Five areas to monitor as the Redskins enter Week 6 of the NFL season

October 10, 2012

Robert Griffin III lays on the ground after suffering a concussion. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins return to the practice fields today, aiming to rebound from Sunday’s 24-17 loss to the Atlanta Falcons while putting together a complete effort on both sides of the ball for the first time this season.

 On Sunday they welcome the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings and try yet again to post a rare home victory.

Here are five areas to monitor in the week leading up to that game:

 1.) Griffin’s health – Rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III will practice today, three days after he left the Falcons game with a mild concussion. Griffin has gone through testing each of the last two games and will continue to be monitored for any setbacks. If he gets through today and reports no symptoms tomorrow, he will play Sunday.

 2.) Griffin’s mind-set – If Griffin can play, it’ll be interesting to see how the concussion impacts his mind-set. A confident kid, Griffin likely will say that he plans to remain aggressive while also playing smart. The key to him remaining effective and healthy is balance. Mike Shanahan he stresses to Griffin the need for him to protect himself because of his value. He wants Griffin to be mindful of that, but at the same time, he doesn’t want the quarterback to become tentative.

 3.) New place kicker – The Redskins on Tuesday cut Billy Cundiff and signed Kai Forbath, who hasn’t kicked in a regular season game despite brief stints with the Cowboys and Buccaneers. Washington hopes to solve its long-standing inconsistent kicking game. But there could be some growing pains for the former UCLA star as he acclimates himself to the league and a new holder and long-snapper.

 4.) Third down production – The Redskins this week will continue to place a strong emphasis on improving on third downs, where they are last in the league having converted only 23.3 percent for first downs. The players and coaches keep saying they need to put themselves in more manageable situations, but what has to change for that to actually happen? Can they find the answer this week?

 5.) Continued defensive improvement – The Redskins secondary showed signs of improvement against the Falcons, but still had some breakdowns. Jim Haslett continues to experiment with personnel and strategy as he tries to mask his unit’s deficiencies. The Redskins have lacked efficiency in the pass-rushing department and have to do a better job of winning one-on-one matchups to help cure this recent weakness.

Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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