Has the option-oriented Washington Redskins offense—which has become much less novel this season as it has gone viral across the NFL—lost its luster? Is that another contributing reason why the Redskins are 0-3?
The element of surprise that made read-option plays so successful last season may be gone. That's what Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan suggested this week, per the Washington Post:
“You knew any time you get the attention that we did, that San Fran. did, Seattle did last year, when you have something that was that successful, guys are too smart. They’re gonna work all (offseason), find a way to stop it. I think when that happens, you’ve got to get better at the other stuff. I think we do have some other stuff. I think we are getting better at it. We did some of the stuff last year, too. But the thing about last year was, a lot of people weren’t ready for it at all. So it was easy at times."
It might have been easy against a team like the Oakland Raiders, who were scored on more than all but four other teams in football in 2012. But the 'Skins can't expect to trick anybody right now, even Oakland. And they can't afford not to, as Shanahan says, "get better at the other stuff." If they don't, they'll fall to 0-4 Sunday and will be unofficially eliminated from playoff contention.
Here's our final preview of the matchup from Washington's perspective, along with a prediction...
What Washington must do to win, offensive edition
Control the game with the run. Alfred Morris first, Robert Griffin III second. Hit them with that run early and often, setting up play action later if necessary. RGIII has been throwing way too much (he leads the league with 46.3 attempts per game, which is unsustainable) and this Oakland pass rush has done a nice job three weeks into the season.
What Washington must do to win, defensive edition
Make tackles. Terrelle Pryor won't be a factor at least, but the 'Skins can't win without becoming less sloppy on D. The Raiders have run the ball relatively well this year and Washington has given up an ugly 4.8 yards per carry.
Five most important nonquarterbacks
Alfred Morris: Same as every week, Pinky. They really need him to take some of the pressure off Griffin.
Trent Williams and Tyler Polumbus: The Raiders have the fifth-highest sack percentage in the league, according to Pro Football Reference. Both tackles have to deliver.
London Fletcher: The Redskins need him to get his act together and prove that he's not done.
Brian Orakpo: He has to start picking up the pass rush.
Injury analysis, Redskins edition
Neither of the team's top two tight ends, Fred Davis and Jordan Reed, have been able to practice fully this week. Davis was Griffin's favorite target when healthy last year and Reed has emerged this season as a safety valve in that offense. Without them, the passing game would take a clear hit.
Injury analysis, Raiders edition
Pryor is likely out with a concussion, according to ESPN, which is a big deal. This defense has had enough trouble this season, so not having to worry about Matt Flynn as a runner will be a relief. Besides, Flynn just isn't very good. He's been beaten in two straight training camp quarterback battles.
B/R NFC East blog prediction: Redskins 23, Raiders 20
The Raiders are back at home, but on short rest. The Redskins are struggling, especially on defense, but they've gotten slightly better each week and still have an edge over Oakland. This isn't an 0-4 team.