Why the Washington Redskins Can Make the Playoffs Without RG3

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Why the Washington Redskins Can Make the Playoffs Without RG3
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images
Kirk Cousins has played well in limited duty this season, and should be effective as a starter if Robert Griffin III can't play.

Redskins Nation held its collective breath when Robert Griffin III remained down on the field after a vicious hit to the leg courtesy of the Ravens' Haloti Ngata. Luckily, the injury isn't as serious as it looked on television and RG3 should be back in uniform in due time.

The question of whether or not he should return is a pressing one, because this is the second time in 2012 that he's missed snaps due to an injury from scrambling with the football. His status is currently up in the air for this weekend's game in Cleveland against the Browns, a game the Redskins must win if they want to stay in the thick of the NFC playoff race.

It is entirely possible that RG3 will be forced to sit this weekend, as well as in the future. In his stead, fellow rookie Kirk Cousins will be pressed into action as the Redskins try to make an unprecedented run to the playoffs. There is no doubt that RG3 has been one of the primary reasons why Washington finds itself in the hunt for the wild card and the NFC East title, but there are many other factors as well. Cousins shouldn't be a huge downgrade, and there is reason to believe that the Redskins could sneak into the postseason even without their multi-talented rookie under center.

 

The Alfred Morris Factor

While some may say that running back Alfred Morris' success has been primarily aided by RG3's running ability, there's no question that the sixth-round pick out of Florida Atlantic has had a truly special season. Option offense or not, Morris is a true workhorse back that fits Mike Shanahan's style of offense perfectly—and he's hitting his stride at the perfect time. He's rushed for 359 yards and two scores in the last three weeks and has six 100-yard games on the season.

Rob Carr/Getty Images
Alfred Morris has been superb for the Redskins all season, rushing for 1,228 yards and seven touchdowns.

The option offense has been beneficial for Morris, but it's not like it's the only reason he's had such a productive year. He gets so many of his yards after contact that it's hard to overlook his inherent ability as a physical runner. If Morris can continue to play well in the last three games, it won't matter who's under center—he'll take pressure off the quarterback and make the game more manageable.

 

Second-Half Defense 

Forget about the Thanksgiving game against Dallas. The Redskins already had a 25-point lead and a letdown was inevitable, especially since the Cowboys were throwing on basically every single play after the break. If you focus on the other three games in the four-game win streak, the Redskins defense has allowed a measly 13 points in the second half of those contests—a span of six quarters.

They still give up a lot of yards (it's actually gotten better, allowing a semi-respectable 366 yards per game in the last four) but they get stops when it matters.

What this means is that if the Redskins get off to a slow start adjusting to life without RG3, the defense will be there to pick them up late in the game. The pass rush has been non-existent and the coverage has been shoddy at best, but there's something about the Redskins defense late in games that shuts down the opposition. Be it a timely turnover or a big third-down stop, Jim Haslett's group has gotten better as the season has progressed.

 

The Redskins are no longer a one-trick pony

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The Redskins find themselves in a truly unique situation: if RG3 indeed cannot play, the entire offensive philosophy will essentially be thrown out the window. The offense is so tied to RG3's skill set that it will be very interesting to see how Kyle Shanahan adjusts his game plan to Kirk Cousins' abilities.

Cousins has played well in his limited time this year and was the biggest reason why the Redskins came back and beat the Ravens in thrilling fashion last week. He's a capable quarterback and while he doesn't have RG3's speed, he is mobile.

Remember: just because the offense won't run the option-based attack with Cousins under center, it doesn't mean that the other players on that side of the ball will be completely lost. They're veterans, and have played in traditional systems for their entire lives—it's not something they'll totally forget. There may be a bit of rust, but the group will come together eventually.

Earlier in the season, the Redskins' success was based almost solely on how well RG3 performed. As the year has gone on, though, the team has really become better overall and performed well in all facets. The defense is getting stops and forcing turnovers. The running backs, receivers, tight ends and fullbacks have played well. Kai Forbath is kicking field goals like a Hall of Famer and rookie Richard Crawford made a spectacular 64-yard punt return in overtime to set up the winning field goal against Baltimore.

This is a team that can win in more than one way. RG3 makes it easier and takes pressure off of everyone else, but the Redskins have come together and are now more complete than they were 13 weeks ago. It's fun to watch, and it's the primary reason why Washington can make the playoffs without RG3 under center.

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