After a couple strong offensive performances, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins offense find themselves ranked fifth in total yards per game. Matching up against a deadly Denver Broncos offense led by Peyton Manning, will Griffin and company be able to go toe to toe with the No. 1 offense in the league?
Vegas Insider has the early betting line for total points in the game at 58. It would be shocking to think either of these defenses will be able to stop anyone from scoring at least 30. The Broncos lead the league with 42 points per game, an unbelievable 12 points higher than the second-place Chicago Bears.
The Redskins haven't done themselves any favors on defense, losing Brandon Meriweather to a suspension after multiple illegal hits to wide receivers last week. In addition, Reed Doughty's status for the game is uncertain after he suffered a concussion on the Bears' onside-kick attempt.
Starting two backup safeties against Peyton Manning is a recipe for disaster. The Redskins must put up at least 30 points if they hope to compete with the Broncos this week.
So, what can we expect from the Redskins offense?
If recent history is any indication, the Redskins have finally recommitted to the run game after a slow start to the season. As Griffin has regained his confidence, his ability to run the ball has opened up their entire offense and provided more opportunities.
The table below shows how Griffin's use of the read-option has increased the overall production of the offense.
It should be noted that pass attempts in this table do not include clear throwaway passes.
|Washington Redskins Offensive Production|
|Week||Rush Attempts - yards||RGIII rush attempts - yards||Pass Attempts - yards||Yards per Pass Attempt||Total Yards|
|1||18 - 74||5 - 24||48 - 329||6.85||403|
|2||17 - 108||4 - 1||40 - 320||8||428|
|3||22 - 120||6 - 37||46 - 326||7.09||446|
|4||32 - 122||3 - 10||27 - 227||8.41||349|
|6||33 - 216||9 - 77||38 - 246||6.47||462|
|7||43 - 209||11 - 84||29 - 298||10.28||507|
|Pro Football Focus (Subscription Required)|
It's important to remember that while several of the early-game statistics look impressive, most of these numbers came after Washington was down several scores and no longer in contention to win the game.
The first thing that jumps out is the marked increase in rush attempts each game over the course of the season. Head coach Mike Shanahan has always favored a run-first approach, but after falling behind by large margins to the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, the Redskins had to abandon the run far too early.
The two latest games against the Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bears have featured Griffin much more heavily in the run game. After 18 total rushes for 72 yards in the first four games, he had 20 rushes for 161 yards in the last two.
It's not a coincidence that the last two games have also been the Redskins' two highest yardage games of the season. These games also featured 200-plus yards of rushing in each contest. The Redskins had some issues in the red zone against the Cowboys, but there were no such issues against the Bears.
The Broncos defense is vulnerable to the pass, giving up a league-worst 319.9 yards per game through the air. On the flip side, they have given up a league-low 77.7 yards per game against the run.
While a potential conclusion would be that a pass-heavy approach would be the best, the Redskins cannot fall into this trap if they hope to stay in the game. They must stick to their strengths of running the ball as much as they can, winning the time of possession battle, and keeping the ball out of Peyton Manning's hands.
Against the Bears, the Redskins were able to run the ball with effectiveness, which opened up the play-action routes that Griffin had such success with last year. The result was Griffin gaining over 10 yards per pass attempt for the first time all year.
A similar strategy must be employed against Denver in order to maintain long, clock-killing drives that end in touchdowns, not field goals.
Jordan Reed has recently emerged as one of Robert Griffin III's favorite targets, and it's easy to see why. Reed is able to generate consistent separation due to his smooth route running, allowing him to maintain speed throughout the route. His cuts are downright nasty, leaving defenders in the dust more often than not.
Reed caught nine of nine pass attempts thrown his way, resulting in 134 yards and a touchdown.
Reed's touchdown came on a third-down fade to the corner. This play call shows the confidence that Kyle Shanahan and Robert Griffin III have in the rookie tight end. Reed rewarded their trust by hauling in the go-ahead score. His performance last week solidified his role in the offense as a dynamic weapon that must be used throughout the game.
This week's game in Denver may well be the toughest the Redskins face all season. For the Redskins to have a chance, the Redskins must succeed in two key components. They must win the time-of-possession battle, and they must finish off drives with touchdowns. If they can do those two things, they may just have a chance.
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