The Washington Redskins enter Monday night with a 3-7 record and firmly besieged by yet another controversy. This time it has been alleged Robert Griffin asked the coaching staff not to display his poor plays on the board during team meetings. Head coach Mike Shanahan has firmly and repeatedly denied the report, calling it “absolutely untrue.”
Aside from the latest soap opera-esque scandal, the team finds itself limping into the home stretch of the season.
Here is a look at a three trends, both good and bad, for Washington as they begin a three-game homestand.
Alfred Morris is playing the best football of his season and Washington’s No. 1 ranked running game has peaked as the weather has gotten colder. After not getting 20 carries in any of the Redskins’ first seven games, Morris has racked up 25, 26, and 22 attempts in the Redskins’ last three contests, averaging 118 yards per game.
If the second-year tailback runs for 91 yards against the 49ers, he’ll be leading the NFL in rushing yards heading into December. Morris is on pace for 1,468 yards this season, a strong second-act in the wake of his historical 1,600-yard rookie season.
Brian Orakpo has managed 2.5 sacks in the Redskins’ last two games, nearly doubling his output from the first eight contests. The two-game stretch marks the first time Orakpo has posted a sack in consecutive games since weeks 6 and 7 of the 2010 season.
His full sack against the Philadelphia Eagles came on a well designed blitz where Orakpo was standing up in the middle of Washington’s defense before looping to the left of outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. The former Texas star got home untouched, dropping Nick Foles for a loss.
I’d like to see more of that creativity from defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. He has to help Orakpo and Kerrigan generate more consistent pressure by giving team’s varied looks — not just having his outside backers going one-on-one with offensive tackles every down.
Pierre Garcon has been targeted 10 or more times in eight of the Redskins’ 10 games this season. He entered Week 12 ranked in the top five in the NFL in both receptions and yards-after-catch. The second-year Redskin saw his stretch of consecutive 100-yard games snapped last week in a six-catch, 68-yard performance. Garcon has caught at least five passes in all of Washington’s games this season.
The former Indianapolis Colt is on pace to record 107 receptions, which would break Art Monk’s 29-year-old Redskins single-season record. Good things happen when Washington gets the ball in Garcon’s hands, particularly when quarterback Robert Griffin III is able to deliver well placed strikes to the speedy receiver in the middle of the field that allow the receiver to accelerate after the catch.
Josh Morgan has not caught more than one pass in any of the Redskins’ last seven games. Worse than that, Morgan has not amassed more than six receiving yards since Washington’s Week 3 loss to Detroit. The 28-year-old was a healthy scratch last weekend, sitting out for the first time since signing in D.C. last offseason.
His season totals – 11 catches, 124 yards, and no touchdowns – are disappointing largely because of a lack of opportunities. If something doesn’t change quickly, the two-year $12 million contract he signed is at risk of going down as one of the worst that Shanahan has given a player during his time running the Redskins.
Ryan Kerrigan has gone three straight games without a sack, having been shutout against the Chargers, Vikings and Eagles during Washington’s 0-3 November. The third-year linebacker has just 1.5 sacks in the six games the Redskins have played since the bye week.
In addition to having a hard time getting home against passers, Kerrigan has managed just nine tackles and two passes defensed during three November games. As one of Washington’s premiere defenders and top play-makers, if the Redskins are going to do a better job generating takeaways they’ll need Kerrigan to generate more pressures and make more plays. He’s forced three fumbles this season, but two of those came in his first four games.
Special teams play has been a constant source of frustration for head coach Mike Shanahan this season.
Some of the lowlights this season include: A blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown, two blocked field goals, a punt return touchdown allowed, a 90-yard kick return allowed, a botched fake punt, untimely shanked punts and a plethora of penalties.
Last week in Philadelphia, debuting punt returner Nick Williams muffed two attempts to field punts and allowed two other punts to be downed inside Washington’s five yard-line. The Redskins need more out of their special teams unit across the board, but they specifically can’t afford to be haunted by mistakes in the punt return game.