Could Inconsistency Keep Redskins out of Playoff Contention?
Robert Griffin III has set the NFL on fire with his decidedly un-rookie-like performance through the first half of his rookie season. However exciting he has been, the Washington Redskins have seen their record fall to 3-5 amid injuries and inconsistency across the board.
Any hope of a playoff berth on the shoulders of the electrifying rookie were dashed in the eye-opening loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.
Injuries happen. It is a fact of life in the NFL and every other sport in the world for that matter. Earlier in the season, the Redskins lost Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker for the season, crippling their defensive capabilities.
Receiver Pierre Garcon has been battling a foot injury that has kept him inactive or limited since the season-opener.
Safety Brandon Meriweather was working back from an MCL sprain, and the day he was set to suit up, a bizarre pregame collision knocked him out another few weeks.
Against the New York Giants, Washington lost their leading receiver in tight end Fred Davis.
Injuries happen, but there is no denying that the Redskins have been hit in some of the most important positions for their needs.
No Garcon, no deep threat. No Davis, no playmaker. No Orakpo or Carriker, no pass rush. No Meriweather, no experience or presence in the secondary.
If not for Alfred Morris, the loss of Roy Helu for the season might have had a much bigger impact. Luckily the Redskins were prepared for the loss and haven't looked back since.
Since injuries are unavoidable, it is pointless to argue that, if not for the rash of injuries the team has suffered, they would have a winning record.
Orakpo and Carriker went down in the loss to St. Louis, but it wasn't as though the Redskins had produced much of a pass rush leading up to that point.
Garcon's presence, in terms of a fully healthy receiver who can stretch the field, is limited to one quarter of football, and cannot be counted as a loss that set the team back.
When Davis went down, Logan Paulsen stepped up and led the team in receiving against the Giants. When Garcon went down, Aldrick Robinson stepped in with four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
Leonard Hankerson, in his second year, was supposed to be much-improved from an injury-shortened rookie campaign, but he's fallen back on bad habits, such as not catching the ball when it hits him in the hands.
Against the Steelers, the Redskins dropped 10 passes. As a result, Griffin finished the day with his lowest completion percentage and his lowest yardage total for a full game.
If Santana Moss, Josh Morgan, Evan Royster and Hankerson catch just half of those passes, Griffin finishes the day 21-for-34, around 230 yards and probably another touchdown.
Most of those completions would have gone for first downs, extended drives, and as a result, kept the Steelers offense on the sidelines and off the scoreboard.
That is just one game, mind you, but it reflects the lack of preparedness the Redskins have shown troubling flashes of throughout the season. The secondary has never shown itself capable of stopping anyone, and the offense has flirted with disaster on too many occasions.
Griffin has bailed the Redskins out of a lot of bad situations, evidenced by their 8-of-9 performance on fourth down conversions.
Playoff teams hit their strides at different points in the season, as the late-breaking Giants have shown in their Super Bowl seasons. The Redskins don't have the make-up to go on a late run because they don't make up for their mistakes, but instead allow them to pile up and suffocate whatever success they've mustered in a game.
Last season, Graham Gano had five kicks blocked. The Redskins foolishly brought in Billy Cundiff to replace him, but failed to improve their blocking on field goals and extra points.
Kai Forbath has been perfect on every kick this season, and just when it looks like the Redskins have clawed their way back into a game before it gets out of hand, the extra point is blocked and what would have been a three-point deficit becomes a four-point deficit, and leaves the Steelers with more momentum.
There is no better way to measure a team than by the way they play against a more experienced, better coached team like the Steelers, who have dealt with injuries themselves.
Perhaps this is all a lot of overreactions that have been boiling beneath the surface since the Redskins let the Rams throw up and down the field on them in Week 2. Mike Shanahan is an experienced coach who should know how to deal with adversity, but the Redskins haven't shown the composition to deal with it the way he may be used to.
Contrary to misguided belief, Griffin can't do everything himself and the Redskins are on the fast-track toward learning that the hard way.
Washington welcomes the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton to FedEx Field this week, and if it wasn't obvious after the 27-12 loss to Pittsburgh, this game is a must-win heading into the bye.
There is still a lot of football left to be played before the playoffs should come into any sort of focus, but the Redskins need to play like their playoff lives depend on it. Those players aren't coming back, and they need to find a way to win without them because of that fact.
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