Redskins after the bye: Five questions as they get back to work

October 7, 2013
Can Robert Griffin III and the Redskins build on their first win of the season?
Can Robert Griffin III and the Redskins build on their first win of the season?

The Redskins’ bye week has come to an end, and today they report back to team headquarters and begin preparation for Sunday’s road game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Redskins, despite a 1-3 record, remain in the thick of the NFC East. With Dallas falling to Denver on Sunday and the Eagles defeating the Giants, those two share the division lead at 2-3. Washington sits a half-game back, and New York remains in the basement at 0-5.

Under Coach Mike Shanahan, Washington has gone 1-2 coming out of the bye week. The lone victory came last season, when they defeated the Eagles, 31-6, at FedEx Field.

What kind of a post-bye performance will the team turn in this year?

Here are five questions facing Shanahan & Co. as they get back to work:

1. Can they build on their first win? — The Redskins got a much-needed victory over the Oakland Raiders just before kicking off the bye, but it’s hard to say if they will manage to carry over any momentum from that game, because of the break. There were positives in that game, but it’s also difficult to gauge whether the team made real improvements, or if their success came partially because the Raiders (without their starting quarterback and running back) have so many problems of their own.

2. How will Griffin’s second return play out? — In his last game in his home state, Robert Griffin III turned in one of the best games of his rookie season, completing 19 of 27 passes for 304 yards, four touchdowns and an interception. Griffin carried the ball seven times for 29 yards, but there was a noticeably lesser emphasis of the zone-read attack in that game as he used his arms to carry his team. Could this game play out in similar fashion? In the past two games, we’ve seen Griffin as a more confident pocket passer, who moreso uses his legs to extend plays. His numbers weren’t gaudy against the Raiders, but it was his probably his best outing so far this season in terms of decision-making and comfort. Will a two-week break translate into an even larger step forward?

3. Is the defense up to task? — Washington’s defense turned in its best performance of the season against Oakland, scoring a touchdown, racking up seven sacks and holding the Raiders to just seven offensive points. But the Redskins this week face a much more potent attack. The Cowboys on Sunday amassed 522 total yards and scored six touchdowns (five passing, one rushing). Dallas produced eight plays of 25 yards or more, and nine of 20 yards or more. Can the Redskins generate a similar pass rush to what they produced in Oakland? Can the secondary find ways to eliminate the big plays? Will the returns of Jarvis Jenkins and Rob Jackson give the defense a boost?

4. Is everyone healthy? — The Redskins released John Potter last Tuesday, but starting place kicker Kai Forbath, who has missed the past three games with a strained groin, had yet to fully test out his groin at the time. The hope is that he will be back to full strength this week and capable of recapturing last season’s accurate form. Forbath missed his lone field goal attempt of the year in the season opener. Meanwhile, starting running back Alfred Morris missed the final stretch of the Oakland game with bruised ribs. Roy Helu Jr. did well in place of him, but Washington obviously would like to have their workhorse back in the mix as they take on the division rivals. Morris said last Monday that he wasn’t overly concerned. We’ll find out today if he’s good to go. Tight end Logan Paulsen sprained a ligament in his knee against Oakland and didn’t know if he’d miss only a week or two, or three. Fellow tight end Jordan Reed missed the last game with a bruised thigh. Today should bring a progress report both of the tight ends as well.

5. Which Cowboys team shows up? — Will Dallas carry over the offensive fireworks from the Denver game into this meeting with Washington? Or, will their late-game collapse (a Tony Romo interception in the final two minutes of play) lead to a flat outing this week? The Redskins’ offense hasn’t yet shown an ability to thrive in a shootout. The unit has put up yards and points, but only once the games (Philadelphia, Green Bay) have been out of reach.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesday.

What’s ahead:

● The Redskins resume practicing today at 1 p.m. Sunday’s game is 8:30 p.m. Sun. Oct. 13 at Dallas.

More on the Redskins and NFL:

Jenkins: Eagles and Giants prove NFC East is very much up for grabs

One mistake by Romo dooms Dallas again in 51-48 loss

Ravens survive and beat Dolphins, 26-23

The Early Lead: Freeman signs with Vikings | More

D.C. Sports Bog: Dungy, ‘Meet the Press’ on Redskins’ name | More Bog

Follow: @MikeJonesWaPo | @MarkMaske | @Insider | Insider on Facebook

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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Mike Jones · October 6, 2013

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