While the game being played is obviously important the Redskins as an organization need to start making some interesting decisions. Here are some things to watch for tonight and a look at what kind of future impact they may have:
-Too often either do to bad game plan, or early struggles RGIII has been asked to drop back 40 or more times a game. Neither Griffin himself or the rest of the Redskins offense is built for that kind of passing attack, particularly when asked to do so from the pocket. With all the controversy swirling around Griffin, the Shanahan’s and just this Redskins offense in general, asking him to throw the ball primarily from the pocket a high number of times is simply asking for trouble. Not only will it likely mean the Redskins have lost another game, but it will probably lead to more Griffin mistakes which leads to more controversies. While not everyone is admitting it, Mike Shanahan’s seat is getting pretty hot and if he continues to misuse and put his franchise quarterback in bad situations it will likely cost him his job.
-The Redskins special teams unit has been an outright joke this year. Each and every week we’ve seen special teams mistake after mistake that has cost the Redskins field position and points. While one would think that ST coach Keith Burns will be out of a job whether or not Mike Shanahan is back next year, Mike Shanahan has fought for some of his coaches in the past. If there is any sign of improvements he may look to do so as well. If there aren’t improvements the Redskins are looking at some historically bad special teams numbers for things like field position, FG% and Net punting average.
-Riley is one of the Redskins key free agents this offseason, but the debate is starting about whether or not he’s worth the money. Riley’s had a nice year, but he still has proven to be an up and down player. If the Redskins are to invest in him long term with a pretty big deal they need to see him play better versus some top talent. If Riley can do well versus a top tight end like Vernon Davis it could be a sign that he’s able to breakout and play at a higher level for 16 games. That could make the decision to re-sign Riley and how much they are willing to shell out that much easier for the Redskins brass.
-Protection for RGIII has been a big factor as the Redskins have invested heavily in the offensive line with a top 5 pick in left tackle Trent Williams and good money contracts handed out to the three interior offensive linemen. They are set to face one of their tougher tests tonight as an offensive line and if they once again let Griffin get beat up in the pocket it will really show how far away this unit is. Now the protection failures aren’t all on the line as backs and tight ends have been responsible for multiple sacks, and on other plays Griffin has misread the blitz and hasn’t seen that there is a free rusher coming. Despite all of that, at the end of the day the offensive line are the ones paid to protect Griffin and give him a clean pocket and that just hasn’t happened.
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-The Redskins have had to deal with a lot of off the field controversy and questions these past two weeks and have also seen their slim playoff hopes all but slip away. How the Redskins respond in this game could be very telling on how the rest of the season and how even next season goes. The Redskins are at home and while they would need a miracle to make the playoffs everyone on this football team needs to be playing hard if they want to be here next year. Also the Redskins coaching staff is very much on the hot seat so the decisions by Mike Shanahan and company will be scrutinized. If the Redskins come out flat like they did against the Eagles, or have a 2nd half collapse like against the Vikings it will show zero improvement and really question whether or not Shanahan should be leading this team next year, and what the future holds for this team. Now that doesn’t mean the Redskins have to win this game. But at home on national TV the Redskins can’t struggle like they have the last two weeks. If they lose 24-21 and played a good game throughout that might be rough, but it is at least bearable. If they get blown out or can only score in garbage time it will really be a bad sign for the rest of the year.