- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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A review of four hot issues from the Washington Redskins coming out of their bye week.
Defensive breakdowns: It’s great for the Redskins defense that it entered the bye week after a strong performance; the unit needed confidence and a seven-sack game provided some. But the fact that Oakland’s Matt Flynn was demoted to third string after that game tells you a thing or two. The Redskins have not fared well against good quarterbacks and have three of them upcoming -- Dallas’ Tony Romo, Chicago’s Jay Cutler and then Denver’s Peyton Manning. The Redskins can’t expect a shutdown performance, but is it asking too much to tackle better? If they do that and provide a steady four-man rush, they can reduce their issues. Getting end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson back from suspensions will help, but neither has been an impact player.
Not so special: Punter Sav Rocca has been too inconsistent. His hang time on some punts has been 3.0 seconds, a good second off the bottom of where it needs to be. Rocca’s untimely shanks aren’t what a struggling defense needs. But it’s not just Rocca. Washington’s longest kick return? Twenty-eight yards. The longest punt return? Eleven yards. There’s also hidden yardage in what is lost because of poor decisions on both returns. Chris Thompson handles both duties, but never returned punts in college and clearly is still learning to make decisions when to field them. He’s also adjusting to not having the same speed advantage he had in college. The blocking needs to be much better too.
Robert Griffin III's legs: The second-year quarterback used his legs a lot more in Week 4 than in previous games. Griffin does not need to be a running machine to be effective, but his legs remain a valuable weapon for him. He needs to combine his legs with his growing penchant for keeping his eyes downfield. It led to big plays against Oakland. It’s a way to make big plays with your legs and still reduce hits. This isn’t about the zone-read, but it is about not just sitting in the pocket. The Redskins aren’t built to have that sort of game.
Health issues: The biggest one involves running back Alfred Morris, who bruised his ribs in the Sept. 29 win over the Oakland Raiders. The key will be what he’s able to do later in the week and not Monday or even Wednesday. Morris is averaging 5.29 yards per carry and 2.30 yards after contact; both are stronger numbers than he posted a year ago. Tight end Jordan Reed’s quad contusion was still an issue in the Redskins’ last practice Oct. 1 before taking off for the rest of the week. Fred Davis should be healthy, so if Reed can’t play they’ll be fine. But Reed would help, too. Tight end Logan Paulsen's sprained left knee is an issue; losing him would hurt the blocking.