Expecting victory from the 2013 Washington Redskins has proved to be futile, so each week has been about looking for improvements. The Week 7 game against the Chicago Bears is another chance for Robert Griffin III and his offense to take a step toward the win column.
The last time these teams faced each other in Washington, the Redskins were victorious. However, that was in 2007 and the game following the tragic death of Sean Taylor. The home team is desperate for a win as Jay Cutler returns to face the man who drafted him.
Despite their 1-4 record, the Redskins have shown signs of life. Below are some things to expect from the offense as Washington seeks its first home victory since Week 17 of last year.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all stats are via ProFootballReference.com.
More Play Action
Despite the hope before the start of the season, it was really asking too much of Griffin to immediately be the same player he was in 2012. Before the Dallas game, he looked sluggish as a runner and hesitant to leave the pocket in general.
In that Week 6 encounter, he responded by posting more rushing yards than he had across the previous four games combined—77 compared to 73—so it’s safe to say the Chicago defense will respect him as a runner once more.
The Redskins offense is so much smoother when it can use the threat of Griffin’s legs to open up holes elsewhere. The offensive line can’t protect him in the pocket, so he has to improvise to make a play.
Using play-action passes, the zone read-option, bootlegs and quarterback draws adds that extra element of unpredictability to the offense and allows Griffin’s natural ability to take over.
More Alfred Morris
When Griffin shines, so does Alfred Morris. Despite his comparative struggles in his sophomore season, Morris has actually looked better when given the ball.
He averages more yards per attempt than last year—5.2 compared to 4.8—and has shown better vision and timing in his runs. His 45-yard touchdown run against the Cowboys was also the longest of his young career so far.
Morris has been stymied by the Redskins playing from behind in many games. Griffin has been forced to throw more than he ever has, which has taken the ball out of the running back's hands.
Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that Morris is still on course for another 1,000-yard season despite averaging 14.4 carries a game compared to last year’s 20.9.
It’s no coincidence that the Redskins outgained the Cowboys by 433 yards to 213 in Week 6. It was a game fought with balance throughout the offense and a game the team should have won.
More Jordan Reed
With the Redskins quietly erasing Fred Davis from the playbook, much will be expected of rookie Jordan Reed. To his credit, he has thus far repaid the team’s faith by showing strength in claiming yards after the catch and a solid dedication to improving his blocking.
This gets me excited about Jordan Reed. Celebratory punch the air after a very good block. Shows willingness to block pic.twitter.com/WspdCfyDG2— Mark Bullock (@UkRedskin1) October 15, 2013
The Redskins should look to get Reed involved as much as possible, almost until the Bears are forced to account for him on every play. In turn, this will free up the likes of Pierre Garcon, Leonard Hankerson and Joshua Morgan.
Reed is likely to slip through the net for the first few series, and at 6’3” and 235 pounds, he is a big enough target to become a solid red-zone threat. He’s also got great hands, which is essential for the Redskins right now.
Better Red-Zone Efficiency
Despite the effectiveness of the Redskins offense, they were 0-for-3 on trips to the red zone. That’s not going to win many games in the NFL.
Although Kai Forbath is back following a groin injury, he’s already missed more field goals in five attempts than he did across 18 such attempts in 2012.
However, special teams is a rant for another day, and field goals won’t win it anyway. The team needs touchdowns.
Washington ranks 18th in the league with a success rate of 50 percent when going for a touchdown in the red zone, via TeamRankings.com. Across the last three games, that rate has dropped to 25 percent.
Whether it’s calling another quarterback draw, getting Morris to bulldoze it in or running misdirection plays, this absolutely has to improve on Sunday. Washington cannot rely on DeAngelo Hall to pick off Cutler another four times in order to get something from the game.
Although the Dallas game was more successful for the Redskins offense, there were still signs of confusion and rust.
Garcon is the key receiver for Washington, and he has delivered when called upon for the most part. His six receptions for 69 yards at AT&T Stadium were a season high for him, but he also had a moment when he missed a signal from his QB and ran the wrong route.
Garcon ran a hitch, but Griffin’s pass sailed by him to the end zone, and another touchdown opportunity went begging. There were a few underthrown passes too, as well as other another time when the pass and route didn’t match at all.
Griffin and Morris have also been out of sync this year, which brings the play to a close before it’s even been run.
The QB’s completion percentage has dropped, which can mostly be attributed to his injury. However, posting 48.7 percent in your fifth game back—not including a week off for the bye—means other things are at work.
According to The Washington Post, the Redskins have dropped 10 passes this year, which isn’t going to help their quarterback regain his form.
Concentration and communication should be worked on ahead of Sunday’s game.