Vikings vs. Redskins: Sketching out a Game Plan for Washington

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistOctober 12, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - OCTOBER 07: Quarterback Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins looks down in the tunnel before playing the Atlanta Falcons at FedExField on October 7, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. The Atlanta Falcons won, 24-17. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Patrick Smith/Getty Images

It looks as though Robert Griffin III is going to be able to play Sunday when the Washington Redskins host the Minnesota Vikings, which means that Mike and Kyle Shanahan don't have to make any significant changes to the game plan they'd ordinarily use for a game like this.

But considering that protecting RG3 has probably now become more important than ever, there are still some specific things the 'Skins might want to focus on doing against Minnesota. Here's a suggested game plan for both sides of the ball.


On offense: Run stubbornly 

The Redskins will have trouble scoring points Sunday, especially if Griffin isn't himself and/or is limited. That's because it's going to be very hard to keep the aggressive Minnesota defensive front off of a weak offensive line by running the ball successfully.

The Vikings have surrendered only 3.2 yards per carry on defense this year, and they've faced Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore and Chris Johnson. Only three teams have been better at "stuffing" backs at the line of scrimmage and no one has been better at taking down opposing backs in the open field, according to Football Outsiders

The Redskins can't afford to ditch the run, because that would result in Griffin taking even more hits and risking further injury and/or another injury. Instead, they'll simply have to keep pushing on the ground. For starters, they can at least run outside of the left tackle, which is the only place the Vikes have been somewhat vulnerable, per Football Outsiders

The same source actually indicates the 'Skins have been slightly more productive running outside the tackles than inside of them, so there might be some opportunities to at least give Griffin and the passing game shorter distances to travel on second- and third-downs. And considering that Washington has the league's lowest third-down conversion success rate in the NFL through five weeks, that'll be crucial. 


On defense: Take away the running game

It just so happens that Minnesota's strength on offense matches up with Washington's strength on defense. The 'Skins have a strong front seven that has held four of their first five opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, while the Vikings are averaging 133 rushing yards per game. 

If you can remove Adrian Peterson from the game, or at least control him, you can force Christian Ponder to make plays. But because Washington has still been relatively good at getting pressure in the post-Brian Orakpo portion of the season, the Redskins should be able to help their mediocre secondary by putting heat on Ponder. 

Ponder hasn't been pressured a whole lot this year, but he's struggled immensely when that's been the case, completing just 42 percent of his passes in those situations, according to Pro Football Focus

With Ryan Kerrigan leading the way and Barry Cofield and even Jarvis Jenkins stepping up, the Redskins have averaged 16 pressures in their last two games, which beats their average per-game mark of 15 from the 2011 season. That's impressive considering they've cooled off with blitzes and don't have Orakpo or Adam Carriker. 

Minnesota's first five opponents have averaged just 1.7 sacks per game this season, well below the league-wide average of 2.3. The Redskins aren't on a much better pace, but they should be able to get a decent amount of pressure without sacrificing their commitment to stopping Adrian Peterson, forcing Ponder to make bad throws, or at least not allowing him to use Percy Harvin and Kyle Rudolph to abuse their weak defensive backfield.