Nations: It’s not time to fret, yet
How else can I feel after watching the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers eviscerate the Washington Redskins’ defense in back-to-back weeks? This was not pretty, not unless you like offense, lots and lots of offense. Opening week, the Redskins seemed to have no clue how to stop new Eagles coach Chip Kelly’s fast-moving offense in a season-opening 33-27 loss that frankly wasn’t nearly that close. Then on Sunday, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had a career day — one he likely won’t repeat, even as good as he has been — in Green Bay’s 38-20 loss (another game that wasn’t even as close as the final score).
I’m not worried.
Yes, the Redskins are off to an 0-2 start. Yes, the defense has looked all too vulnerable, especially against the pass. It’s a long season (good thing, that) and this defense is bound to improve. That opener against the Eagles? Washington simply seemed to get caught flat-footed against an offense they really hadn’t had much experience in combating, and precious little game film to help with their preparation. With the benefit of one week’s worth of game film, the San Diego Chargers found a way to slow down one component of that blistering Eagles offense by holding LeSean McCoy and Michael Vick to a combined 76 rushing yards and one touchdown in a 33-30 win. That, and the Chargers shredded what looks to be a pretty porous Eagles defense for 539 yards. So the Eagles are beatable, the Dallas Cowboys look like another up-and-down squad and the New York Giants are also 0-2. The Redskins are just a game out in what should be an eminently winnable NFC East.
Even taking some solace in the fact that the Redskins might have been caught unaware a bit against the Eagles, they had to be expecting Rodgers to attack the secondary with every offensive weapon in Green Bay’s deep receiving corps. Rodgers did just that, completing 34 of 42 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns. By halftime — yes, halftime — Rodgers had already piled up 335 passing yards and three TD passes. Throw in Green Bay running back James Starks’ 132-yard rushing day, and Washington made a bit of obscure NFL history. According to the Packers, Sunday’s win was the first time in league history that any team has had a 450-yard passer and 125-yard rusher in the same game. So that’s kind of cool, I guess.
I’m not worried.
Remember, the Redskins are just two weeks into quarterback Robert Griffin III’s remarkable recovery from knee surgery, an injury that likely would have sidelined a lesser athlete for the start of the season. Griffin didn’t play during the preseason, saw precious little practice time, and still has shown the ability to move Washington’s offense. Once the rust wears off and the RGIII of old returns — as in, last year — the Redskins’ alarming tendency to start slow should abate and Washington will actually be in games instead of buried by the half. Remember, too, that Griffin was spectacular as a rookie, and conventional wisdom dictates that he should be even better with that year of starting experience under his belt. He was good enough to lead the Redskins to the playoffs last year. What can he do now?
Through two weeks, Washington has shown an alarming tendency to put pressure on a defense that so far has been unable to handle it. The reason? Through four first-half quarters so far, the Redskins have been outscored 50-7. That 50 looks terrible, but how about that 7? That 7, by the way, was scored by the Redskins’ defense when DeAngelo Hall returned a fumble 75 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter. Washington’s offense is 0-fer for the first half in two straight games. With the Detroit Lions coming to town on Sunday, another anemic first half will probably result in more of the same. Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is plenty dangerous, and Detroit has perhaps the league’s best wideout in Calvin Johnson and a resurgent running back in Reggie Bush. That’s lots of firepower, and the best thing Washington’s offense can do — aside from scoring points — is to keep the Redskins defense on the sidelines for as much time as possible. So far, that hasn’t happened this season.
I’m not worried.
OK, that’s not true. I am worried, and chagrined, and disappointed by this start so far. A victory on Sunday would go a long way toward dispelling those feelings, and the Redskins have absolutely dominated in the Lions over the years. History supports the idea that Washington fans will finally have something to cheer about this weekend — Washington is 21-0 all-time vs. the Lions in D.C. Detroit’s defense, despite that fearsome defensive line, is still subject to suspicion until it can prove capable of stopping anyone. This could be the week — should be, even — that Washington’s offense breaks through for more than consolation points. When, and how many, will decide the Redskins’ fortunes on Sunday.
Contact Sports Editor Jeff Nations at 540-465-5137 ext. 161, or firstname.lastname@example.org>. Follow on Twitter @J_NationsNVD