to compare RG3 to other quarterbacks that have suffered knee injuries. Among them, Carson Palmer and Tom Brady are not applicable to RG3’s case because they are primarily pocket passers. Daunte Culpepper was a mobile quarterback, but his case is not applicable because the severity of his knee injury was much greater and catastrophic to the point that it ended his NFL career.

The two closest cases are Randall Cunningham and Brunell. Cunningham suffered a torn ACL and MCL in Week 1 of the 1991 season. Cunningham lost his job to Rodney Peete when the Eagles made a coaching change after the 1994 season. Cunningham didn’t fit Ray Rhodes’s desire for a West Coast-style QB. He was out of football for a year before he resurfaced with Minnesota and led the Vikings offense on a magical run that unfortunately ended in the 1998 NFC Championship Game.

Cunningham never changed his style even after his injury, mostly due to coaching on the part of Rich Kotite, who continued Buddy Ryan’s strategy of having Cunningham make a few plays on offense and then let the vaunted Eagles defense handle the rest. “I remember Buddy used to say to Randall, ‘All I need is for you to make four or five plays a game to make the difference,’ one former teammate told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King. “And Randall used to go out and make these unbelievable plays, plays nobody else could make. Buddy was relying on Randall’s athletic ability and not his ability to read or learn defenses, and that turned out to be Randall’s undoing.” Kotite described Cunningham, “If he wasn`t pressured he didn`t run. If he was, he improvised as he does so well.”

This continued even after Cunningham broke his left fibula in Week 5 of the 1993 season. Cunningham had led the Eagles to a 4-0 record and was named NFC Offensive Player of the Month before that untimely injury.

Cunningham never wanted to change. If you go over some of his quotes from 1992: “I`ll be back scramblin’.” “Those who doubt me don`t believe in me. There`s no doubt in my mind I`ll make it back all the way.” “My instincts are still with me. If I lost my instincts, I probably would have retired. I`m not going to try to be somebody I`m not. I`m going to be Randall Cunningham as long as I can perform at that level.” “I`m not going to sit in the pocket like Joe Montana and complete 70 percent of my passes. I`m not going to scramble like Fran Tarkenton and launch bombs. I`m just going to play football the way I want to and the way the coach wants me to.”

Even if someone pointed out that he was becoming more conventional prior to the 1991 injury, Cunningham said, “I did scramble less, because I was dropping back and completing 70 percent of my passes. But I haven`t changed. I still enjoy that style. If something opens up and I have to dip through and get a few yards, it`s OK by me.”

Brunell is a closer comparison. Brunell, like RG3, was still a running quarterback after his first ACL tear in the spring game after his sophomore season at Washington in which he was named Rose Bowl MVP. When Brunell led the NFL in passing yardage in 1996 with 4,367 yards and ran for 396 yards, he still threw 20 interceptions to go along with 19 touchdowns.

Brunell didn’t become a pocket passer until after he led the Jaguars to the 1996 AFC Championship Game and was rewarded with a big contract. That moment came after he missed the preseason and the first two games of the season after suffering a partially torn ACL, MCL, and PCL in the first game of the 1997 preseason.

Brunell, like RG3, displayed a willingness to adapt to being a pocket passer. “It’s very easy, and this will almost sound too basic, but it’s reps,” Brunell told ESPN’s John Keim. “It’s going through OTAs and minicamps and training camp with the mindset of, ‘I’m dropping back and absolutely have to find a receiver.’ There are four or five receivers in each pass route and your job is to find the open guy.”

After the Jaguars had clinched a playoff berth against Buffalo in Week 16 of the 1997 season, then-Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin said, ”He had a great decision-making game. His spontaneity was better, and he made plays on the run. He also took some pretty good hits and still delivered the ball very well. It’s a shame he had the interception, but he still had a solid game.” Jaguars center Dave Widell said, ”He’s improving with every game and gaining the poise he needs to be successful. That includes not throwing the ball away. He’s leading the offense as he should be.”

“I had to sit in the pocket and throw,” after the injury, Brunell told Keim. “I moved a little bit and not nearly as effectively as before. Going into the ‘98 season, I felt better as a pocket passer. It probably took me a year. I never got to the same speed, but it put me in position where I was forced to develop as a passer. In a way it was one of the best things for me.”

Gary Clark said before the season began that this could be the best offense the Redskins have had since 1991. On paper, it compares favorably with the 1999 offense with quarterback Brad Johnson, running back Stephen Davis, receivers Michael Westbrook and Albert Connell along with tight end Stephen Alexander. One place where they don’t compare well is the offensive line, where Trent Williams is by far the best player, as well he should since he was the fourth pick of the 2010 draft. The Redskins have used precious few draft picks on the line dating back to the Mike Shanahan era.

Tight end Jordan Reed is healthy again, while DeSean Jackson leads the NFL in yards per catch. Pierre Garcon is only one year removed from breaking Art Monk’s single season receiving record, and Andre Roberts was brought in from Arizona to be the No. 2 receiver before the signing of Jackson. The running game with Alfred Morris has been coming around since halftime against Dallas.

With the vast array of offensive weapons in the Redskins arsenal, the playcalling has been very conservative thus far. Through Week 8 against the Cowboys, “All three quarterbacks combined have thrown 45.5% of their passes within the 0-9 yard window, with just 12.5 attempts traveling 20 yards or more through the air. The receivers are expected to turn short passes into large gains through their feet, as Pierre Garcon did for his 70 yard touchdown in Week 8,” according to Trey Cunningham at Pro Football Focus.

Washington Redskins Game 9 Review: Defense optional as Vikings top Redskins

The Washington Redskins team bus was involved in an accident on its way to Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, shaking up team members and the coaching staff. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, though third string RB Silas Redd was made inactive due to his back tightening up after the collision.

Unfortunately, the accident was an apt metaphor for the team’s defense today, as the wheels came off early and the previously ineffective Vikings offense, led by rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater, carved up the D in large chunks to beat the Redskins 29-26.

The game marked the return of QB Robert Griffin III, and while his arm is as impressive as it has always been — he was obviously rusty from missing so many weeks due to his dislocated ankle — it was apparent he wore down as the day went along and the hits piled up, as he was sacked five times by the Minnesota defense.

Griffin was 18 of 28 for 251 yards, a touchdown and a very costly interception. He looked great on downfield balls — as long as the porous offensive line gave him time to set. He looked less good on sprint passes, especially when asked to move to his left and throw against his body. On those occasions, he looked either physically incapable, or just plain unwilling, to set his feet and make a good hard throw.

