NFL Preview - Washington (1-2) at Tampa Bay (1-2)|
By Shawn Clarke, Contributing NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The body takes a beating during football games.
Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III knows this all too
well. So does head coach Mike Shanahan.
"You don't want a quarterback taking as many shots as he did yesterday,"
Shanahan said following Sunday's loss to Cincinnati. "That's for sure."
Griffin and the Redskins will try to stop a two-game losing streak when
they visit the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday afternoon in their third road game
of the season. Griffin, who called the St. Louis Rams "dirty" following a Week
2 loss in the Gateway City, was sacked six times and looked like a rag doll in
Sunday's home-opening loss to the Bengals.
The elusive quarterback took several shots in the 38-31 defeat and completed
21 of his 34 passes for 221 yards and a touchdown. Griffin also ran for a
score in his FedEx Field debut, but fumbled three times, losing one.
"Every Monday, I come in here and kind of look at him out of the corner of my
eye and make sure he's alright," Redskins guard Kory Lichtensteiger said.
"He's a tough guy and he's not going to complain about it, but you don't like
seeing your quarterback get hit, especially when you have a guy carrying the
load that he is."
The Redskins may not have left tackle Trent Williams after he departed
Sunday's game with a knee injury. An MRI revealed a bone bruise for Williams,
who was replaced by Jordan Black. The ineffective line didn't seem to bother
Washington's ground game, which churned 213 rushing yards -- 85 of which by
RG3 and 78 by Alfred Morris. However, Morris needs to work on his pass-
blocking skills in order to keep Griffin, who was sacked just three times over
the first two games, fresh.
Washington's defense has been average at best in three games and things got
worse when All-Pro linebacker Brian Orakpo was lost for the season against the
Rams with a pectoral injury. Rob Jackson got the start for the 'Skins -- the
first of his career -- and finished with three tackles and an interception
return for a touchdown. Jackson intercepted an Andy Dalton pass deep in
Cincinnati territory to even the score at 7-7.
"It happened pretty quick, so I just reacted and made a big play," Jackson
said. "Great call, great play, great pressure."
Buccaneers first-year head coach Greg Schiano may be feeling hot under the
collar after back-to-back losses following a season-opening win versus
The Bucs then blew a lead against the New York Giants on the road in Week 2,
then dropped a tough 16-10 loss in Dallas last Sunday. Quarterback Josh
Freeman, who is hoping to rebound from a miserable 2011 campaign, had his
worst rating of the season against the Cowboys at 45.2. Freeman passed for
just 110 yards with a TD and an interception, but got by in the first week
with 138 yards passing and one touchdown.
"Today was honestly an off-day for our offense," Freeman said. "I thought we
had a great week of practice. Today we got knocked out of rhythm a little
bit. As a quarterback you gotta figure out a way to get out of the slump and
keep it moving."
Freeman only hooked up with wide receiver Vincent Jackson once for 29 yards in
Dallas, one week after the high-priced receiver caught five passes for 128
yards and a score. Schiano said the Cowboys did a good job of taking plays
away downfield. Mike Williams was a non-factor as well, picking up 33 yards on
a pair of receptions.
"Any Sunday, successful not successful, it comes down to a matter of
execution," Freeman added. "As an offense, if you don't have all 11 guys
firing on all cylinders, it's going to be tough to get something going."
Schiano noted that the Bucs will face another talented front by the Redskins
and that Sunday will be a challenge. The defense is now faced with a task of
its own now that defensive end Adrian Clayborn is out for the season and will
need surgery to repair a damaged right knee. Clayborn led the Bucs in sacks as
a rookie with 7 1/2.
"Adrian was always our energy, not by just talking but how he played," Bucs DT
Gerald McCoy said. "He was always a high-motor guy, all over the field, making
splash plays. You always need that on a defense. We're going to miss that, but
somebody has to step up and fill that void."
George Johnson and Michael Bennett are expected to see more time from the end
spots with Clayborn out.
"George has done well. We'll work through it," Schiano said. "It's part of
life in the NFL. It's a bad part."
This isn't the first injury to a defensive end on the roster, as Da'Quan
Bowers suffered a torn Achilles while training in the offseason. The Bucs
added defensive end Jeff Charleston on Wednesday. Bennett also could move from
the left side to the right along the defensive front.
Tampa Bay will enter the bye week after Sunday's game, before returning for
back-to-back home games versus Kansas City and New Orleans.
The Bucs defeated the Redskins, 17-16, in the last meeting between the teams
on Dec. 12, 2010. Freeman threw the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter
for Tampa Bay, which has won three of the last four in this series. The
Buccaneers lead the overall series, 10-9, and the regular season series, 9-8.
