- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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Did Robert Griffin III improve last week? Like Pierre Garcon, I’m getting tired of the daily questions (except I asked that one myself ... so I’m sort of annoyed with myself). But it’s still relevant. Keep in mind that many of the issues people now talk about with Griffin were there last season -- they were just ignored because the quarterback made plays with his legs. Or he didn’t turn the ball over. And he wasn't coming off knee surgery. Griffin is not the same dynamic player yet, but he’s good enough to win with. He’s now starting to make plays. Had he not turned the ball over twice last week -- and if receiver Aldrick Robinson had hung onto the ball -- Griffin would have been viewed differently this week. Those plays did happen, but the point is: The Redskins were doing better offensively.
Can they turn it around? Sure. But this feels a whole lot different than last year’s 3-6 mark. Those fumbles Griffin lost last season? They still resulted in Redskins touchdowns. Now? Drive-killers. Not that the defense was playing dramatically better last season than this. But, overall, the Redskins were playing well offensively and they weren’t turning the ball over. So the basic recipe for a turnaround was there; the only question was if they could sustain a run. The answer was yes. That seven-game win streak was not a fluke, but it also wasn’t guaranteed to carry into this season, either.
Can they make any personnel changes? Like what, exactly? I know some have called for Kirk Cousins, but no. Griffin needs to play. There is no other place where a young player or backup should be getting more time -- it’s already happening at tight end. Chase Minnifield was a summer-camp darling, but nobody viewed him as anything more than a fifth or sixth corner; he also struggled in off-man coverage. He’s not the answer or even close. What the Redskins need are their key veterans to produce more -- left tackle Trent Williams (one good game out of three); end Stephen Bowen (better second half last week); linebacker Brian Orakpo (playing better than the perception; tough to get a good rush for him or anyone when a team is throwing many slants) -- and for young players such as corner David Amerson to keep learning. The rookie stopped some plays last week; he gave them up, too. It will help, too, if tight end Jordan Reed and/or Fred Davis can play this week.
Who’s the Z receiver? The first two weeks Josh Morgan played there more; last week Leonard Hankerson did. Washington is just not getting production out of this position; the receivers don’t need to play at a Pro Bowl level, but they certainly could be doing more. We heard all offseason how Morgan would be more explosive. And I saw signs of it this summer. But he just doesn’t do a whole lot in games. You have to now say Hankerson has the higher ceiling because we don’t know what he can do with extended time.
Will Bacarri Rambo return to the lineup? Redskins coach Mike Shanahan made it clear Monday that Rambo needs to make plays. The rookie safety has a lot to learn, but, though he had a reputation as a playmaker in college, that’s not what we’ve seen from him since camp opened. Smart? Yes. Usually positioned correctly? Yes. But if you’re not going to make plays, you must be a consistent tackler. Rambo needs to prove he should not only have the job, but hang onto it. The Redskins don’t have a great alternative to Rambo, but give the coaches credit last week for trying something different. It’s how they dug out of the 3-6 mess last season.