- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
- 0 Shares
Is this a must-win game? They all are, of course, but if the Redskins really want to turn their season around -- a phrase that’s getting old considering how it’s used every week and still hasn’t happened -- then they can’t afford a loss. At 2-6, their season would be shot even in a bad division. Mathematically they’d still be alive, but they have provided zero proof that they are capable of playing well for even two weeks in a row let alone eight. But if they beat San Diego, with a game at struggling Minnesota ... then the season could take a turn.
Can Robert Griffin III develop into a quality passer? Yes. He has a good arm and is a smart kid and works hard. But missing the offseason work hurt him even more than anticipated. He’s still taking too long at times to read the coverage or to anticipate what will be open, and what won’t be, based on pre-snap looks. These issues existed last year, too, but were covered up because his legs served as a weapon and changed the way defenses played the Redskins. So Griffin is still enduring growing pains. If he had played like this last season, no one would have been surprised. In fact, it would have been normal. In some ways he’s learning lessons he probably didn’t have to as a rookie and is making comparable mistakes. Griffin is not a finished product; he just raised the level of expectations rather high. Yes, the talent level around him could be raised but he rarely had a healthy Pierre Garcon last season; Alfred Morris is better and Jordan Reed is a legitimate threat. This is about a quarterback who is still developing.
How good is San Diego? Good enough that it beat Indianapolis 19-9 two games ago and good enough that it could withstand season-ending injuries to two of its receivers, have just one offensive lineman start every game and still have one of the best passing attacks. Most of that is thanks to quarterback Philip Rivers, who leads the NFL in completion percentage (73.9) and is second in passing yards (2,132) and passer rating (111.1). He and tight end Antonio Gates are a lethal combination. And running back Ryan Mathews has posted consecutive 100-yard games. The Chargers are 4-3 and playing well. Beatable? Yes; they’re 2-2 in road games, but that includes a win at Jacksonville. They lost at Tennessee and Oakland and won at Houston. The Chargers’ back seven is vulnerable.
Was there anything to build on from Denver? Bad teams find a way to blow games when they’ve been playing well. That’s what Washington did against Denver. Jacksonville played the Broncos well, too, don’t forget. But for Washington, the run game worked and the defense did its job, though Peyton Manning methodically moved the Broncos down the field after it was 21-7. Washington needed a stop and couldn’t provide it (but the Redskins did provide four turnovers; that’s plenty). Still, if the Redskins run the ball like that and create turnovers? That’s how they climb back into contention. Turnovers have killed them all season, much like they helped them a year ago. So, yeah, there were positives from that game but at this point it’s about wins or playing well for 60 minutes, not 45. A lot of teams can do that.
Will Brandon Meriweather's return help? Sure, as long as he doesn’t start getting too worried about how he’s hitting guys. He must change how he tackles; he can’t play with indecision. But the Redskins missed him on Sunday; E.J. Biggers is a corner who can play safety in spots. At least rookie Bacarri Rambo played a strong game at Denver. That’s the best he’s looked since camp opened. Against another pass-happy team, the Redskins absolutely need what Meriweather brings. If Reed Doughty can play that would help, too. But if Rambo had played all year like he played Sunday, then he would never have lost his job and Meriweather would have stayed at strong safety.