The teams also have split a pair of postseason matchups, with the Redskins
winning a 2005 NFC First-Round Playoff by a 17-10 count in Tampa and the Bucs
posting a 14-13 home decision over Washington in a 1999 NFC Divisional
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Griffin (747 yards, 4 TD, INT) leads all NFL quarterbacks with 209 rushing
yards -- second on the team -- and his three rushing scores are tied for the
most by any player. He is a big reason why the Redskins are first in points
scored (33.0), second in rushing yards (180.7) and sixth in total yards
(404.3). However, Griffin faces the No. 1 run defense and his latest rushing
touchdown ties him with Al Dorow and Norm Snead for most rushing touchdowns by
a Redskins quarterback in a rookie season. RG3 also became the first Redskins
quarterback to throw and rush for a touchdown in consecutive games since Joe
Theismann in Weeks 2-3 in 1980.
Morris (263 yards, 3 TD) is part of a crowded backfield that just signed
veteran running back Ryan Grant. Grant will share the load with Morris and
Evan Royster (35 yards), while Roy Helu's season is over because of a lower
leg injury. It will tough sledding for Washington, which is facing a Bucs
defense that is allowing an NFL-low 47.3 rushing yards per game.
The injury to Clayborn's knee could be costly for the Bucs' front line.
Johnson has yet to play a down this season and his stock could rise with a
strong performance Sunday. Bennett (7 tackles, 3 sacks) had two sacks and a
forced fumble in Dallas, and owns five sacks in his last six games. McCoy (8
tackles, 3 sacks) tied a career-high with two sacks and recorded a forced
fumble as well in Dallas for a Bucs team tied for 10th with seven sacks.
Griffin was sacked six times last week, and Tampa Bay could add to that.
Tampa Bay has eight takeaways and six interceptions through three games.
Veteran cornerback Ronde Barber (13 tackles, sack, INT) has one of those picks
and needs three more starts to pass Derrick Brooks (221 games from 1995-08)
for the most games started in team history. The Bucs have the best red zone
defense so far, allowing two TDs in 11 chances (18.2 percent), but are the
worst in pass defense (353.3). Bucs rookie safety Mark Barron (19 tackles) is
tied for the fourth-most tackles among rookies and has five passes defensed.
WHEN THE BUCCANEERS HAVE THE BALL
Freeman (491 yards, 4 TD, 3 INT) said the Buccaneers need to go back and
study film from last week in order to "figure out" how to get the offense back
in gear. Schiano said he has a great trust level in Freeman and that there's
not a doubt in his mind that "he's gonna do great this year and beyond."
Freeman will go against Washington's mediocre defense that is decent against
the rush (92.0 ypg), but 29th in points allowed (33.7), 30th in total yards
(429.3) and 31st in pass defense (337.3). There's no doubt rookie running back
Doug Martin (214 yards, TD) will try to get going early and can also hurt
defenses with his hands. Martin has six catches for 44 yards.
LeGarrette Blount (27 yards) has been relegated to mop-up duty, but did return
to action last week with 19 yards on four carries. Jackson (204 yards, TD) and
Williams (104 yards, 2 TD) must have a better game than last week or Freeman
will suffer. Granted the offensive line plays a huge part in that, but the
receivers have to come back to the ball during trouble in the pocket. Even
with those two talented wideouts, Tampa Bay is still 30th in passing with
149.0 yards per game.
DeAngelo Hall (23 tackles, sack) is Washington's top cornerback, but has no
interceptions to show for it. He does, however, own five interceptions in the
past seven meetings with Tampa Bay. The Redskins shouldn't have too much fear
in Tampa Bay's offense, but stranger things have occurred. Jackson (4 tackles,
INT) shined bright in his first NFL start in place of Orakpo for a Washington
stop unit that is trying to force multiple turnovers for a fifth consecutive
game, dating back to last season. Washington ranks first in the NFL with five
forced fumbles and is first in the NFC and tied for first in the NFL in
defensive touchdowns (2).
A pair of iron man streaks will be on the line for the 'Skins, as London
Fletcher (22 tackles, INT) looks to extend his consecutive games played streak
to 228. Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (9 tackles, 2 1/2 sacks) has yet to miss a
defensive snap. The former Purdue star played every snap for the Redskins
during his rookie season in 2011 and in the first three weeks of 2012.
Sunday's showdown at Raymond James Stadium between 1-2 teams should be an
intriguing one with scintillating matchups. The Bucs are trying to maintain
their image as a stingy run defense and Washington brings a formidable
offensive attack into the fray with a rookie quarterback at the controls. It
has worked so far for the Redskins, who rank first in the NFC with 12
touchdowns, six rushing scores and rushing yards per game.
In order to pass Bud Grant for sole possession of 13th place on the all-time
regular season wins list, Shanahan must have a strategic and balanced
gameplan. It will be tough to run on the Bucs in their own backyard, which
leaves most of the chores up to Griffin. The Redskins are already putting a
lot on the kid's shoulders, so why not just keep it that way?
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Redskins 27, Buccaneers 23
09/27 15:54:53 ET