After finishing last season on a spirited seven-game win streak to battle back from 3-6 and win the NFC East division, the Washington Redskins, through two weeks, haven't exactly picked up where they left off.
But as any player or coach will tell you, it's not about last week's game, or the one you'll play four weeks from now. All that matters is your next opponent. And for the Redskins, that's the Detroit Lions.
Despite an impressive 21-game win streak when hosting the Lions, the Redskins will have their hands full this Sunday, in large part due to Washington's defensive woes. Their offense, of course, hasn't been anything close to a highlight either.
Here's a quick breakdown of some of the more intriguing individual-ish matchups to look forward to this weekend.
Megatron v. the Redskins struggling secondary
Nine catches, 101 yards, three touchdowns. That was Calvin Johnson's stat line the last time the Detroit Lions played the Redskins. And since then, the 27-year-old receiver has only gotten smarter and more threatening, coming off a 2012 campaign in which he pulled in more than 120 catches for over 1,900 yards. He's one of the most dynamic players in the NFL.
54 first downs, 621 yards, six touchdowns. That's the beating suffered by the Redskins pass coverage effort at the hand and arms of opposing quarterbacks through just two weeks of the season. Missed tackles, blown assignments, bad reads. The Redskins defense, particularly as it pertains to defending the pass, has been atrocious. And given their struggles, the only answer as to how the secondary can right their wrongs is time.
Rookie defensive backs Bacarri Rambo and David Amerson have been tested early in their careers. As Rambo continues to struggle with angles, assignments and his tentativeness, Amerson is looking to rebound after a rocky outing against the Packers last week, when Aaron Rodgers tossed four touchdowns amidst his career-high 480 yards.
This week, against a Lions offense averaging 315 passing yards per game, Rambo and Amerson will be tested again.
And Johnson knows it, according to ESPN's John Keim:
You try to go at those guys. You try to put them in difficult situations where they have to make a difficult decision and a lot of times that inexperience leads to the offense being able to make a big play. We’ll see how well-coached those guys are and how much they rely on their technique and coaching when it comes to game time.
And it's not only the young guys who need to be concerned. DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson, E.J. Biggers and Reed Doughty should feel the pressure too. Calvin Johnson and this Lions air attack can put up some points.
Ndamukong Suh v. Redskins Offensive Line
While the expectation is for the Redskins offense to continue to reshape itself into what we all got accustomed to last season, it's clearly not a finished project. And until the offense gets back to what its personnel best fits, the Redskins offensive line will continue to struggle.
Why? Because guys like Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery and Tyler Polumbus are guys fit to a certain scheme. They're less size and more athleticism. Where they prosper in a Mike Shanahan zone-scheme, they lessen when it comes to anchoring and forming a traditional pocket.
Hence the fear of an interior defensive lineman such as Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
Complaints and labels aside, Suh is easily one of the top defensive linemen in the league, demonstrating a balanced ability to clog running lanes and attack the quarterback.
Considering such, and given his opposition of a Redskins line looking to bandage their wounds until the offense returns to normal, Suh could have a field day, giving the Redskins all the pressure they can handle up the middle.
Redskins Linebackers v. Reggie Bush
That is, if Reggie plays.
His chances, however, seem to be improving since the running back took a shot to his knee last week in the Lions' loss to the Cardinals. Although he's looking forward to practicing today, that doesn't guarantee he's a go for Sunday's game.
"I want to say I'm optimistic about playing," Bush said on Thursday, according to ESPN's Michael Rothstein. "I always am. Today was a good day. The progress thus far since this last Sunday has been really good."
For the sake of preparation, let's assume Bush plays on Sunday. It's Bush that then provides a tough assignment for Redskins linebackers.
As a willing and able pass catcher, I'd like to say Bush would do most of his damage in the passing game. But the Redskins' inability to make a tackle or defend anything through two games so far makes a quick and agile back like Bush a well-balanced threat.
Reggie Bush may not be LeSean McCoy (184 yards in Week 1), but he's more than comfortable catching out of the backfield, making guys miss and taking it to the house, run or catch.
The Redskins linebackers, on the other hand, have been nothing short of disappointing through two games.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Washington's linebacking corps averages an overall grade of -3.67 on the season. London Fletcher is ranked 49 out of 50 inside linebackers playing at least 25 percent of their team's snaps, while Perry Riley ranks at just 28. Each guy has struggled against both run and pass, and Bush presents a threat in the linebackers' zone.
McCoy made Redskins linebackers look silly in Week 1. Backup James Starks was the first Green Bay running back to rush for at least 100 yards in the Packers' last 45 games en route to 132 yards in Week 2.
Reggie Bush, if he plays in Week 3, won't make things any easier for the Redskins.
Robert Griffin III v. Robert Griffin III
Garbage time, lax defense, whatever label you want to use, Robert Griffin III is improving.
I wasn't a believer in the possibility of the quarterback's rustiness prior to the season. But by the end of the first quarter against the Eagles, it was easy to see that Griffin wasn't quite ready.
Not from a well-being standpoint. In that regard, I believe Griffin is fully healthy. But surgery and physical recovery doesn't cover a quarterback's entire rehabilitation. Griffin now has to get reacclimated with the speed of opposing defenses, recall his mechanics and technique and regain his confidence. All of which is on the way.
Just as we saw improvement from half to half, and from game to game, keep an eye on Griffin (as if we didn't plan on doing so already) to see if the offense opens up a bit more against the Lions, and if Griffin has more command of his passes by way of stronger footwork and increased assurance.
No one ever mentioned how long Griffin's Operation Patience was going to last. Fans just need to stay the course.
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