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Sunday, September 23, 2012
Halftime thoughts: Skins, RG3 struggling

By Dan Graziano

LANDOVER, Md. -- The excitement over the home debut of Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III didn't get to last long. The Cincinnati Bengals opened the game with a 73-yard touchdown pass from one of their wide receivers to another, and things haven't gotten a whole lot better for Griffin and the Redskins since then.

The Bengals' defense appears clearly energized by the return of defensive end Carlos Dunlap from injury. That, coupled with a knee injury that knocked Redskins left tackle Trent Williams out for the bulk of the first half, has helped Cincinnati pressure Griffin somewhat relentlessly. The result is that Griffin looks very much off his game. He's had two fumbles and is just 5-for-10 for 36 yards passing. The first fumble happened when running back Alfred Morris ran into him as he was dropping back to pass, but Griffin recovered that one. The second one happened when he faked a handoff to fullback Darrel Young and Dunlap, not fooled, sacked him hard immediately. Griffin has been sacked four times, and even on his best run of the game, which just set up the field goal that cut the halftime lead to 24-10, he took a hit as he flew out of bounds.

The Redskins' defense also looks shredded. Cornerback Cedric Griffin injured his hamstring early and has yet to return to the already-depleted secondary. It's clear that, unless they get pressure on Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton, they have no chance to stop the Bengals. They also seem to know this. They pulled both safeties up to the line in a "Cover-zero" look at one point late in the first quarter, but Dalton got the ball out quickly, cornerback Josh Wilson slipped and Armon Binns ended up with a 48-yard touchdown catch.

Early in the game, the Redskins did get pressure on Dalton. Their touchdown was the result of that pressure, as Ryan Kerrigan got to Dalton in the end zone as Dalton was throwing and the ball sailed right into the hands of linebacker Rob Jackson, who simply had to fall forward across the goal line for the score. The defense will need to find a way to keep up the pressure if the Redskins are to have a chance to come back in the second half.

And the offense needs to make some adjustments. It should help that Williams returned in the second quarter. And it's interesting that Evan Royster, not Morris, was the running back on the final series. So keep an eye out for whatever the Redskins try to do differently in the second half to keep Griffin from getting knocked around and give him the chance to make the kinds of plays these fans came to the home opener expecting to see.