The offensive line play, again today, was simply atrocious. On very few occasions, Griffin had enough time to go through his progressions and find the correct receiver. He was much more effective on single-read routes where he didn’t need read the play. Griffin often looked indecisive as well, perhaps a testament to his inactivity over eight weeks.

The running game with Alfred Morris, however, looked very sharp in the first half. Predictably though, once the game got competitive in the second quarter and second half, the team practically abandoned the run and opted to use screens and swing passes to keep the defense honest, with varying degrees of success.

Morris finished with 92 yards on 19 carries and two touchdowns.

Griffin found Desean Jackson for two long gains and a short touchdown pass, once again showing Jackson’s threat to secondaries across the league. He made four catches for 120 yards, the longest of 56 yards. But his offensive pass interference call in the fourth quarter — a very soft call — ended up putting the Redskins in a second-and-20 spot they could not recover from.

The Redskins (3-6) built a 10-0 lead on a Kai Forbath 36-yard field goal and Morris’ first touchdown of the day, a 14-yard carry. Both drives were impressive; the first went 13 plays and 72 yards, the second went 91 yards on six plays.

The Redskins held the Vikings (4-5) on downs in their territory right before the half, but on the next play — with 1:04 left on their own 39 — Griffin rolled left and threw to Andre Roberts, but the throw was short and Captain Munnerlyn stepped in and scooped it up before it hit the ground. After review, the play stood.

Bridgewater needed just four plays to put it in the end zone, the last was a 20-yard strike to wide open tight end Chase Ford (5 catches, 66 yards) down the left sideline for the score. The Vikings made it 14-10 early in the third — after a Redskins three-and-out — as a 6-play, 56-yard drive ended on Matt Asiata’s 1-yard plunge.

Washington answered though, marching 56 yards on seven plays and Griffin hit Jackson on a slant with a terrific pass to make it 17-14. The team forced a three-and-out, then got in position for Forbath’s second field goal of the day, this time from 26 yards, and the Redskins led 20-14.

That’s when the defense went completely AWOL.

Minnesota took its next possession 76 yards in 10 plays, with Asiata’s 7-yard touchdown as a result, and a Vikings 21-20 lead.

The Redskins responded with another solid drive, 8 plays, 80 yards, and Morris’ second touchdown, a 2-yard run. A failed 2-point conversion made it 26-21 Redskins.

But the defense again laid down. The Vikings, who hadn’t scored more than 14 points in any of their past five games, carved up the defense for 73 yards on 12 plays, culminating with Asiata’s third score of the day, and the dagger in the Redskins hopes.

The offense got the ball back with 3:27 left, needing a field goal to force overtime. But the drive stalled, and Griffin’s fourth down pass to Pierre Garcon, on a sprint left, was low and short and fell incomplete.

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 9 loss against the Minnesota Vikings

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 29-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings:

1. The Return of Robert Griffin III: not bad, but certainly not good either.

Robert Griffin finished the game completing about 65% of his passes for 251 yards, but threw a game changing interception and took five sacks. Griffin also added 24 on the ground, while allowing Morris to rush for 4.8 yards a pop, a full yard improvement over rushes with Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy under center.

As expected there were some bad decisions by Griffin which in the end came back to cost the Redskins the game even though he was not the only reason why. That being said, with a few better plays here or there he could have won this game for his team.

Before the half, Griffin threw an off-balanced flutter ball intended for Andre Roberts but it was picked off, though the review replay couldn’t conclusively say if it hit the ground or not. This led the momentum to change as the Vikings marched through and over the Redskins defense. Griffin also was guilty of holding the ball way too long throughout the game especially when he has an extremely weak offensive line protection him. This led to getting behind in the down and distance constantly and during the last drive costing scoring opportunities.

Finally, on Griffin’s last throw before the failed Hail Mary, he felt rushed even though no one was around him, did not have his feet set, and delivered a fastball in the dirt and feet of Pierre Garcon, effectively ending the game.

2. Defense struggles in all phases against untalented offense.

The defense played well for the first 29 minutes of the game, and then the wheels came off. After Griffin’s interception late in the first half, the defense could not erase the miscue and then the bleeding did not stop. After escaping blown coverages by Teddy Bridgewater misfires earlier, the defense gave up two 20+ yard passes to receivers without a defender in sight.

In the second half, miscues mounted with a roughing the passer penalty called against Keenan Robinson for spearing Bridgewater to the ground. Then the physical domination by a weak Minnesota offensive line started as there was no pass rush and red zone rushing touchdowns became child’s play. Although Griffin had the opportunity to extend and win the game, the defense is the biggest culprit for this loss.

3. Special teams being special, but only one phase of the team playing well does not win games.

After the air was taken out of the Redskins sidelines when they were in the hole 14-10 early in the third quarter, the special teams delivered. Andre Roberts fielded the ensuing kickoff one yard deep in the end zone and returned it for 45 yards giving the Redskins great field position and a boost. The Redskins turned this into a touchdown drive and recapturing the lead.

Then on the ensuing kickoff again Kai Forbath was able to boot the ball deep in the end zone but the over anxious Cordarrelle Patterson unwisely decides to bring it out from seven yards deep just to get tattooed by Adam Hayward at the 10 yard line. Unfortunately they did not have any other opportunities to make an impact with a possible game tying field goal awaiting.

4. I will continue to say it as long as it is true: Desean Jackson for MVP! But then, the dagger.

Desean Jackson continues to leave his mark on games whether it be with the 45-yard catch early in the game to set up the Redskins first touchdown, his own 13-yard touchdown grab, or a 56-yard catch and run on a seam pattern up the sidelines. All of this is great and exactly what we expected from him this season.

However, the play that many are not talking about the offensive pass interference call against Jackson that played a major role in stalling their penultimate drive. The foul was completely unnecessary as the defender’s own momentum would have done the job instead of the extension of the arm. It set up a first down and 20 yards to go which proved to be too much for the Redskins to pick up in the biggest stage of the game.

All in all, Jackson continues to be this team’s best player and hopefully will continue his output for the rest of his time in Washington.

5. Developments into the bye week.

Although this is a disappointing loss and should sit poorly with the team and fans for the next two weeks, there is hope that Griffin will return to the electrifying RG3 after getting more experience in this system. Additionally, players that will see their roles increase include Leonard Hankerson, who may be activated off of the PUP list, Barry Cofield who may be activated off the short term IR list, and Phillip Thomas who has returned to the team after showing promise at the safety position pre-injury.

