After jousting with the potent combination of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the Rams will be faced with an even more formidable duo – Robert Griffin III and the tremendous trail of media hype he is generating in his wake. However, this may be one of the few occasions where the hype is fully justified. Watching the game replay of last week's Redskins – Saints game, I came away more impressed with Griffin's performance than with Andrew Luck's game against us in the preseason.
However, the matchup between the Rams and Redskins revolves around more than a single player, no matter the wattage of his star power. To get in-depth on Washington, I talked to Tom Threlkeld of DC Pro Sports Report, who was gracious enough to share his thoughts.
Q: After a slow preseason, Griffin and the Redskins' offense erupted out of the gate in week 1. How did that performance impact your expectations for this year? Can the Redskins contend for the East right away?
Tom: KC Joyner of ESPN, whom I respect a lot, thinks the Redskins can contend for the NFC East division crown right now. As much as I enjoy reading that, I've learned from bitter experience not to believe too much too soon in the Redskins.
Every year a few teams surprise us, negatively or positively, in week one and then revert to form the rest of the season. I picked the Redskins to go 7-9 or 8-8 and I'm not moving off that yet. Much has been made of Washington's tough schedule this season, but the rest of September is St. Louis, Cincinnati and Tampa Bay. If the Redskins get through that undefeated, I'll reconsider my prediction.
Q: RG3 looks like the real deal, but otherwise few apparent impact players appear to be in this year's draft. Is there a worry about the long-term cost of the deal Washington made with the Rams?
Tom: Well, the Redskins drafted Alfred Morris in the 6th round and he ran for about 100 yards and 2 TD on Sunday, so he might be a good find in the back end of the draft. Kirk Cousins looked very good in preseason and maybe the Skins can use him in a couple of years to swindle some team the way the Eagles swindled the Redskins with Donovan McNabb and the Cardinals with Kevin Kolb.
Other than that, it certainly looks like the RG3 draft. And that's fine. A franchise QB is worth more than a few high draft picks and if the Redskins can turn into a good team soon, those high draft picks will come a bit later in the first round.
If RG3 turns into a star, it's a great trade for both teams. If RG3 doesn't turn into a star, it's a great trade for the Rams and a debacle for the Redskins. But nothing the Skins would get from those draft picks would be as valuable as a star quarterback. That's what the NFL is all about now, star quarterbacks. Get one and you're golden. That's why you take them at the top of the draft, like RG3, Andrew Luck and Sam Bradford.
Note: We thank Tom for his charitable inclusion of Bradford in this list. We might argue the "and you're golden" conclusion he comes to, though…
Q: The Redskins' edge rushers are formidable, and the line hassled Drew Brees all day long. How does the talent in the secondary look?
Tom: Early on I picked the secondary to be the weakest link on the team and I still see that as being the case. That being said, the secondary looked pretty good on Sunday.
FS Madieu Williams got beaten for a touchdown and committed a couple of penalties and he looks like a problem. Nickel corner Cedric Griffin was one of the worst cornerbacks in the NFL the last two years [playing on other teams] and he was beaten by Marques Colston for a sure score last Sunday, but he stripped the ball from Colston and it turned into a touchback rather than a touchdown. DeJon Gomes [playing for the injured Brandon Meriweather] is young and inexperienced, but he made a nice play to intercept a Drew Brees pass and return it 50 yards to the three yard line. Starting corners Josh Wilson and DeAngelo Hall played well, but Wilson is the only one in that secondary right now that'd I'd consider a good player. Hall is good some of the time, awful other times.
The Skins are very thin at safety, due to two injuries and the suspension of Tanard Jackson, who evidently prefers drugs to football. The secondary wasn't a weakness last Sunday, but I think it will be most weeks.
However, watch out for CB DeAngelo Hall blitzing from the slot. He's gotten quite good at it. He sacked Drew Brees last Sunday and Brees is one of the best at recognizing those slot blitzes. Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett likes this play and Hall obviously has the speed to get to the QB very quickly if he isn't picked up. I'm sure the Rams coaches have told Bradford to stay aware of this, but he must be on his guard all day.
Q: Mike Shanahan has a huge stable of backs once again. Is Alfred Morris the man now, or will this change from week to week?
Tom: Morris got 28 carries last Sunday and as long as he's producing and doing okay in blitz protection, he'll get most of the carries. You'll see a bit of Evan Royster and Roy Helu, but they won't get a ton of looks unless Morris falters. If he does, Mike Shanahan won't hesitate to give the ball to someone else. But the Redskins like Morris a lot or they wouldn't have paired him with another rookie, RG3, in the backfield.
Morris is a one-cut-and-go-upfield runner and that's what Shanny likes. He falls forward for yards and almost never gets pushed back. He certainly doesn't have the raw talent of Steven Jackson, but he's got younger legs and probably more help around him than Jackson, a player I like a lot.
Q: Aside from the big-name players, who should we be looking out for to have an impact on this Sunday's game?
Tom: WR Aldrick Robinson, a 6th round pick last year who spent most of that year on the practice squad, got more snaps than anyone at the position last week after Pierre Garcon left in the first quarter. Robinson caught a touchdown pass and due to his great speed is a real threat to score if he can get in open field.
WR/RS Brandon Banks may be the quickest player in the NFL. [Also the smallest. I've interviewed him several times and he's about 5'7" and 155 pounds, if I'm feeling generous.] Shanny loves Banks' speed and change of direction ability. He's a major threat in the return game, but the team will also try to get him the ball in space, either with a deep pass or a reverse.
Someone on offense will have to step up for the Redskins is Garcon isn't able to play. [He's questionable and hasn't practiced yet this week. Coach Shanahan calls him a game-time decision, and says his return is a question of pain tolerance rather than a risk of further injury.]