To call the Washington Redskins' offensive performance against the Denver Broncos in Week 8 unbalanced would be an understatement. They started slow, and just when it looked as though things were looking up, the play-calling went downhill and abandoned the run completely.
Against the 4-3 San Diego Chargers, the Redskins are going to have to make the most of their opportunities or risk making another middling defense look borderline unstoppable.
The Chargers defense has an average pass rush, is average against the run and is below average against the pass. However, the Redskins offense has moved in fits and starts, and it needs to find its stride quickly before the season is lost.
Alfred Morris Versus the Chargers Front Seven
San Diego's defense has yet to allow a single rusher to eclipse the 100-yard mark this season, and the Chargers have only allowed two rushing touchdowns. They have allowed an average of 105.4 rushing yards per game, which is good enough for ninth in the NFL, but they are giving up an NFL-high 4.8 yards per carry.
Enter Redskins running back Alfred Morris, who has yet to carry the ball more than 20 times in a game this season but sits near the top of the NFL in several key statistical categories.
He leads all running backs with a robust 5.2 yards per carry, is second among running backs in the NFL with six carries of 20 yards or more and trails only LeSean McCoy and Adrian Peterson in rushing yards per game with 80.7.
The Broncos had their hands full with Morris, yielding a season-high 93 yards at a 5.5 yards-per-carry clip. Expect a big day from Morris against San Diego.
Jordan Reed Versus the Chargers Coverage
The rookie tight end saw a team-high 14 targets against the Broncos, and over the last four weeks, he has caught 26 passes. That's two more than Washington's leading receiver Pierre Garcon, who has caught 24 in the same span of games.
San Diego hasn't given up a ton of yards or touchdowns to tight ends this season. Owen Daniels of the Houston Texans had the most success in the opener, catching five passes for 67 yards and two touchdowns.
Reed has been on a tear lately, largely because of the lack of production from the receiving corps, which has been invisible with the exception of Garcon. He has proved that he can be a go-to target, and that may lead to some extra coverage.
He may not have a huge day, but the attention paid to Reed could pay dividends for Washington's receivers.
Robert Griffin III Versus the Chargers Secondary
Through seven games, RGIII has thrown an average of 38 passes per game, which has him on pace for 612 for the season. For some perspective, Peyton Manning has only ever eclipsed 600 pass attempts in a season once in his career.
Throwing as much as he has been, Griffin is bound to make—and already has made—a number of mistakes. He has thrown eight interceptions against nine touchdowns and has failed to show the comfortable, smooth throwing motion he had as a rookie.
He shouldn't be the focus on offense against San Diego, but he could find enough success to build confidence. The Chargers have just 20 sacks and three interceptions on the season.
It isn't a lock that Griffin will carve up the Chargers defense, but he should have an easier time than he did against Denver, where he threw two interceptions and looked flustered throughout.
Kyle Shanahan Versus Game Flow
If one thing is working in San Diego's favor, it is Kyle Shanahan's lack of feel for the game. As studious as he may be when it comes to offensive scenarios, he is blind to the flow of the game and what a defense is giving.
Against Denver, the Redskins were up 21-7 in the third quarter following a touchdown run from Morris and a DeAngelo Hall pick-six. Morris, who carried the ball 12 times in the first half, tallied just five carries for the rest of the game.
Keep in mind that it wasn't until early in the fourth quarter that Denver took the lead. But rather than stick to a balanced offense, Kyle Shanahan called 22 pass plays between Cousins and Griffin. Four of them were intercepted, and one pick was returned for a touchdown.
If the Redskins are to stand a chance against the Chargers, Kyle Shanahan has to call an even game.
It is one thing to want to step on the gas and build a lead, but ignoring the most successful part of the offense is just horrible play-calling and game management.