Moreover, it will be interesting to see if Jay Gruden decides to make any changes to the starting lineup specifically with Josh LeRibeus, Spencer Long, and/or Morgan Moses somewhere on the offensive line, which is currently much maligned.

This team has the slightest sliver of hope that Griffin will continue to grow. Additionally, they were in the same position after nine weeks in 2012, maybe Gruden will “pretend” to throw in the towel too.

Washington Redskins Week 9 Preview: Minnesota Vikings

The Washington Redskins thrilling win over the Dallas Cowboys — on Monday Night Football, no less — is why we all watch sports, especially the NFL.  It can’t be scripted.  Every media pundit, every blog, even this website and writer, expected a Redskins loss.  It was the perfect storm: Dallas was on a six game winning streak. Washington, though they had won the week before, started journeyman quarterback Colt McCoy on Monday night football in Jerry World.  The odds were stacked against this team, and they responded in a big way.

In Monday night’s overtime victory, Washington showed more guts and heart than we have seen since the last time the Redskins bested the Cowboys in the 2012 NFC East division championship game. In addition to McCoy’s heroics, each phase of the game was able to contribute to the victory.  Andre Roberts set the tone on special teams early with a huge punt return.  Brandon Meriweather, Bashaud Breeland, and Keenan Robinson all showed the league that they were forces to be reckoned with.  Even Perry Riley, who has experienced a rough season so far, was able to contribute in a big way to the team victory.

Now it’s the last game before the bye, and the Redskins are anticipating the return this week of their franchise quarterback.  Quarterback Robert Griffin III has healed from his week 2 ankle injury and has been deemed cleared to play against Minnesota.  As we said back in week 2, it will be important for Griffin to utilize his legs as much as his arm in order to be successful.  In addition, though he got going late last week, running back Alfred Morris stands to benefit from Griffin’s return.  Morris has been much more effective when the defense has had to keep an eye on Griffin as a run threat as well.  If utilized correctly, and if he truly is 100%, Griffin can be a powerful addition to an offense that seems to be finding its stride for the 3-5 Redskins.

Minnesota is also 3-5 and coming off an overtime victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, although it seems that the victory was more about what Tampa Bay didn’t do, rather than what Minnesota did.  Minnesota is still without Adrian Peterson and rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has struggled early in his NFL career.  The bright spot for Minnesota is that they have been posting solid defensive numbers, keeping the team in the game when the offense has done so little.  If Minnesota is going to beat the Redskins, they will need to take advantage of possible rust with Robert Griffin III.

Keys to the game

RG3, not Robert Griffin

There was a moment early in the week 2 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars that ESPN 980 sideline reporter and Redskins legend Rick “Doc” Walker exclaimed the return of RG3 after a read option quarterback keeper.  It is so true. The “RG3″ moniker paints memories of the dynamic Baylor quarterback we became infatuated with and the dynamic Redskins rookie, who carried a team on his back, that we fell in love with. He must return and immediately return to this style of offense.  He is not yet a pocket passer, so they must utilize his speed to their advantage.

Intensity and heart

These are the attributes the Redskins defense and special teams played with on Monday night in Dallas.  It’s important, because the talent isn’t quite there yet.  Minnesota is dreadful on offense, but if the defense comes out stale, Bridgewater could quickly turn on his career against a marginally talented defense.  If the unit comes out motivated for a win, this one could be over early.

Limit mistakes

Minnesota’s defense has been very opportune this year.  Last week, their overtime victory was the result of a defensive touchdown.  Still, Robert Griffin III takes care of the ball for the most part.

Our Predictions

Joe Ziegengeist

Skins will win this one pretty easily, and we’ll be spending the bye week dreaming of playoff scenarios as the team will be 4-5 with Tampa off the bye.  Redskins 28, Vikings 10

Dave Nichols

I expect RGIII to be a bit rusty, yet show enough of the things we want to see from him to inspire confidence in the future. I just don’t think the Redskins rebound on the short week to go on the road again after the hangover from the big win at Dallas. Vikings 24, Redskins 20

Neil Dalal

The Vikings are a struggling team to say the least. They have a rookie quarterback with few weapons around him and an average defense. The Redskins should win this game as long as they do not have too many penalties and/or turnovers. The key matchup in the game will be Murphy/Kerrigan versus Kalil/Loadholt; if we can win that matchup this should be no-contest. Redskins 27, Vikings 13

Eric Hobeck

With Robert Griffin III back, the offense will be rejuvenated and ready to take on a Viking defense that gives up just over 21 points a game. On offense, Minnesota just doesn’t win when they score less than 20 and the Redskin defense will be able to hold rookie QB Teddy Bridgewater at bay.   Redskins 28, Vikings 13

Joe Miller

This game will come down to how well RG3 plays coming back after missing the last 6+ games. The Vikings defense is pretty good but I imagine it’s been tough for them this week to prepare for a Griffin-led offense, seeing as how he’s played in less than five quarters this season; not a lot of film to go off of. Tough to get a clear picture of what this offense will look like with him at the helm since he obviously brings greater mobility and big play ability to the offense than do Cousins and McCoy. Even with Griffin rusty, I think the offense still puts up points and the defense does fairly well coming off their best performance of the year.  Redskins 27, Vikings 17

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s full comments on RGIII starting

In his normal media availability Thursday, Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden indicated the team plans to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings. Below are his full comments about the matter.

From the team press release:

On the quarterback situation:

“We’ve moved Robert [Griffin III] along at a pretty good clip. We started him out in individual drills, monitored him. Last week he got some team drills, obviously. He did very well and the progress that he has made has had us put him in with the ones and prepare to be the starter. He’s coming along great. We wouldn’t put him in with the ones if we didn’t feel like he was 100 percent physically. Now it’s a question of ‘let’s get him some reps with the ones to see where he is mentally, see how he’s throwing the ball with the group, see if his timing is there, if his reads are there, see how comfortable he is back there,’ and he looks fine. So, every intent right now is moving forward we have to prepare him to be the starting quarterback. If there a fallback, if there’s a drawback whatsoever as far as the injury, if he’s sore at all, then we’ll go back to Colt [McCoy]. But right now, he looks pretty good moving forward but we still have another day tomorrow.”

