Game preview: Redskins at Packers

Game preview: Redskins at Packers
September 13, 2013, 9:00 am
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Can the Redskins defense step up their game for Week 2?

What: Redskins (0-1) at Packers (0-1)

Where: Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wis.

When: Sunday, 1 p.m.

TV: Fox

Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live on CSN: 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. 

Not much went right for the Redskins during the first 40 minutes of Monday night’s loss to the Eagles. The final 20 minutes, well, that was a different story.

After a shaky start, Robert Griffin III finally found his rhythm, confidence and passing touch late in the third quarter following an eight-month layoff because of knee surgery. Consider these numbers:

  • On the Redskins’ last four possessions, Griffin completed 20 of 29 pass attempts, including a perfect 6 of 6 on the last drive.
  • Washington scored three touchdowns (to the Eagles’ none) after the Redskins took possession of the ball with 3:36 remaining in the third.
  • Griffin’s 24-yard touchdown strike to Leonard Hankerson with 1 minute 20 seconds remaining showed the ball placement and touch his passes lacked early in the game. He also had a 12-yard scramble, his longest of the game, on that drive.

Griffin’s early rust certainly contributed to the Redskins’ season-opening setback. But his sharp play late gives them hope that, after sitting out much of the offseason and all of the preseason, he’s shaken off the rust that had accumulated and now is ready to pick up where he left off in 2012.

The question entering Sunday’s game against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers is whether Griffin and the Redskins' other key offensive pieces can carry that momentum into Lambeau Field, a place Washington hasn't won since 1988 (0-3 in that span).

“We definitely [were] out of sync. We had to knock some rust off and we couldn’t get into a rhythm until late in the game,” running back Alfred Morris said. “But the positive that we can take from that [is] we played like the type of offense we’re capable of playing as late in the third quarter and going into the fourth.”

Griffin’s late surge also caught the eye of the Packers, who were carved up by Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers on Sunday. Kaepernick, who plays a style very similar to Griffin’s, passed for 412 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 34-28 victory at Candlestick Park.

“As a coaching staff and a football team, we were very impressed with how Washington battled back,” Packers Coach Mike McCarthy said. “Their offense is definitely a huge strength …and, once again, we are paying pretty close attention to that second half production.”

In addition to those storylines, here are three other areas the team at will be monitoring:

1—It’s possible the Redskins will be at full strength against the Packers. Strong safety Brandon Meriweather practiced fully on Wednesday and Thursday and, barring a setback, is expected to suit up Sunday, according to Coach Mike Shanahan.

Although he’s played only two quarters out of 18 games since signing in Washington last year, the 29-year-old veteran would likely give the Redskins’ secondary a significant boost against Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and the rest of the Packers’ air attack. Rodgers passed for 333 yards and three touchdowns against the 49ers, while Nelson and Cobb each surpassed 100 yards receiving. 

The other Redskins’ injury concerns are minor ones.

2-Barry Cofield had the most productive game of any player on the defensive line, recording three tackles – one for loss – and a quarterback hit. So it was interesting to hear defensive coordinator Jim Haslett acknowledge that Cofield was seriously limited by the “club” cast he wears on his broken right hand.

“Sometimes he had a hard time getting off blocks and he missed a couple of tackles because of the hand,” Haslett said. “But for the most part he did all right. I think he’ll be in that for a while. I’m not sure how long, but it will be a while.”

Cofield has mentioned the possibility of cutting the cast to allow the use of his fingers. Last week, though, the cast covered his entire hand.

3—The Redskins did not enjoy good field position against the Eagles, and some of that was caused by poor decisions in the return game.

Twice in the second quarter, rookie kick returner Chris Thompson brought the ball out of the end zone only to be stopped at the 9 and 13. Thompson also struggled with his decision making on punt returns, field two inside the 10-yard line.

Thompson acknowledged his errors and Shanahan sounded as though he was willing to give the rookie a pass. But it also should be noted the veteran Santana Moss was back deep for the final three punt returns after Thompson suffered a minor ankle injury.

“I was pleased with his effort, but those decisions are going to have to improve,” Shanahan said of Thompson.