Washington is 3-3, one game behind the Giants in the NFC East. The Redskins could be 5-1, but bad late penalties caused them to lose to St. Louis and Cincinnati. They are 5-6 on the road the last two seasons, including 2-1 this year.
The Redskins’ attack has been energized by rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the second player chosen in the 2012 NFL Draft. Washington ranks fifth in the NFL with an average of 394.0 yards a game and first with 6.3 yards per play. The Redskins are second in both rushing yards a game (166.0) and per carry (5.2). Washington is 20th with 228.0 passing yards a game and tied for third – with the Giants - with 29.7 points per game.
Washington has a balanced attack – 191 rushes and 170 pass attempts. The Skins run a lot of play action, rollouts and screens and like to attack the middle of the field.
Several familiar players have departed the Redskins since last season, including tight end Chris Cooley, running back Tim Hightower, fullback Mike Sellers and wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. Right tackle Jamal Brown is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list.
Griffin has helped Redskins fans move past them and just about anyone else who suited up for the team in recent seasons. He leads the NFL with a 70.2 completion percentage, ranks third with a 100.5 rating and his six rushing touchdowns are the league’s second-highest total. Unlike many rookie quarterbacks, Griffin is often at his best in the face of a blitz. Athletic, accurate and elusive, he is a threat anytime the ball is in his hands. Washington’s backup is another rookie, Kirk Cousins. The third quarterback is Rex Grossman, who twice led the Redskins to victories over the Giants last season.
Washington’s leading rusher is rookie Alfred Morris, a sixth-round draft choice from Florida Atlantic, whose debut season would be one of the league’s top stories if not for the exploits of Griffin. Morris is fourth in the NFL with 538 yards on 116 carries. He has scored five touchdowns; Morris and Griffin are the only teammates in the league with at least five rushing touchdowns apiece. Morris has been a dynamic, physical first and second-down back. He has vision, patience and natural run skills. Evan Royster is a third down, change-of-pace back with nine receptions and eight rushing attempts. Former Giant and Packer Ryan Grant is an emergency back who has played little.
Fullback Darrel Young is an ex-linebacker with good receiving skills.
The Redskins play all the wide receivers on their roster. But Pierre Garcon, the former Indianapolis Colt who was one of their high-profile offseason acquisitions, missed last week’s victory over Minnesota and Wednesday’s practice with turf toe. When he’s on the field, Garcon is big, physical and athletic. Joshua Morgan is tough and competitive in the middle of the field and Washington’s best blocking wideout. Leonard Hankerson has started four games for either Garcon or Morgan. He is a big target with huge hands who is a good short and intermediate range receiver. Former starter Santana Moss is now the slot receiver. Still elusive and quick-footed, he runs more short routes but still has the speed to go deep. Aldrick Robinson has two starts and eight catches and Dezmon Briscoe has played a little. Washington’s gadget man is Brandon Banks, the primary return man who has five carries and four catches.
Tight end Fred Davis has 23 catches, seven more than any of his teammates. Davis lines up in several different positions and is a savvy route runner with good hands. Niles Paul is an H-back type who runs precise routes. Logan Paulsen is a good blocker who is utilized in two-tight end formations.
Washington’s offensive line has played well. The leader of the pack is left tackle Trent Williams, who has the quick feet needed to handle speed rushers. With Brown on PUP, Tyler Polumbus has started every game at right tackle. A 6-8, 305-pounder, he is mauler in the run game. Left guard Kory Lichtensteiger is a feisty, undersized player who can line up at any of the three inside positions. Chris Chester, a tight end in college, has 75 career starts on the offensive line, and the right guard has been Washington’s best inside player. Center Will Montgomery is a tough power player with natural leverage. Backup Maurice Hurt is a former starter at left guard.
Washington’s 3-4 defense is ranked 27th in the NFL, allowing 417.2 yards a game. The Redskins are eighth against the run (88.8) but 32nd and last defending the pass (328.3). They are 26th in scoring defense, allowing 28.8 points a game. Washington has scored four defensive touchdowns.
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. In addition, Brandon Meriweather, who was signed to beef up the secondary, has not played a down because of injuries. Another safety, Tanard Jackson, was suspended for the entire season by the NFL.
Even without Carriker, Washington has a talented defensive line that applies consistent pressure. Jarvis Jenkins, who missed the 2011 season with a torn knee ligament, has stepped in at left end. He is a big man with length and strength. The right end is Stephen Bowen, a solid every-down player with good shed and pass rush skills. The nose tackle is former Giant Barry Cofield, who is big and quick and playing well this season. Kedric Golston is a high-motor player with length and size who is a regular contributor in the defensive line rotation. Chris Baker is a strong, thick backup nose who has played about 20 snaps a game. Doug Worthington plays pass rush situations, where he can utilize his unusually long arms.
The middle linebacker is ageless London Fletcher, a 15-year veteran who has played in 230 consecutive games. Still an every-snap player, the three-time Pro Bowler leads the Redskins with 80 tackles (41 solo). Fletcher attacks the run game and works to the ball on every down. Next to him on the inside is Perry Riley, a productive run-stopper who is seldom off the field. He is an aggressive, physical player who can shock a ballcarrier on contact. The left outside backer is Ryan Kerrigan, the team’s biggest pass-rush threat and leader with 3.5 sacks. Kerrigan has good size and strength and uses a variety of moves to pressure quarterbacks. On the right side is Ron Jackson, a high-motor player who is skilled in coverage. Lorenzo Alexander has played eight different positions in his career. He is now a productive backup linebacker who leads the NFL with nine special teams tackles. Chris Wilson, Mario Addison and rookie Keenan Robinson could also see action.
The secondary’s best player is free safety Madieu Williams, a first-year Redskin who is playing for his fourth team. A good communicator on the back end of the defense, he is quick to read a play and react to it. Strong safety Reed Doughty is similar to the Giants’
The Redskins released veteran kicker Billy Cundiff after he converted only 58.3 percent of his field goal attempts and signed Kai Forbath, a former star at UCLA who was with Tampa Bay in the preseason. His first-ever regular-season attempt last week was a 50-yarder vs. the Vikings – and he hit it. Veteran punter Sav Rocca has a big leg and a 44.6-yard gross average and 37.3-yard net average. Banks is an explosive returner with a 26.3-yarder average on 12 kickoff returns and a 5.4-yard average on 13 punt runbacks. Long snapper Nick Sundberg is on injured reserve, but is eligible to return later in the season. Justin Snow has taken his place.