On if quarterback Robert Griffin III will start:

“If everything goes well, he has got a great chance to start. Right now he looks great, his ankle looks great, you know what I mean? Today, he missed a few throws. We’ll get them corrected. Colt had some good throws today obviously. But, we have a good choice of quarterbacks, but Robert’s the starter. We want to make sure when he came back that he did come back – he’s got to be 100 percent, No. 1, physically, and I feel like he’s at 100 percent physically right now. We still have another day left and to make sure that’s the case. All the doctors are onboard, the trainers are onboard. As far as physically, he looks great. He looked great last week. This week he looks fine. Now it’s just a matter of seeing him with the team drills and how he throws and going from there.”

On what he wants to see from Griffin III prior to Friday:

“I’ll see him decisive with the ball, accuracy, decisive, feet in the pocket, very important. Make sure he’s not jittery, make sure he’s not tentative with his reads and decisions. Make sure he’s confident, plays with that confident air that he has that everybody loves moving forward and we’ll make the final decision, but everything looks good so far,”

On the advantages and disadvantages of playing Griffin III:

“There’s no cons of playing him now if he’s healthy, which we think he is. The problem with the bye is everybody thinks you’ve got a bye, you ‘ve got all this extra time to work. The bye week, the players get like five days off. It’s not like we can come out here and have two-a-days and get them ready for next week. If he’s ready physically, then I think he should play, and that’s what it comes down to. Physically, we think he’s ready, and then like I said, after the physical part, I want to make sure he’s comfortable in the pocket with all the throws and all of his reads, the new plays we’ve added since he’s been gone, some of the new concepts we’ve added since he’s been gone, try to get him up-to-date on those, try to get him up to speed. And if he’s up to speed making the right decisions, we have another day tomorrow, then there’s a great chance he’ll be the starter. But there’s really no benefit to if he is healthy to really sitting him and waiting for the bye. It’s not like his leg’s going to get stronger. His leg’s fine. So, what the heck?

On his expectations of Griffin III moving forward:

“We expect a lot from our starting quarterback whoever it is. We expect a lot from Kirk [Cousins], we expect a lot from Colt [McCoy], and that won’t change with Robert. We have high expectations for him because he is our starting quarterback. He’s a very good athlete, very talented, and he’s played five quarters of football as a starting quarterback here for me since I’ve been here. He’s got a lot to prove as we do, but he’s our starter and we feel like he gives us the best chance to win and that’s the bottom line, which quarterback – all three of them are healthy – gives us the best chance to win, and we made the decision back in training camp that it was Robert. He deserves a chance to prove us right.”

On if Griffin III is taking the majority of the reps with the first team:

“Yes.”

On simulating game situations:

“We can’t worry about the simulation of hits because that comes from the doctors as far as him being cleared physically from them. If they feel like his leg is as stable as it was before he got hurt, then he is going to be out there and playing. There’s nothing more he can do to get it better. Now the decision is on me, and that was what I said before was once he gets cleared from the doctors, then I want to make sure he’s ready from a mental standpoint. Out there today, from a mental standpoint he’s fine. It’s just a matter of he was off a little here and there with some of his throws, but we have got another day to get him back comfortable in the pocket and see where he’s at. So, he’s cleared from the doctors. Now, it’s a matter of getting him ready as far as what we talked about from the quarterback’s skillset.”

On how the decision will be made:

“Yeah, it’ll be pretty much my call. I’ll talk about it with the rest of the coaches and Bruce [Allen] and we’ll go from there. Everybody’s on board as far as from a physical standpoint, everyone’s on board. He’s 100 percent. You can see him running around. You saw him running around last week. He was running scout team cards for Tony Romo. He was running around like a banshee, and he’s more healthy than most of the guys we have playing right now. So, from a physical standpoint he is ready, but like I said, for a young quarterback who has missed this much time in a new system, the big thing is getting him back from a mental standpoint. He’s right there. Watching it on film and looking at it on a chalkboard and talking through it in the meeting rooms is a little bit different than doing it live out there in practice. He’s going to have his bumpy times, but hopefully he’ll correct them and do better tomorrow and better Saturday and we’ll be ready to roll.”

On if there is any hesitation to allow Griffin III to run:

“No, if there was any hesitation as far as that is concerned I wouldn’t be thinking about playing him. That is part of my decision going in. He has got to be 100 percent, and by 100 percent I mean able to do everything – run all the plays that we want, the boots, whatever he’s got to do, the quarterback draws, whatever the heck it is outside the pocket. That is what makes Robert, Robert. So, when he is cleared, he is clear to do everything. We can’t hold back because of any past injuries. He has got to play the position the way he plays it.”

On how reliable athletes’ words are when saying they are ready to return:

“Everybody is different. Everybody wants to get back and play. Every great competitor wants to play but you have to really… We do a great job in here with the trainers. Larry [Hess] as much as he bothers me, he does a really good job with rehabbing these guys and the doctors to a good job of monitoring them, watching all his movements out there and the strength tests in there. There is no way they would think about clearing Robert unless they knew for sure he was 100 percent. They feel good about where he is from a structure standpoint as far as not re-injuring that thing, stability standpoint, it’s stable. So there really is nothing holding him back as far as worrying about what might happen if he gets tackled. It’s intact, it’s steady, it’s structurally good, so there is no reason not to play him from a physical standpoint.”

On how the offense has changed since Griffin III was injured and how he has kept up with those changes:

“He’s done a good job. He has been in all the meetings. He prepares like he is playing. That is the responsibility of all quarterbacks and all players when they are not playing. They have to make sure they are ready. But like I said, chalkboard stuff and watching tape is a little bit different than going out there and going through your progressions live. But he has done a good job, man. He is a very, very, very bright guy and I think that is one of his strengths. He picks up everything in the protection adjustments that we’ve had, the route concept changes that we made. He has done a good job with it, he understands them. Made a few mistakes today but, you know, we’ve all done that on Thursdays. We’ve just got to get them corrected before Sunday if he is going to play.”

On how many changes have been made to the offense:

“Quite a few. Every week it’s game plan dependent depending on who we play. Some teams play more man, some teams play more zone, some teams blitz more and every play is game plan dependent upon the concepts we like and who are going to go after, who we are going to target and you just have to be ready to adjust.”

On a scenario in which Griffin III would not start on Sunday:

“I think if something happens where he steps on someone’s foot or something like that or comes up lame for whatever reason, which shouldn’t happen, or if he just comes and tells me, ‘Hey, I might need another week for it to settle in,’ which probably won’t happen. But for me to say he won’t play if he is 100 percent healthy, which we know he is, just his comfort level out there, but he looked fine today. All systems look like they are go. So we will just prepare and watch him again tomorrow and then make a final decision after tomorrow hopefully.”

