With electrifying rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III running the show, the Redskins’ offense is ranked seventh in the NFL is yards per game (384.9) and points per game (26.9 a game). Washington is averaging a league-best 6.2 yards per play. The Redskins are second in the NFL in rushing yards a game (162.9) and second in yards-per-carry (5.2). They are 19th in passing yardage (222.0 a game).
Washington’s offense lost tight end Fred Davis, who tore his Achilles tendon against the Giants, but now has the services of wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who missed six games with a toe injury. Tackle Jamaal Brown was kept on the reserve/physically unable to perform list and he will not play this year.
The Redskins have scored 76 points off of turnovers after getting 43 all of last year. They are one of three teams in the NFL with more rushing attempts (346) than passes (305). Griffin (642 rushing yards) and Alfred Morris (982) are the only teammates in history to exceed 500 yards in their rookie season. Washington’s last 10 100-yard rushers have been rookies – Evan Royster, Roy Helu and Morris, who has four this year.
When the running game is clicking, the Redskins use plenty of play action, which makes Griffin even more dangerous. They run a variety of screens and gadget plays. Griffin is a dual threat who has thrown 16 touchdown passes and rushed for six more scores. He has completed 67 percent of his passes, thrown only four interceptions and is averaging 6.5 yards a carry. Griffin has outstanding arm strength, he’s a good decision maker and he breaks down a defense when he steps out of the pocket, as he did on a successful fourth-and-10 late in Washington’s loss to the Giants. Defenses get tired chasing him around. Griffin’s backup is another rookie, Kirk Cousins, who has thrown nine passes this season – including a 77-yard touchdown.
Morris is a workhorse back who rushed for a season-high 120 yards vs. the Giants. He ran for 113 yards in the Skins’ Thanksgiving Day victory in Dallas. Morris is a tough, hard-nosed runner whose 982 yards place him fifth in the NFL. He has scored six touchdowns. Royster is a quick-footed, change-of-pace back who has 13 rushing attempts and 13 catches this season. Fullback Darrel Young was a linebacker at Villanova who joined the Redskins as an undrafted free agent. He is now an improving blocker who has averaged 4.7 yards on his nine carries and caught two touchdown passes.
Garcon had a spectacular 59-yard touchdown reception against the Cowboys. He is a consistent playmaker with speed and strength who has averaged almost 16 yards a catch in his limited action this season. The other starter is Josh Morgan, who has a team-high 37 receptions but has yet to score a touchdown. He is tough and competitive in the middle of the field and Washington’s best-blocking wideout. Santana Moss, a 12-year veteran, has career totals of 70 catches for 1,048 yards and 11 touchdowns against the Giants. This season, he usually lines up in the slot in a three-wide receiver formation and he leads the team with seven touchdown receptions. Moss is a savvy veteran who is quick at the break point and fast enough to get down the field. Leonard Hankerson, who had six catches against the Giants, is at his best as a post-up target. Brandon Banks is dangerous when he gets the ball on bubble screens. Aldrick Robinson has 11 catches, including one in each of the last two games – 49 and 68-yard touchdowns. He is a vertical route runner who helps clear out the intermediate area for his teammates.
Logan Paulson took over as the starting tight end when Davis was placed on injured reserve. Paulson is a strong blocker who is making strides as a receiver. His 12 catches in the last four games is the team’s second-highest total in that span. Backup Niles Paul is used primarily as an H-back. He is a good lead blocker who has averaged 18.7 yards on his seven catches. Chris Cooley, a former six-year starter who was released on August 28, was re-signed to take Davis’ place on the roster. He has played little since his return, but is a smart and savvy veteran.
Washington’s starting offensive line has remained intact since the first Giants game. The best player up front is left tackle Trent Williams, a powerful and aggressive blocker who can handle speed rushers because of his quick feet. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus is a 6-8, 305-pounder short-area mauler in the run game. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is Washington’s most-penalized player, but he is a feisty blocker. Right guard Chris Chester, a tight end in college, is the Redskins’ most productive inside offensive lineman. He is a steady all-around player. Center Will Montgomery has good instincts in the run game and is at his best on the move.
The Redskins’ 3-4 defense is ranked 28th in the NFL (390.5 yards a game), despite being one of the league’s strongest units against the run. Washington’s rushing defense is third in the NFL, giving up only 89.2 yards per game. But the pass defense is ranked 31st, allowing 301.4 yards an outing. The Redskins have allowed an average of 25.9 points a game, placing them 25th in the league. They have given up 285 points – 40 in the third quarter, but 116 in the fourth.
Washington is missing numerous key players on defense. The Redskins lost two of their best defensive players for the season in Week 2, when left end Adam Carriker (torn tendon near his right knee) and right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo (torn left pectoral) were injured. Safety Brandon Meriweather and rookie linebacker Keenan Robinson are also on I.R.
The defensive line has just 3.5 of the Redskins’ 20 sacks. Nose tackle Barry Cofield, the former Giant, has played well all season. He leads the team with 26 quarterback hits and has 35 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Cofield is a good player on the move who is constantly running plays down. Left end Jarvis Jenkins, who missed the 2011 season with a torn knee ligament, quickly reads schemes and uses his hands well against the run and pass. Right end Stephen Bowen is an every-down player who moves inside in the sub defenses. Kedric Golston contributes steady pressure as a backup. Chris Baker is a two-down space eater who plays about 13 snaps a game.
Middle linebacker London Fletcher, the 15-year veteran, has battled injuries all season, but his streak of consecutive games played is now at 235. Currently playing with a sore ankle, Fletcher leads the team with 127 tackles (75 solo) and has two interceptions and a sack. The three-time Pro Bowler is an instinctive player who takes good angles and is a sure tackler. Perry Riley is a solid run-stopper at the other inside backer position. Left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan is the team’s biggest pass-rush threat. He leads the team with 6.5 sacks; no one else has more than 2.0. Kerrigan has straight line power and good movement on the edge. Rob Jackson reacts quickly to the ball in pass coverage and can pack a punch against the run. Backup Lorenzo Alexander has gotten increased playing time. He lines up in several spots and is a relentless attacker.
Cornerback DeAngelo Hall sometimes covers the opposition’s best receiver and at other times stays on the left or right side. A volatile player – he was ejected from the game in Pittsburgh – Hall is playing well and is Washington’s third-leading tackler with 80. He leads the Redskins with four interceptions. The other corner is Josh Wilson, who does a good job of disguising his intentions. Cedric Griffin plays on the corner in the sub defenses, with Hall moving inside. Griffin is a hard-hitter. Free safety Madieu Williams has been the most consistent member of the secondary. A good communicator on the back end of the defense, he is quick to read a play and react to it. DeJon Gomes has taken over for Reed Doughty as the other starting safety. Gomes is at his best as a zone defender, but he has brought good pressure on blitzes.
Coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to sign kicker Kai Forbath on October 9 has proven to be wise.
Forbath has made all 10 of his field goal attempts, though the Steelers did block one of his extra point tries. Forbath has been accurate and poised. Punter Sav Rocca is 26th in the NFL with a 44.0-yard gross average and 25th with a 37.-8 yards net average. But he gets good hang time and the Skins haven’t allowed a punt return longer than 22 yards. Brandon Banks is averaging 24.1 yards on 21 kickoff returns and 6.8 yards on 23 punt returns. Long snapper Nick Sundberg, who didn’t play against the Giants in October, has been activated off injured reserve. Alexander is one of the NFL’s best special teamers. He leads the team with 20 special teams tackles (15 solo). Washington is fifth in the NFL in punt coverage (average opposing return, 6.5 yards) and 11th in kickoff coverage (22.6).