COMMENTARY | This weekend against the Oakland Raiders, the Washington Redskins will be trying to avoid their first 0-4 start since 2001. What was supposed to be a very promising season for the Redskins, has turned out to be a nightmare.
By no means are the Raiders a slouch, either. It doesn't matter if Terrelle Pryor is out since Matt Flynn is a capable quarterback to lead the offense. Darren McFadden is a solid running back that should not be forgotten about. And let's not forget, the Raiders do have a few tricks up their sleeve. If Washington wants to turn it's season around, they'll have to take care of five important things against the Oakland Raiders this weekend.
Number 1: Pryor? Flynn? Does it Matter?
The Redskins' secondary has been horrible this season. They allow 333 yards passing a game which sets them comfortably at 31st in the NFL. It doesn't really matter whether it's Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor at quarterback as both could tear this defense apart. However, there are benefits in Washington's favor if Flynn is under center.
In terms of athleticism, Flynn just doesn't compare to Pryor. He is a pocket passer through and through. If the Redskins get pressure, they should be able to rattle him. If Pryor is in the game, he could run away from the pressure and make a play in the open field. Pryor is a bigger quarterback and, with the way the Redskins have been (not) tackling, could go for a big gain. At least with Flynn, you eliminate the quarterback's run threat.
Number 2: Slow Down Darren McFadden
McFadden is one of the more underrated running backs in the NFL. Thanks to his offensive line, his production doesn't really reflect his potential. McFadden is quick, shifty and can make guys miss. At 6-1, 218-pounds, McFadden is a bigger back which can give the Redskins troubles if their tackling woes continue.
The thing about Darren McFadden is that he is a literal do-it-all running back. He can run, catch, block and even throw the ball. Against the Denver Broncos on Monday Night Football, McFadden threw a beautiful 16-yard touchdown pass to Marcel Reece. If Pryor doesn't play, you can bet McFadden will receive more of the workload this weekend since the Redskins give up an average 155 yards rushing per game.
Number 3: Fundamental Tackling
It was briefly mentioned in the first two keys, but the Redskins' have a huge problem with tackling. Instead of wrapping up and going for the sure tackle, they instead go for the big hit and launch themselves shoulder-first at the ball carrier. Often times, the ball carrier is able to slip the tackle and carry on for a few more yards. Against the Detroit Lions in Week 3, the Redskins missed three, at least, tackles on a Joique Bell 12-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
Number 4: Converting on Third Down
On offense, the Redskins are 11-34 on third down with a conversion percentage of 32.4-percent. While the offense does have 70 total first downs, most of those have come in the second half of games they don't even have a chance in. In other words, they are garbage first downs.
We can harp and harass the poor play of the defense all we want, but the offense has to improve in order for the defense to improve (I wrote about this very topic a couple days ago). If the offense can't stay on the field, how can the defense regroup and prepare for the next drive? They simply don't have the time to talk things over on the sideline and try to fix their problems.
Number 5: Let RG3, Be RG3
Last weekend against the Detroit Lions, we got a glimpse of the old Robert Griffin III. While some in his own locker room don't believe that he is 100-percent healthy, Griffin certainly seems to be getting his football legs back under him.
The Redskins need to continue their reliance on him. In Week 3, they used Alfred Morris to set up Griffin before letting Griffin do a majority of the work on a number of drives in the second half. With the exception of Charles Woodson, this Raiders secondary isn't that strong. Letting RG3 work the offense with the freedom to create will give the Redskins the best chance to win. They've been holding him back, it's time to let go of the reins.
This is a must-win game for the Redskins. If they enter the bye week 0-4, there is a good chance that they'll go winless for quite some time. After the bye week, they'll play the Dallas Cowboys, Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos. If they want a win before the month of November comes around, it'll have to come this weekend.
Brian Skinnell lives in the Washington D.C., metro-area and began covering the Redskins on his own blog titled "The Skinny On Sports". You can also check him out on RantSports.com and on a weekly NFL segment on Yahoo AM 730 Sports in Memphis, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter, @Brian_Skinnell.
- American Football
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- Terrelle Pryor
- Oakland Raiders
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- Darren McFadden
- Matt Flynn