On if he will name Griffin III the starter now:

“He is taking the starting reps. We have every intent of him starting, you know what I mean? Who knows, he should be fine… If everything goes well tomorrow, he should be the starter, yes. He should be the starter. I might just change my mind now and just start Colt for the first play of the game just to tick everybody off [laughter].”

On the importance of having a quarterback when taking a head coaching job:

“Well, it is important to have a starter in place that you feel good about and try to build your team around. Instead of trying to have two or three of them, you’ve got to compete and figure out who your starter is, that is a tough job. They drafted one, they had a couple in house that they thought are pretty good and that’s a little tougher on them. Here we felt good coming in when I first got the job that Robert would be the guy and we prepared our team for Robert being the quarterback. Unfortunately he got hurt after five quarters and now that he is better, he is going to be the starter. But every team is different, every system is different and you just have to adjust to your personnel.”

Gruden indicates “intent” to start Griffin Sunday

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden announced Thursday the team intends to start Robert Griffin III at quarterback Sunday on the road against the Minnesota Vikings.

At his normal Thursday media availability, Gruden said, “He’s taking the starting reps. We have the intent of him starting.

“If everything goes well tomorrow, yes, he should be the starter.”

Gruden dismissed the idea of waiting until after the following week’s bye, pronouncing Griffin healthy and ready physically.

“There are no cons to playing him now if he’s healthy, which we think he is,” Gruden said. “The problem with the bye is everyone thinks you’ve got all this extra time to work. The bye week, the players get like five days off. It’s not like we can come out here and have two-a-days and get them ready. If he’s ready physically, I think he should play. Physically we think he’s ready.”

Gruden said it would take a physical setback or new injury for Griffin not to play Sunday.

“If something happens where he steps on somebody’s foot or something like that, or comes up lame for whatever reason, which shouldn’t happen,” Gruden said. “Or if he just comes and tells me that, ‘Hey, I need another week for it to settle, which probably won’t happen. But for me to say he won’t play, if he’s 100-percent healthy, which we know he is, [it would] just be his comfort level out there.”

Griffin injured his left ankle in Week 2 against Jacksonville.

The Redskins have a chance to ever their record at 4-4 against Minnesota with a bye week next and Tampa Bay the following week. If Griffin can return to made a positive impact, the Redskins could very well have a chance in the next two weeks to elevate themselves into playoff talk after knocking off the then one-loss Cowboys last Monday night.

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s Tuesday press availability

From a team press release:

On if the play of quarterback Colt McCoy eases pressure on the possible return of Robert Griffin III: “Well, we are not going to rush Robert back no matter what happens. You know, we are going to make sure that he is 100 percent, and until we feel like he is 100 percent, Colt will still play. And Colt did a great job obviously leading us to victory against Dallas, but it’s all going to be predicated on when the doctors say he is 100 percent, when Robert feels like he is 100 percent and when I feel like he is ready to take the game time reps.”

On anything that stood out to him about McCoy’s play: “I like the way he competed, No. 1. You know, he wasn’t perfect by any stretch but he competed his butt off, made some huge throws, some good scrambles, you know, a great quarterback draw for a touchdown – dove in there. Just a great competitor, you love to have that competitive spirit at your quarterback position. You never really quite know until you see him out there with the lights on and under pressure, so I just love his competitive spirit and the way he handled the pressure.”

On if he was trying to motivate running back Alfred Morris by giving Silas Redd, Jr. a series: “No, I think it was just – if it motivated him good, but it wasn’t anything to punish Alfred. It was just to get Silas Redd a couple carries and we like to have – we feel good about all three of those backs. I haven’t been good enough to get Silas some touches throughout the game so far. I think he showed in Jacksonville he has got a great knack for finding holes, he’s got great feet and in the preseason did some really good things. We just haven’t had a lot of opportunities to get another back in there with the way Roy [Helu, Jr.] and Alfred have been playing, but I thought it was a good time to take a look at Silas. Unfortunately, he put the ball on the ground but it was reviewed and we got it back. It was nothing meant to say, ‘Hey Alfred, we are trying to replace you’ or anything like that. I was just subbing guys in there and keeping backs fresh.”

On if he is starting to feel more comfortable with the performance in the running game: “Yeah, I do, I do. It was a good night. We stuck with it and got some good clips, it was a good to see Alfred break one, had a 20-something yarder. Roy had a couple good hits, got a good one on the draw, got a good one on the one-back power-type thing. So, there is something to be very optimistic about in our running game. The most important thing is to show that we can run it. Obviously when can run it you have to make a decision defensively. Are you going to have that guy in the box or are you going to bring that extra defender which opens up DeSean [Jackson] and Pierre [Garçon] in a big way?”

On how McCoy responded to the interception: “He was upset at himself, no question about it. But, I think his demeanor was great the whole time. He was pretty much poised – I think early in the game he might have been a little bit overexcited, pumped up – You know what I mean? Playing back in Texas and Monday Night Football – but after the first couple series where he had a rough start so to speak, he still had a calm demeanor about himself and was talking about the next series. Really nothing of cause of alarm, we just had to get him settled down and play the position the right way.”

On if there was a play that stood out from McCoy’s performance: “Oh, the quarterback draw. You know, it was blocked pretty good but to find that crease and dive in the end zone is pretty gutsy, you know, to dive in head first on third down and six or seven at the seven-yard line. Makes that type of call look very genius by myself, but really he made it all happen. Great block by Jordan Reed, Kory [Lichtensteiger] got up on the safety and Colt did the rest.”

On if he has grasped the magnitude of this win and what it could mean for the season: “I read somewhere after we lost our fifth game that we were playing meaningless games from here on out, which is pretty far from the truth. You know, we wanted to come out against Tennessee and get a win, and then obviously come out and compete against Dallas on Monday Night Football and prove that we aren’t dead, you know? We still have a pulse, our heart is still beating, and we have a lot to play for still. And that’s what that game meant for us, man. It showed the hard work that we put in. The resilience that we’re showing is paying off, and we’ve just got to keep it going. You know, we dug ourselves in a mighty hole at 1-5, and we understand that moving forward, but we’re not dead. We still have a little bit of a pulse left.”

