3 & Out: Redskins bottoming out

3 & Out: Redskins bottoming out
November 27, 2013, 4:45 pm
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3 and out: Redskins vs. Giants

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) is sacked by San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Ahmad Brooks (55) in the fourth quarter at FedEx Field. The 49ers won 27-6.

(Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Although any realistic hope of making the playoffs ended Monday night, what transpires over the next five weeks is going to speak volumes about the Redskins' direction. Will they resemble a group that’s playing out the string? Or will they rally around their embattled coach and beleaguered quarterback? We’ll get a strong indication Sunday night when they play host to the Giants at FedEx Field.

Here are our three keys to the game:

1st down—Robert Griffin III has, at times, struggled mightily in his second season. His precision hasn’t been there. His production as a runner hasn’t, either. He’s also committed twice the turnovers he did as a rookie. But don’t expect to see Kirk Cousins anytime soon. Coach Mike Shanahan said this week there’s only one way for Griffin to get better—and that’s by playing. “That maturity will come,” Shanahan said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, but he’s got all the ability in the world to make that big jump. You just have to be patient.” 

2nd down—In addition to needing more time to develop, Griffin could also benefit from more time to throw. The past three games, he’s been sacked a total of 12 times. Shanahan acknowledged this week that the O-line “has to play better.” Sunday would seem to be a good opportunity for the unit to get back on track. Despite names like Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, the Giants have only 18 sacks on the season. Only one team—Jacksonville—has fewer.
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3rd down—Since opening the season 0-6, the Giants have won four of their last five games to leapfrog the Redskins in the NFC East. But Eli Manning’s improved play isn't the biggest reason for the turnaround.  It’s been the defense, which has yielded only 14 points per game the past five weeks. Over the course of an entire season, that would be the second best mark in the league. “I think [Jon] Beason coming in has helped them,” Shanahan said, referring to the Giants’ middle linebacker. “It looks like they’re playing with a lot more confidence with him in the starting lineup.” 

Extra point: A Redskins’ loss Sunday coupled with a win by either Cowboys or Eagles will eliminate Washington from postseason contention.