Redskins vs. Packers: Five storylines to follow

Robert Griffin III

Robert Griffin III aims for a stronger performance this week. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins on Sunday look to rebound from their Week 1 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles as they take on the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field at 1 p.m. on Fox.

This will mark the first meeting between the Redskins and Packers since Washington’s 16-13 overtime victory at FedEx Field on Oct. 10, 2010. The Redskins seek their first win at Lambeau Field since Oct. 23, 1988.

Like Washington, Green Bay enters this game with an 0-1 after falling 34-28 to the San Francisco 49ers last week. This marks Green Bay’s first home game of the season, and the Packers enter the game as 7.5-point favorites.

Here are five storylines to follow in this game:

1. Robert Griffin III’s progress: The second-year quarterback struggled for two-and-a-half quarters Monday in his return to competition. His surgically repaired right knee withstood its first physical test, but Griffin didn’t find his timing, accuracy and feel for the game until midway through the third quarter. Now with a game under his belt, Griffin looks to pick up where he left off late in the game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Has he gotten all of the rust out of his system? Griffin said his confidence is strong thanks in part to his late-game rebound. He could be due for a big passing game. The Packers were determined to make sure Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers didn’t hurt them with the zone-read option game and put eight men in the box, and to avoid giving up downfield plays, they played defensive backs deep. That allowed Kaepernick to utilize the mid-range passing game. He finished with 412 passing yards and three touchdowns on 27 completions. Griffin traditionally has displayed good field vision and judgment and takes what the defense gives him. If he can get back to this, he could move his team with success.

2. Secondary help: The Redskins again hope to get strong safety Brandon Meriweather on the field a week after a lingering groin injury again forced him out of action. (Knee injuries kept him sidelined for all but one half last season). Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said this week he doesn’t really know what to expect from Meriweather because he hasn’t seen him play a full game in so long. But the Redskins believe that he will bring a high energy level and degree of nastiness, big-play ability, both against the run and the pass, and versatility. When he’s at his best, Meriweather can hit like a linebacker, and also match up with receivers one-on-one like a cornerback. Recalling Meriweather’s one half of action last season before he tore an ACL, nose tackle Barry Cofield said, “That game he played last year was like he had a star in ‘Mario Brothers.’ You know, you just run through everything, invincible. He was in turbo speed and we were all regular people.” For a secondary that last week had blown assignments in pass coverage and in run support, that type of assistance would definitely be welcomed.

3. Morris’ rebound: Running back Alfred Morris, like Griffin, didn’t get his sophomore campaign off to a strong start as he fumbled on his first carry and botched a pitch later in the first quarter, giving up a safety. Morris remained in the game, and scored a third-quarter touchdown, but with Washington trailing much of the game, his opportunities were limited. He finished the game with 12 carries for 45 yards after averaging 100.8 yards and 21 carries last season. Establishing the run game will go a long way toward helping Griffin settle into a rhythm. But it won’t be easy. The Packers last week limited Frank Gore to just 44 yards on 21 carries (2.1 ypc), and held San Francisco as a whole to 90 rushing yards.

4. Run defense: The Redskins last season ranked fifth in the league stopping the run. Teams managed just 95.8 yards a game against Washington. But Monday, the Eagles gashed the Redskins for 263 rushing yards, with LeSean McCoy accounting for 184 on 31 carries. The Eagles spread out the Redskins with their formations and limited the number of players Haslett was able to put in the box. But poor tackling was primarily to blame. It was a continuation of the struggles Washington’s defense experienced in the preseason. The Redskins simply have to do a better job of clogging running lanes and wrapping up. Traditionally, whenever you think Packers, you think Aaron Rodgers. But in its quest for balance and its first 1,000-yard rusher since Ryan Grant in 2009, the team spent a second-round pick on Alabama’s Eddie Lacy, a 5-11, 231-pounder who averaged 6.8 yards a carry during his college career. “He’s a tough guy, a steady back. He can catch the ball, a pretty good blocker,” Haslett says. A solid game by Lacy will make Rodgers and the Packers only more dangerous.

5. Pass protection: Left tackle Trent Williams draws a stiff challenge this week as fellow Pro Bowler Clay Matthews leads the Packers’ pass-rushing charge. Matthews last week recorded eight tackles, a sack and two more hits on the quarterback. The Packers could flip-flop him some to exploit mismatches, so right tackle Tyler Polumbus also must have a strong game. The Redskins’ interior linemen struggled to fend off Philadelphia’s pass rushers, and Griffin got sacked three times, hit another nine times. Griffin – normally never one to criticize his teammates – said of the Eagles, “They had some gaping holes to come through and get me.” Washington’s linemen must do better this week. They can’t allow defenders to get clean shots at their quarterback. Kyle Shanahan might want to leave an extra back in the backfield to help pick up blitzes as well. The Eagles ran a number of delayed blitzes where a linebacker would shoot into the backfield first, a running back or fullback would pick up that defender, but as soon as he did, another linebacker or defensive back would abandon his coverage area and shoot into the backfield with a clear lane to Griffin. It’s a copycat league, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Packers run some of the same blitz packages if they think they can exploit that weakness. How will the Redskins adapt?

Also on The Insider

Kai Forbath questionable because of groin injury (updated)