On if Griffin III and McCoy will likely split first-team reps in practices this week: “Yeah. Tomorrow’s a typical Wednesday for us, but we can’t really go full speed. Because we played Monday night and we got in so late, we’ll probably have to have more of a jog-through, walkthrough-type tempo tomorrow. So that’s going to take a little bit off. It’ll be a little bit of an issue. But Thursday we’ll get some really good work, Friday we’ll get some real good work, and then we’ll make the decision. I think Robert is very, very, very close, and we just have to decide if he’s ready. Physically, I think he’ll be ready to go. Doctors are feeling pretty good about it — they still want to see him running around this week until they make their final determination as far as clearing him, but I just want to make sure he feels good in the pocket moving forward with everything.”

On if he can look forward to a possible opportunity to continue the momentum the next couple of games: “That’s what the intent is. You know, we’re not looking really beyond the Vikings. You know, they’re obviously a very good defensive football team. I know Mike Zimmer very well and what he does with those players on defense. I was with him the past three years in Cincinnati, and he coaches them extremely well, and they have some good personnel over there. And then offensively they have a rookie quarterback, but he’s very talented, and they’ve got some skill over there. So for us to look past the Vikings at 3-5 would kind of be pretty stupid, so we have to focus all our energy and time on the Minnesota Vikings this week, and then what happens after the bye happens after the bye. But this is a huge game for us — they all are because we dug ourselves into this hole. We were 1-5, and we’ve got to pretty much win and win often to have a chance. So one game a time is our motto. I know it’s cliché, but that’s the only way we can go about things.”

On using motivational techniques for the Cowboys and how he can motivate the team against the Vikings: “I just think you have to continue to build off what you were doing. You know, the success that we had against Dallas, you know, our ability to come back against Tennessee… Like I said, get that big stop for our defense, and I think to get the ball back and go down and get the winning field goal against Tennessee, build off of that momentum, go to Dallas on the road, win on Monday night. We just have  to continue to build off of the momentum. You know, the blocks that we’re paving — we’ve just got to continue to build and get better and better, and I think when you start seeing success, you start seeing the work that you’re putting in paying off. The concepts that are working offensively; defensively, the blitzes, the coverages, all that stuff — when players see, ‘OK, this is how it’s supposed to be done, when you do it right, this is what it’s supposed to look like,’ it’s pretty exciting, and guys are excited to come to work and see what’s next — ‘Hey, what plays you got in for me this week? What defense you got? What blitzes you got?’ So I think we can continue to build on that moving forward. I think guys are excited to come back in here to work and, you know, success can really do wonders for players’ psyches. You know, they come in with a little bit bounce in their step and they’re ready to roll. I think every pro football game — I know the Dallas Cowboys is a special deal; Monday Night Football, at Dallas, division rivalry, all of that good stuff — but every game is very, very important. Every game is very, very hard, and if you overlook anybody, you’re going to do is get beat. We’re not in a position to do that by any stretch.”

On the delay of game penalties: “I think one time we caused it, we were late getting the play in early in the game, and that was on us. But the other one, the last one at the end, you know, we had 18-19 seconds left as they broke the huddle, and the quarterback’s got to know the play clock at some point. We just were really slow getting to the line, and that’s something that’s got to be addressed — our tempo, breaking the huddle, calling the play, breaking the huddle, getting to the line. Getting the play in isn’t the issue. It’s breaking the huddle, the receivers’ have got to get to the line quicker, we’ve got to send our motion quicker, and we always, as a quarterback, have to know what the shot clock is, and get the play off. I mean, that’s what the quarterback – that’s one of their responsibilities. And when I saw it going down to 3, 2, 1, I had the one timeout left — I wanted to save it — but I thought we were going to get it off, and then I was too far from the referee to call a timeout with one second and we got a delay of game. That’s one, in my mind, if you’re going to critique Colt for his interception, and then the two delay of game penalties, you can’t have as a quarterback. You don’t see veteran quarterbacks take delay of games very often.”

On the learning curve for the quarterbacks in gauging DeSean Jackson’s speed: “We throw to him plenty in practice, but sometimes he gets on that fast track – that turf out there – and then he’s rolling. We’ve just got to get them out there. We’ve got to get them out there to him and continue to work him. Sometimes he gets jammed at the line of scrimmage and doesn’t get going quite as fast, but when the ball’s in the air, he’s got unbelievable speed and tracking ability to go get it. So we’ve just got to understand as quarterbacks, all of them, they can lay it out there a lot farther than they think they can. I think we’ve only overthrown him maybe twice since I’ve been here in practice. It’s pretty incredible. That’s an incredible guy tracking the ball. The first deep one, if he throws it out there, it’s a touchdown, but at least we completed the dang thing.”

On what he said to the offense to quell their frustration at halftime: “It’s a tough deal. It’s Monday Night Football and everybody wants to show up and show that they’ve put in the time and work and they really want to help this football team win. When their number’s not called and they’re not getting looks, getting the ball thrown to them, they get frustrated. So would I if I was playing wide receiver. I probably would’ve been in the same situation with them. As competitors, as football players, you want to have every opportunity to help the team win and move the ball. When you have three points and you’re 0-for-4 on third down and you haven’t got a touch or get the ball thrown your way, you’d be mad if you’ve had success that some of these guys have had in their careers. It’s just a matter of calming them down, trying to tell them to hang in there, we still have another half to play and we’ll get it to them. They have to trust that. Sometimes you’ve got to let them vent a little bit, but ultimately it’s a 60-minute game and we had to have them for the second half play at a high level and I think they all did that despite being a little frustrated in the first half.”

On cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson: “They were outstanding, both of them. Not so much in the cover ability, which they both covered extremely well, but tackling. They were great tacklers. There were some open field tackles, and really you look at Breeland, you see all the plays that he had were good – the pass breakups, the tackles – but I thought the most impressive play he had was coming all the way over from the other side of the field and tackling DeMarco Murray at the five-yard line on his long run. A lot of players might have taken that one off, and if he wasn’t hustling and flying from the other side of the field, he scores there. Instead of him scoring, we held them to three points on that possession. That’s the two plays that Breeland broke up on [Dez] Bryant back to back. That whole series right there was very impressive for Breeland. Amerson was steady, as always, but the guy who really didn’t get a lot of love was [Brandon] Meriweather. He had probably his best game since I’ve been here. He had tackles. He had sacks. He had fumbles, fumble recoveries, forced fumble, he was all over the place so it was great to see him show up in a big way the way he did.”

