In the sorriest of sports divisions, one victory has sent the Washington Redskins vaulting from an 0-3 start to a potential first-place showdown. The Redskins have Sunday off before their meeting with the Dallas Cowboys — their rival for the NFC East lead — on Oct. 13. It’s a chance for the Redskins to regroup after an awful start that nearly turned into 0-4 before they rallied to beat the Oakland Raiders 24-14 on Sunday.
So what’s on the Redskins’ bye week to-do list?
First, they must mend running back Alfred Morris’ bruised ribs, cornerback DeAngelo Hall’s sore foot and kicker Kai Forbath’s ailing groin. The Redskins can’t beat good teams without the trio.
The Redskins have to retool their defense. Sure, it shined against the Raiders, but Oakland’s starting quarterback was out and their top running back was hurt early. Sunday’s seven-sack effort may make you feel good, but it happened partly because the Raiders couldn’t take advantage of open receivers. Be warned that coming passers like Denver’s Peyton Manning will set records if given the same chances.
But then, the Redskins may decide to attack more aggressively now that nose tackle Barry Cofield has proved his hand is healthy enough to grab Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn twice for sacks. The team’s suspect secondary needs more pressure up-front to survive, and Brian Orakpo, Ryan Kerrigan and Cofield may finally generate it.
Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan can use the time to figure out what works with Robert Griffin III. It’s hard to tell if the quarterback still has the mobility he had as the 2012 NFL Rookie of the Year. He has been run down by charging blitzers at times, leading to ill-advised throws. But could it be that the coordinator is trying to conceal Griffin’s diminished capacity by limiting his run options?
Griffin needs to regain confidence on his medium-range throws. There were several improvised completions against Oakland, but also too many missed chances.
Washington has time to consider whether tight end Fred Davis is part of the future or just finishing out his contract. He was once the best part of the offense, but rookie Jordan Reed looks like the 2014 starter while Davis is barely being used.
Now would be a good time for a special teams makeover. Poor blocking let Oakland lead 7-0 on a blocked punt. The return game is miserable. Who knew losing special teams coach Danny Smith in the offseason would be a game-changer?
After the bye week, the Redskins get one more chance to fulfill their expected role as playoff contender. But if they lose to the Cowboys and fall to 1-4, it’s pretty much over, no matter how bad the division.
After an offseason of planning, the Redskins’ fate comes down to a week of rebuilding.