5 Keys for the Redskins to beat the Vikings
1. Protect Robert Griffin III:
-Even if Griffin wasn’t playing on a bad ankle their number one goal should be pass protection in a game like this. The Vikings pass rush has been extremely good this season and it appears to be getting stronger as the season wears on. They are facing an offensive line that has struggled in this department and a QB that is probably not as mobile as he was before the injury. You better believe that the Vikings are going to unleash the hounds so to speak and try to get after Griffin. One issue with stopping the Vikings pass rush is that they come from everywhere. All four DL positions (both starters and back-ups) are capable of getting penetration and putting pressure on the QB. For most teams you maybe only have one or two areas you have to key in on, but with the Vikings everyone is a threat. Though Minnesota hasn’t done it much I wouldn’t be surprised to see some more blitzing of Griffin in this game. Last year and week one, Griffin struggled when blitzed and with his mobility in question now is the time you test him. Another thing to consider is that regardless of the QB there have been numerous protection lapses this season when other teams blitz. Whether it is two OL blocking the same guy or a back or TE not seeing the blitz, the Redskins have been hurt when teams bring extra guys. Don’t be surprised if OLB Anthony Barr gets some extra pass rush attempts as a stand-up backer allowing the Vikings to bring 5 talented pass rushers on a given play. If the Redskins can’t protect Griffin it could be a long day for their offense.
2. Establish the run early:
-The Vikings pass defense has been pretty good this year, and that is despite the fact that they have faced some top QB’s (Brady, Brees, Ryan, Rodgers and Stafford). They have limited those big name QB’s (for the most part), but haven’t been as strong versus the run. The Redskins are going to have to get their ground game going early so as to take pressure of RGIII, and not put him in a lot of 3rd and long situations. If they can keep Griffin out of those situations it will be harder for the Vikings to really generate the pass rush they need to slow down the Redskins offense.
3. Blitz Bridgewater early and often:
–Teddy Bridgewater is a rookie QB making his 4th NFL start, making this the perfect time to bring the heat. The Redskins can’t rely on their four man rush to bring consistent enough pressure (though Bridgewater has been holding on to the ball too long and bringing pressure on himself), so they should turn to the blitz. Last week the blitz really rattled the Cowboys passing game and was a major factor in the Redskins victory. This week versus a rookie QB it needs to be a big part of the game plan. Extra pressure should lead to more incomplete passes, sacks, fumbles and interceptions. They might get burned once or twice, but overall it should pay off for them.
4. Limit Penalties and protect the football:
-The Redskins have struggled to limit mistakes this season and as a result rank 28th in turnovers and are tied for 21st in penalties per game. It can be extremely tough to win consistently when you give up the ball or when you give free yards/1st downs to your opponents. When you have issues with both it really helps explain why you are struggling. The Redskins have to do a better job in being smart with the football. Too often they are making ill advised throws or putting the ball on the ground. With the penalty issue, they have been better in some games, but it is still a big problem for this team. Being on the road it is easier to commit penalties so the Redskins have to be extra cautious.
5. Be prepared for anything:
-The Vikings like the Redskins are sitting at 3-5 and they know they are longshots for the playoffs and contending this year, so they are more apt to take some risks. They aren’t going to be afraid to try a trick play or go for it on 4th and short. The Vikings also have two extremely gifted athletes in RB Jerick McKinnon and WR Cordarrelle Patterson, who are a danger to go the distance every time they touch the ball. Look for both players to be involved in the offense and the Vikings to find creative ways to get the ball in their hands. Both players are raw, which has limited their effectiveness, but if you misplay them or don’t account for them they can hurt you. Patterson is also used on kick returns which has been a problem for the Redskins special teams. Kai Forbath can’t give him many opportunities to return the ball or it could lead to trouble.