3 Valuable Things Washington Redskins Can Still Learn in Remaining Games
The Washington Redskins pulled out an impressive 31-28 win Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens to move to 7-6 on the season. The Redskins were able to squeak out a win despite the loss of Robert Griffin III in the fourth quarter.
With three games left, the Redskins are in position to win at least two games and finish the 2012 season with a winning record and potentially a playoff bid. However, these wins will not come easy and will test the Redskins to adjust their offensive play-calling.
First on the agenda are the Cleveland Browns who represent the perfect "trap" game to scuttle a team like the Redskins. This piece will examine three parts of the Redskins' game that can be improved as they push for a playoff bid.
Limit RG3's Exposure
Preliminary exams on RG3's right knee were negative and revealed no major ligament damage. When asked about the hit, the Redskins quarterback said (via ESPN.com):
I'm not a doctor, but I know what an ACL feels like. And it doesn't feel like an ACL.
Heading into the final three games of the season, the Redskins coaching staff will need to make more of a consorted effort to protect RG3. This has been a concern all season, especially after the concussion in Week 5.
Now in all fairness, the play that RG3 was injured on was a broken pass that Griffin chose to run for. These are not necessarily plays that can be scripted for, but sliding needs to be a greater focus for Griffin.
Mike and Kyle Shanahan need to continue to impress on Griffin the importance of protecting his body. This must occur not only in practice, but also in the play-calling. The read-option has been particularly effective, but defenses are scheming for it now, and it increases Griffin's exposure.
With only a few games left, the Redskins must do everything in their power to limit Griffin's exposure, while not compromising the offense.
Give Cousins Extra Reps in Practice
Sunday's game was a perfect example of how quickly things can change for the Washington Redskins. At one point, Griffin was running the offense with ease and the next he was out for the game. With such a range of possibilities, the Redskins need to have Kirk Cousins ready to activate at a moment's notice.
It is hard to know at this point exactly how many repetitions Griffin will be taking in practice this week, given his injury. However, Kirk Cousins needs to be receiving extra practice now that Griffin's injury is raw.
Cousins performed perfectly in his limited action Sunday, going 2-of-2 with a touchdown and a two-point conversion run. The Redskins received much criticism in April for drafting Cousins in the fourth round after selecting Griffin second overall. Now, the pick looks like a stroke of genius as Cousins is able to pick up right where Griffin left off.
Kirk Cousins is a quality backup and likely one of the best in the NFL at this point. RG3 takes incredible risks with his body that often pay off but can lead to game-ending injuries. The Redskins need to give Cousins extra reps this week to protect their season and postseason aspirations.
The Secondary Needs Tremendous Help
A consistent problem this season has been the ineptitude of the Redskins secondary. The Redskins have been unable to conjure up a formidable pass defense this entire season, and opponents are clearly recognizing that.
Through 14 weeks, the Redskins rank as the NFL's 31st passing defense. Some may view this as too harsh of a rating, but Sunday's game proved the ranking to be an honest representation.
Joe Flacco was able to complete over 76 percent of his passes against the anemic Redskins secondary. Three of these passes went for touchdowns on medium- to long-range passes. This secondary is lacking in talent right now and will need to be propped up with better play-calling.
Two of the three touchdowns went to Boldin, who was marginally covered by DeAngelo Hall on both instances. Hall has struggled this season on the whole but has shown improved ability when working against the slot receiver. Going forward, Jim Haslett needs to move Hall back to the slot position and allow other corners to worry about outside receivers.
If the Redskins can deliver more effective pass defense, they will be position to make a run at the postseason. This will require a greater pass rush and more reliable coverage from the secondary.
In the end, the focus for the secondary will be more about limiting mistakes and keeping games in manageable situations for the offense to win.