For the Vikings’ Week 9 matchup against Washington, we spoke to Zac Boyer, who covers the team for the Washington Times, in this week’s edition of “Behind Enemy Lines.”
1. How has quarterback Robert Griffin III looked in practice and what does Washington gain with his presence?
ZB: Griffin returned to practice in a limited fashion the week leading up to the Redskins’ game against Tennessee on Oct. 19, and his reps remained that way until this week, when he started getting full first-team snaps in team drills. The portion of practice we’ve been able to see has been limited to little more than one-on-ones, and he seems to be, thus far, the same player he was during the preseason: inconsistent with his throws and his timing, capable of delivering some crisp passes but leading or underthrowing his receivers at other times.
2. Even with three quarterbacks, the pass offense statistically is fifth in the NFL. What’s the reason behind that?
ZB: DeSean Jackson. The speedy wide receiver, who the Redskins signed to what’s essentially a three-year contract in April, is averaging a league-high 20.8 yards per reception this season. He has seven receptions of more than 40 yards, including a 49-yard grab against the Cowboys on Monday, and even when he’s not catching passes, the flurry of go routes the Redskins have sent him on has been enough of a distraction to open up more intermediate gains for the offense.
3. What’s the biggest area of concern on defense?
ZB: While the Redskins’ pass rush hasn’t been as aggressive as the team thought it would be in training camp, the biggest problem has been the coverage in the secondary. Washington has two safeties, Brandon Meriweather and Ryan Clark, who have been inconsistent with their tackling, though Meriweather had what may have been his best game in three seasons with the Redskins on Monday. The other part of that has been that the Redskins are without cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who tore his left Achilles’ tendon in Week 3. Rookie Bashaud Breeland has stepped in and made some big plays Monday when matched up with Dez Bryant, but still has to prove he can be more consistent.
4. Why has linebacker Ryan Kerrigan had so much success during the first eight games this season?
ZB: Kerrigan has shown in his four years that he’s a smart player with a nose for the quarterback, and even when Brian Orakpo was healthy, he was the Redskins’ best pass rusher. Defensive end Jason Hatcher and nose tackle Chris Baker have been able to provide adequate pressure on interior linemen, which often has forced the quarterback out of the pocket, to his right and into Kerrigan’s waiting arms. It helps that as a right outside linebacker — and a good one — he has faced a number of pedestrian right tackles this season.
5. What do the Redskins need to do to win on Sunday?
ZB: Limit their turnovers. Kirk Cousins was benched for Colt McCoy during the Week 7 victory over the Titans because he was reckless with the football, and McCoy, in six quarters of the team’s last two victories, has thrown just one interception. Griffin threw just five interceptions as a rookie in 2012, but that number ballooned to 12 last year. If he plays — and that’s the team’s plan, barring any kind of lapses in practice — he’ll need to make responsible decisions. His ability to do that still remains uncertain.
There was a full house at practice this morning as the Vikings prepared to play the Redskins.
Defensive end Brian Robison, who suffered a gluteal injury in last week’s win over the Buccaneers, and cornerback Jabari Price, who has a hamstring injury, both practiced for a second straight day after sitting out Wednesday. That leads me to believe both will end up playing at TCF on Sunday.
Tight end Kyle Rudolph was present but not participating as he continued to do conditioning work.
Interestingly, the Vikings were practicing inside today after being outdoors the previous two days. Just yesterday, coach Mike Zimmer said they would usually practice outside, even in cold weather.
“If we’re playing in Miami, we’re probably not going to be outside,” Zimmer said yesterday after jokingly asking reporters if they were cold. “If the weather’s bad and we can’t get stuff done, that’s one thing. But if we can get out here, I’ll have some heaters out here going, and we’ll try to get out here. In Cincinnati, we didn’t have an indoor [practice field]. We had to go outdoors. It is what it is.”
One more random practice tidbit, at least one that we are allowed to report: With practice-squad quarterback Chandler Harnish sidelined with a foot injury, defensive backs coach Jerry Gray was the scout-team QB. With all due respect to Coach Gray, he appeared to be a step slower than RGIII.