5 Keys to the Game: Redskins vs Packers Week 2
Here are my 5 keys to Sunday's Game:
1. Get Griffin Going Early:
I want to see the Redskins come out with basically the same game plan they had in Griffin's first game last year versus the Saints. Now I don't think Griffin is going to be as mobile and able to do some things with his legs, but I want to see him in the Pistol formation or shotgun and peppering the Packers with a variety of screens and quick hitters. Not only can this help get Griffin and the Redskins offense in rhythm. But it builds confidence and could help silence the Packers crowd if it can lead to a quick score or two. These are throws that won't be affected by Griffin's mechanics as much if he's still having issues in that department. Also, they are not throws that Griffin is really going to have to think about too much, so there can be no second guessing as he's getting into rhythm. The other big benefit is these types of throws make it almost impossible to have any sort of positive pass rush, which helps negate the threat of Clay Matthews Jr.
Now obviously the Redskins can't do this for the entire game (though John Beck may disagree with that assessment), but it can build confidence for the team, and if it's working, the Packers will need to adjust to it. When that occurs it could open some things up down the field with some of those intermediate and deeper routes. At that point the passing attack should be back to full effectiveness, if Griffin can exploit those holes in the defense.
The Redskins rushing goal shouldn't just be to get 100 yards rushing or average 4.2 yards per carry like some teams, it really has to be about dominating opponents on the ground. Robert Griffin III having 49 passing attempts is bad for this team's chances of winning and that simply can't happen again. The Redskins really want to get to that 150-200 yard rushing level, where they know they can beat opponents and control the tempo of the game. To do that, the Redskins want to get to that 30+ rushing attempts mark per game. With Griffin not a major threat to run, it falls on Alfred Morris and Roy Helu Jr. to handle the load.
The Redskins need to get both of these guys involved early on in an effort to help wear down the Packers Defense. Helu offers a better option to run the football on third downs as well as run some more stuff to the outside. Morris should be once again the bell cow with 20+ carries, mainly running between the tackles in this zone blocking scheme.
It won't be easy, as the Packers bottled up the 49ers zone read attack last week and that was with Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and a healthy option QB in Colin Kaepernick. The Redskins have to be more persistent in their attack and find some ways to disguise what they are doing to get some extra running room. Not only is this crucial for the Redskins offense to function, but a steady and strong rushing attack helps keep Aaron Rodgers off the field.
3. Dial Up the Pressure:
The Redskins secondary is a poor match-up for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers passing game, so the only real option is to put enough pressure on Rodgers to where his level of play returns to normal human levels. Rodgers is better than most quarterbacks when under pressure, but he does see a drop in his level of production, and that is how you beat him.
To do this, the Redskins are in a good situation as the Packers offensive line is a major work in progress, starting essentially three new starters this year, including a rookie at left tackle. Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and the rest of the Redskins need to get this going early and often. Not only should the team rely on their talent and experience superiority, but the Redskins should look to add a variety of blitzes to help confuse the Packers line. This is the perfect opportunity to use the Redskins new nickel defense with rookie Brandon Jenkins coming on to the field and Ryan Kerrigan slipping inside to rush from a DT position.
Rodgers will still win some battles, but this is really your only chance to stop this passing attack and win this football game.
4. Got to Stop the Penalties:
Enough is enough. The Redskins are committing more penalties than the Hanson Brothers from Slap Shot. They are killing big plays and stopping drives in their tracks. The Redskins were able to overcome it last year, to an extent, but this year they can't count on that happening again. Now penalties weren't the main reason why they lost last week, but it will be the culprit in a couple losses going forward if they don't change this ASAP. In a week where you are on the road, and an underdog, penalties can be a killer. The Redskins can't afford to hamper themselves at all if they want to beat the Packers, and you absolutely can't give Aaron Rodgers any free yards or plays if you want to stop that offense.
5. Don't Play for a Field Goal:
Not only should you not be playing for field goals in general, particularly when you are going up against a high powered offense like the Packers, but that is especially true for the Redskins this week. Kicker Kai Forbath is questionable with a groin injury and might not be able to go this week. If he can't kick, the Redskins will sign John Potter who was with them in camp. Potter's reputation is that of a kick-off specialist, not a true place kicker.
In fact in the preseason the Redskins didn't even have him attempt a single field goal (he did obviously in practice though). The Redskins' options are going to be either a kicker with a sore groin, or a kicker who hasn't attempted a field goal in a game situation since at least last preseason (possibly longer). And both of them will be doing it on the road in an unfamiliar stadium. The true effective range for both kicker options is going to be pretty limited, and this has to change how the Redskins call this game.
The Redskins may decide to punt or go for it in some certain situations, and on some third and long situations the goal won't be just to pick up a couple yards or center the ball for a field goal, but to actually get the first down. The Redskins are going to have to be really careful here, and hopefully they won't be put in a situation where a field goal will decide this football game.