If the Washington Redskins expect anything but another loss after a discouraging 0-3 start to this season, four players need to give "game-ball-like" performances in Week 4. The team travels to visit the Oakland Raiders in a game that could redirect the Redskins' current losing ways and save a season in disrepair.
After all, the winless, defending NFC East champions have been outscored 98-67 so far this season and one defensive player, cornerback DeAngelo Hall, has scored more points than the entire offense in the combined first halves.
Hall has a fumble return and an interception for a touchdown on defense. The first-team offense has one, a 30-yard first-half touchdown by running back Alfred Morris.
The harsh reality and frustrations of the team's coaches, players and fans isn't the fact they are 0-3 to start the 2013 NFL season, but more along the lines of how it could happen given the Mount Rushmore-esque accolades, adoration and promises surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin III and his rise to join football's elite quarterbacks.
It started with his selection by the Redskins in the 2012 NFL Draft and the momentum and expectations have built, and have been built, until his nationally televised knee-collapse against the Seattle Seahawks in last year's NFC Wild Card Game.
Following the highly publicized and chronicled offseason knee surgery and rehabilitation, the star QB and leader of last year has had little impact to rally and energize the offense in three losses this year. The team he led to the playoffs last season has little to no resemblance of the team that rallied to win seven straight games to close the regular season.
Questions now persist as to what can be done to turn things around for the team following a series of discouraging, unimpressive performances and historic losses. Collectively, they need something to revive a team and fanbase desperate for some encouraging news and play from a Redskins team whose losses have become NFL history so far this year.
Prior to their Week 3 win in Washington, the Detroit Lions were 0-21 against the Redskins on the road, a streak that had gone back to 1935 when they were the Boston Redskins.
To add more misery to an already depressing scenario, the Redskins ranked 10th in the NFL Power Rankings to start the season. Now they find themselves ranked 27th by ESPN.com.
Their trouble winning and 0-3 start have beset other formidable and perennial NFL franchises alike.
Along with the Redskins, five additional NFL teams are without a win so far in 2013: The New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC and the Pittsburgh Steelers and Jacksonville Jaguars in the AFC.
For the Redskins to bounce back and regain their winning ways, RG3 and three other players need to reach down while stepping up and showcase their talents and abilities to set an example for other frustrated teammates.
Across the board, in every facet of game-play, the team needs to focus their attention toward a win in Week 4 and regroup during their bye in Week 5.
For this to occur, the Redskins and the RG3-led offense could use some help from their unproductive play and results from their special teams.
Factoids and statistics aside, a solid performance in Week 4 has to start with RG3. There is ample room for improvement in his game, despite subtle signs of improvement and comfort through each of the team's first three losses.
Griffin's still showing signs of poor decision-making as evidenced by his interception against the Lions that should have been thrown out of bounds and by his decision to slide head-first on a play, resulting in a fumble 10 yards after he had picked up the first down.
For whatever reason, the Redskins abandoned a run game from last season, when they led the league in rushing yards per game and yards per rushing attempt. This unproven remedy to try and convert and conform RG3's multifaceted offensive game into a more predictable and highly less productive offensive threat in 2013 has backfired.
While RG3 has passed for more than 300 yards in each of the first three losses, the Redskins offense as a whole has been leaderless and unresponsive. The team ranks 25th in third-down efficiency and is tied for 23rd in offensive turnovers with eight.
Several players voiced their concern after the team's loss to the Lions.
In a Monday Washington Times article, cornerback Josh Wilson said, “Nobody could have told us that it was going to be like this.”
“In the NFL, good teams do lose games. It happens,” wide receiver Pierre Garcon stated. “It’s about bouncing back."
And this from RG3 at the postgame press conference following the loss to the Lions: "We have to dig ourselves out of this hole,” Griffin said Sunday. “No one else is going to do it for us...It’s decided on the field, in between the lines.”
Griffin will need some all-star support from his two favorite receivers, Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, in order to return from their west coast road trip with a victory and some newfound and much-needed boost in overall confidence in their own team.
So far this season, Garcon has shown signs of big play-making ability but has yet to make a significant impact on opposing defenses. Though targeted 37 times by RG3, Garcon has labored for 23 receptions for 280 yards and one touchdown. His bright spots have been his yards after the catch (127) and 15 first downs.
But one touchdown? Who's to blame? Is RG3 not able to find his targets or have defensive backs found a way to contain Garcon?
If the latter is the case, Griffin has the fortune of having another potential X-factor among his receiving corps in Santana Moss, who has been with the team since 2005. Twelve of Moss' 15 receptions have been first downs but he has been targeted only 23 times through three games. Of his 15 receptions, only one has gone for a touchdown.
We should not forget the 2012 Redskins had four wide receivers with 500-plus yards receiving, becoming the only NFL team to accomplish such a feat last year.
If the Redskins are shifting their game-plan to include less RG3 in the open field and more RG3 in passing situations, as evidenced by his 88 pass completions through Week 3 and just one behind Denver's QB Peyton Manning—the expected results have yet to pan out.
To assist the Redskins in a Week 4 win against the Raiders, the dreadful defense needs a complete overhaul. The only standout performance on defense this year has been from cornerback DeAngelo Hall—with an honorable mention to linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.
Through three games, Kerrigan has 20 tackles—15 of them solo—a forced fumble and three sacks.
It has been the play of Hall that could serve to almost the entire defense as an example of the effort required to remain in contention in close games. Hall, a tenacious and scrappy defender, has raised his level of play, including a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown and a 17-yard interception for a touchdown this year.
Both occurred in the first half of games where the Redskins could have rallied behind a defensive score.
Overall, the Redskins are looking at a start of an NFL season where the Seattle Seahawks (3-0) have as many wins as last year's NFC playoff team combined. Atlanta 1-2, Green Bay 1-2, San Fran 1-2, Minnesota 0-3 and Washington 0-3.
If this collection of X-factors can pull together and make an impactful performance at their position against the Raiders, the likelihood of a season on the brink of a collapse can possibly be avoided. The team can't rely on last year's success to dictate the direction of their current season.
Ask yourself this question: Should the Redskins lose all of their remaining games except the NFC East division games, finishing the season 5-11 but making the playoffs, would you be willing to look past all of the troubles of the 2013 season and be a content Redskins fan?
After what I have seen so far this year, I think I would take it.