The Washington Redskins on Sunday host the 4-1 Minnesota Vikings and will try again to earn their first win at FedEx Field since Week 2 of the 2011 season.
At 2-3 and with road games against the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers coming up, the Redskins badly need a win.
Here are five story lines to follow Sunday:
1.) Robert Griffin III’s return – The Redskins’ star rookie has yet to receive clearance to play Sunday, but all signs point to him starting. He still reports no lingering symptoms from the concussion that knocked him out of the third quarter of last week’s game, and he has gone through two straight practices. According to offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, “he’s looked great.” Redskins players said they’ll roll with whomever lines up under center, but don’t hide the fact that Griffin gives them a much better chance of winning because of the play-making ability, versatility and leadership he boasts.
2.) Play calling – Shanahan said that his play calling will not differ at all Sunday because if Griffin is cleared to play, then that means he has no limitations. Shanahan said if there was concern about Griffin, then he wouldn’t receive clearance to play. But, it will still be interesting to see what if any measures the Redskins take to protect Griffin. In each of the past two games they have gone away from the zone-read option and triple-option plays that we saw a lot in the first three weeks of the season, and instead have utilized a more traditional Mike/Kyle Shanahan attack. Facing a team that ranks ninth in the league with 14 sacks in five games, the Redskins will likely want to get the ball out of Griffin’s hands quickly.
3.) Harvin’s impact – Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said that Minnesota’s do-it-all threat Percy Harvin just might be the best athlete in the NFL. He joked that the former Virginia high school star has cost him hours of sleep this week. The Redskins indeed will have their hands full trying to account for Harvin, who lines up all over the field, and along with Adrian Peterson is a focal part of their offense. Is Washington’s struggling secondary up for the challenge?
4.) Forbath’s debut – Gone is Billy Cundiff, in is Kai Forbath, the former UCLA star, who has never kicked in a regular-season game. Forbath went five for five on preseason field goals for Tampa Bay, making a long of 55 yards. He says, “I make the long ones just like I do chip shots.” The Redskins certainly hope so. It will be interesting to see how he does on kickoffs. Forbath didn’t handle kickoffs at UCLA, but he says it’s an area that he works on all the time and that he feels confident.
5.) Pass rush – The Vikings have a strong pass rush, and the Redskins expected to have one as well, but have struggled in this area with Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker lost for the season. Haslett publicly challenged defensive linemen Barry Cofield and Jarvis Jenkins to step up and help linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and defensive end Stephen Bowen in the pass-rushing department. Second-year Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has taken a step forward in his development and through five games has thrown six touchdown passes and only two interceptions. The Redskins know that he has the athleticism to extend plays and aim to keep him in the pocket while also applying a steady dose of pressure to keep him from getting comfortable.