On the backup quarterback if Griffin III returns: “That’s a good question. We’d love to dress three quarterbacks. They’re all worthy of playing, man. I said this before, Kirk’s did some great things, man, and I think his career is still going to be very good in the NFL, it’s just that Colt has shown – you see what Colt does. He’s done that every day in practice that he’s been out here. He’s a viable option, also. When we’re struggling with the turnovers and the third down percentage, I thought Colt had earned the right to have a crack at it and he proved that he can do it. If Robert comes back, then we’ll have to make a decision the second quarterback, whoever that it is, or dress all three of them and that’ll be determined when Robert comes back.”

On if he could feel confidence building for a team throughout a game and if he could feel that last night: “Yeah, you could feel it. I think that really, to me, it stemmed from our defense. Our offense did some decent things – the first half we weren’t very good – but when your defense is flying around, sacking the quarterback, doing what they were doing, it’s pretty exciting. Then our special teams did some good things. You just feel you always have a chance to win the game when your defense is playing like that. It gave our offense a chance to get going. We were a little slow started – offense – in the first half. We took the ball and drove 80 yards to start the third quarter which really gave our defense even more reason to fly around to the football. It gave everybody confidence. I think the opening drive in the third quarter was huge, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the defense playing the way they did in the first half to keep us in there.”

On if there were any noteworthy injuries from last night: “No, not really. Like I said, [Ryan] Kerrigan’s going to be fine, [Kedric] Golston’s got some stitches in his nose, Colt came in and his calves were sore, but he’s going to be fine. Nothing really of note.”

On safety Ryan Clark saying he’s been playing with a torn bicep: “Yeah, he’s been dealing with that a little bit, but he’s OK.”

On how much input he had in Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett’s game plan last night: “Well, we work on stuff during the week. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, we have the periods of blitzes and coverages that they install and we watch practice and that’s what the plan is and that was the plan going in. He dialed them up. Sometimes I closed my eyes and watched them but I was ready for them and I had total faith in what they were doing because I saw them during the week and I thought they’d be successful also. So he has total control of the defense and did a great job.”

On if he feels rewarded by his faith in kicker Kai Forbath heading into the season: “Yeah, he’s done a good job. He’s one of those guys that in practice you say, ‘You know, we should probably look at another kicker,’ but game day, he rises to the occasion all the time. He tells me all the time, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m a gamer. If I miss a couple in practice or pregame warmup – I don’t think he made a kick – I’m good. I’ll make them in the game.’ ‘OK, Kai.’ Sure enough, he makes them in a game. We just have to take that into consideration, man. He’s been a gamer. Him and Tress [Way] both, man, have been very, very impressive helping out our kicking game. Obviously Akeem [Davis] did some great things covering kicks and made a big block for Andre [Roberts], so special teams has been a bright spot the last couple of weeks. They’re coming on and doing what they’re supposed to do and it’s led by the kickers.”

On the 15-yard substitution penalty: “I guess since he was in the huddle, they thought we were trying to deceive the other team. It was a deception substitution, so they gave us a 15-yard penalty. I had never heard of that one, so it was a rookie move on my part. We sent in Niles [Paul] late. We had a special play call for Niles, and [Offensive Coordinator] Sean [McVay] thought he was already in there. I thought he was already in there, but Logan was in there so we tried to make a quick substitution and got flagged for it. That was a mistake on both our parts and it was a costly one. We had coaching errors – offensively, defensively – that we need to correct also in big games like that. That substitution penalty, my not taking a timeout there at the end of the regulation when I should have been standing closer to the ref, those are costly. We can’t have those happen.”

Five takeaways from the Washington Redskins Game 8 win against the Dallas Cowboys

Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Washington Redskins’ 20-17 win to the Dallas Cowboys:

1. Colt McCoy takes possibly his last opportunity to start and shines.

There are many nitpicky issues that can be found in McCoy’s game from not turning turnovers into points and underthrowing Desean Jackson, but this kid went out and played a great game. Having just a mere week of practice with the starting weapons McCoy settled into the system and executed the game plan.

The Texas product returning home completed over 80% of his passes for a grand total of 299 yards. McCoy was able to get the ball to DeSean Jackson deep multiple times and the completion was the most important part. Additionally, McCoy bounced back after halftime when trailing by leading an impressive touchdown drive overcoming usual drive derailing penalties. Then after Dallas ties it back up he takes his squad right back down the field, puts his body on the line on third down to get the score on a quarterback draw.

Then after struggling to get a score at the end of the game he came out in overtime firing and marched his team into field goal position where Kai Forbath ended up having the game winning points. McCoy had a heck of a game and maybe has given his career some kind of a jolt, just probably not in Washington though.

2. Defense plays great when Romo is in, a good thing he comes back in.

How well the defense played without Brian Orakpo and DeAngelo Hall is not describable in words. Even when the ball was moved against them early in the game they were able to get stops or cause turnovers to end Dallas drives. The wheels began to come off when Brandon Weeden came into the game as missed tackles and blown coverages led to 10 points for the Cowboys.

However, as Jerry Jones wanted his prized possession in Tony Romo returned to the game, a great sign for the Redskins defense. The Redskins were able to harass Romo all game especially in key moments in the game on third downs. Not only at the end of regulation, but the defense stopped the Cowboys from getting TWO yards on three plays to end the game in overtime. The Redskins got five sacks on Romo as well as two turnovers when they could have had many more. All in all the defense did their part in picking up their best win of the year.

3. Redskins coaching staff is the unsung hero.

Not only did Jay Gruden provide a good game plan for Colt McCoy to succeed. Although several runs on first down did not amount to much on the ground, it set up deep play action bombs to DeSean Jackson. Even gutsier was his decision to go for a fourth down and one by throwing to Darrel Young in the flat. However, I think the best play calling came from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett who was able to unleash imaginative stunts and blitzes that came through in the clutch against Dallas.

Haslett used Brandon Merriweather strength as an aggressor as well as Perry Riley and Keenan Robinson to end Dallas drives with sacks instead of getting beat down the field. This attests to Haslett’s trust in his young 22 year old corners of David Amerson and Baushad Breeland who played their best games of their young career.

4. The Redskins continue to get their money’s worth out of DeSean Jackson.

Desean Jackson was NOT a big money bust under Dan Snyder thus far as he game in and game out has an impact on the game with his speed. On seven targets, Jackson had six completions for a whopping 136 yards, which could have been more if McCoy had a stronger arm. If the Redskins are to go on any kind of a run to try and make the playoffs, then Jackson will clearly play a big role in that. Moreover, Jackson will be able to contribute to this potentially high octane offense for the next couple year as well.

