Coming off their worst offensive performance of the year in Week 12, what can one expect to see from Alfred Morris and the Washington Redskins offense in their Week 13 matchup with the New York Giants?
For starters, you can expect the Redskins to improve on their Week 12 performance, as they'd be hard-pressed to play much worse.
How poor, you ask? Embattled quarterback Robert Griffin III registered a QBR of 4.7.
But let’s be clear, while Griffin's performance against the San Francisco 49ers was akin to something you’ve seen from Tim Tebow—in a game’s first three quarters, anyway—Washington’s non-existent running game can’t be glossed over.
On the surface, 100 yards rushing on 27 carries doesn’t look too bad. Fact is, though, the Redskins averaged a season-low 3.7 yards per carry, with Morris only accumulating 54 yards rushing.
With Griffin without top targets Jordan Reed and Leonard Hankerson, Washington was going to have to live by the run. Seeing that the 'Skins lost 27-6, it’s clear that they died by it in Week 12.
Reed may return against the Giants, but Hankerson will again be out.
So it stands to reason that Washington will again have to rely on the running game in order to defeat New York.
While you'd think that Washington would have no trouble getting its running game back on track—it is second in rushing—ESPN.com's John Keim revealed why the 'Skins could again struggle running the football.
"It’s the only team (49ers) Washington has faced that currently has a defense ranked among the top half in the NFL,” Keim said.
Insert the Giants.
New York’s defense isn’t on par with the 49ers, but it is ranked 12th in the NFL. Even worse for Washington, the Giants own a rushing defense that usurps San Francisco’s; its ranked seventh against the run.
Even with that said, Morris has a history of success, albeit brief, running against the Giants. In his two games against New York last year, Morris totaled 244 rushing yards.
Expect Morris to respond with a solid outing in Week 12, with his total rushing yards hovering around the 100-yard mark.
Still, for a performance like this to occur in a Washington win, Griffin will have to connect deep with his receivers when New York loads up to stop the run.
Against the 49ers, the Washington passing game was limited to quick screens. In the rare occasions that Griffin attempted to throw deep, he was unable to connect with his receivers.
So the onus this week will be on Pierre Garcon to provide Griffin with some big plays via the deep ball.
Considering the Giants assigned cornerback Prince Amukamara the job of shadowing Dez Bryant, odds are that they’ll ask him to match up with Garcon.
In Week 12, Bryant accumulated nine catches and 86 yards.
Additionally, as Rainer Saban of The Dallas Morning News noted, prior to his matchup with Bryant, Amukamara had given up 35 receptions and 404 yards to opposing receivers this season. To put that in perspective, only 12 other defenders have been torched more than Amukamara.
Having a career season, Garcon shouldn’t have too much trouble beating his one-on-one coverage. The onus will just be on Griffin to find him, and on the offensive line to provide him time to do so.
Judging from what was on display against the 49ers, the latter may be difficult.
Griffin was served up as a human piñata, as he was sacked four times and hit on numerous occasions. According to ESPN Stats and Information, in instances in which Griffin is sacked four times or more, the Redskins are 0-5.
For this reason, the matchup between the Washington offensive line and the New York defensive line is one worth watching.
Last week against Dallas, the Giants registered four sacks, a number they've reached in three of their past four games.
Mathias Kiwanuka has tallied 2.5 sacks in that time span, so Washington would be best served by focusing on limiting his impact.
Versus Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks, Washington offensive tackles Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus showed an inability to block them one-on-one.
In addition, there were too many occasions in which tight ends Niles Paul and Logan Paulsen were left on an island to block them.
Whether it be through the use of double-teams or designed rollouts for Griffin, Washington can't afford to have a breakdown in pass protection against New York.
With Eli Manning still prone to turn the football over, the Redskins don't have to be explosive on offense to win this affair.
A conservative game plan that showcases Morris and limits negative plays are the ingredients to success for the Redskins.
If implemented, Washington's slim playoff hopes can remain on life support.
But fail to protect Griffin or get the running game going in this contest, and the 'Skins can begin planning a funeral for a season that once began with Super Bowl aspirations—and possibly one for their head coach.