5. Robert Griffin III’s return has been delayed.

Many are glad that Griffin was not rushed back this season as he clearly was to start last season. Additionally, because he was inactive for this game many think he will not come back until after the bye. I think that has turned into a clear wait as McCoy has shown himself to be more than capable to play in the NFL. As a result, I expect him to start against a lesser opponent in the Minnesota Vikings last year. However, as much as the fans will give their good graces to McCoy right now, Griffin will be back under center at home against Tampa Bay barring a tragedy.

Washington Redskins Game 8 Review: McCoy shocks Cowboys in overtime

In what seems to be another season destined for being on the outside of the playoffs, this could very well have been the high point.

The Washington Redskins, huge underdogs to the 6-1 Dallas Cowboys, went on the road on Monday Night Football led by third-string quarterback Colt McCoy and beat Dallas 20-17 in overtime.

McCoy went 25 of 30 for 299 yards and hit Jordan Reed twice in overtime for big first downs to set up Kai Forbath on what turned out to be a game-winning 40-yard field goal on the first possession in the extra session. [Read more…]

Washington Redskins Week 8 Preview: Dallas Cowboys

The Washington Redskins needed a win in the worst way in week 7 against the Tennessee Titans, and they delivered, albeit in unconventional fashion.  The newest star for the team finally imploded and from the ashes, a new one was born.  Quarterback Colt McCoy will start his first NFL game in almost three years on Monday Night Football against the hated foe Dallas Cowboys.  This also marks a return to Texas for McCoy, where he enjoyed a successful collegiate career with the Longhorns.  While it remains to be seen when Robert Griffin III will return, Colt McCoy seems to be the starter moving forward until that time.

The 6-1 Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a unique position heading into November: not much is going wrong for them. Demarco Murray broke the NFL’s record for most consecutive 100 yard rushing games.  Tony Romo looks like he can do no wrong.  The defense, after much speculation about a complete debacle, has played well enough to not allow Romo to make his now infamous late game mistakes while trying to bring his team back from a deficit.

But let’s pump the brakes on “America’s Team” for a second (which, by the way, they no longer are.)  Of the six wins Dallas currently owns, here are the current records of those teams: 2-5, 2-4, 2-4, 3-4, 3-3, 3-4.  This equals up to a combined winning percentage of 66%.  The Cowboys have yet to post a victory against a team that is currently above .500.  While this may or may not indicate the direction their franchise will go for the remainder of the year, it does indicate that this team is not the juggernaut that most pundits anoint them as.

The problem here is, the Washington Redskins may not pose much of a threat either to Dallas.  The Redskins are in roster turmoil, starting a quarterback who hasn’t started a game since 2012.  In addition, their “franchise” player is now shelved for the season while the injuries continue to pile up for this already thin roster.  It’s going to take limited mistakes and a lot of heart for the Redskins to steal a victory on Monday night.

 Keys to the game

Stop beating yourselves

It is going to take close to zero mistakes for this Washington team to pull out a victory against a superiorly talented Cowboys squad.  So far this season, the Redskins have been hampered by mental errors in all three phases of the game.  The offense has committed costly penalties, often leading to huge third down distances, which the Redskins are among the worst in the league converting.  On the defensive side of the ball, wrong reads and often players being out of position have resulted in untimely huge plays for the opposition.  And special teams, while at times have looked to improve, are only marginally better than last year’s debacle.

The Cowboys of the past are no more.  This team appears to be a cohesive unit that limits errors.  If the Redskins want to have a chance on Monday night in the house the Jerry built, they will have to play focused.

Stop Murray

Pretty simple.  Murray has been among the best, if not the best, running back in the NFL this season.  He is as locked in as it gets. If the Redskins want to have any hope of containing Dallas’ dynamic receivers and tight ends, it will start with making them one dimensional.  If Demarco Murray can be contained, possibly to 80 yards or less, the Redskins should still be in the game.

Get to Romo

Tony Romo is one of the best quarterbacks in the league when he is under duress.  Most want to proclaim Romo as a “choker”, which may be true at times, but this isn’t because the pass rush is getting to him.  Time and time again, Romo proves that he can extend plays by keeping his eyes down the field.  He rarely gives up on a play.  Meanwhile, defenders will do just that, and someone ends up being wide open downfield.  It’s maddening.  It’s inexplicable at times.  But he does it.

The key here is to produce actual pass rush that will finish the play.  Defensive end Jason Hatcher, in his return to Dallas, needs to feed off of the adrenaline that he will undoubtedly have playing his former team in AT&T Stadium.  Yes, Brian Orakpo is gone, but rookie OLB Trent Murphy is quietly coming along and Ryan Kerrigan is on pace to accumulating career-high sack totals.  He will need to add to them in this matchup.  Additionally, the Redskins secondary needs to be ready and in position in case Romo is forced into one of those mistakes.  They won’t come often.

Our Predictions 

Joe Ziegengeist

While Redskins fans would like to think (and hope) that these matchups are always close, this one will unfortunately be pretty ugly.  Colt McCoy will struggle mightily here, and fans will be calling for Griffin to start before the bye week.  The defense also struggles as the Redskins will fall to 2-6.  There is good news though!  I think the Redskins get it done against a dreadful Minnesota team.  That’s 3-6 headed into the bye.  Anyone else up for an RG3 return and to party like it’s 2012?   Cowboys 35, Redskins 13

Dave Nichols

The Cowboys might have the best offensive line in football and have their running game firing on all cylinders right now. I think despite his success in the second half against Tennessee, Colt McCoy will have trouble moving the offense on Monday night.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

Eric Hobeck

Redskins play well but can’t keep up with Cowboys on either side of the ball.  Cowboys 27, Redskins 17

Joe Miller

This prediction is under the assumption that Colt McCoy is the starting quarterback Monday night. The Cowboys’ offense powered by their record-breaking run game has been excellent this season and almost certainly will put up a good amount of points (they’re 5th in points/game). That’s a serious problem for the Redskins as the Washington offense will most likely look to run the ball and be conservative with a third-string quarterback under center. That style of offense is poorly suited for a ‘shootout’ where they’ll be relied upon to keep up with Dallas’ scoring.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

Neil Dalal

The Cowboys are clicking on pretty much every cylinder right now, offensively for sure. I personally do not want RG3 to play as this season is more or less lost and there is no reason to risk a player who NEEDS to be ready for many years to come. Only way the Redskins win this game are in a shootout against a team that lacks a pass rush and if the defense is able to slyly cause a few turnovers. Unfortunately, a lot of things would have to bounce the Redskins way to even stay close.  Cowboys 31, Redskins 17

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