NFL Preview - Jacksonville (0-1) at Washington (0-1)
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Jacksonville Jaguars made at least one step in Week 1.
They've gone from being early-season laughingstocks - as they were in 2013, while losing each of their first games by double-digits - to at least providing a formidable obstacle on the way to succumbing.
The Jaguars took a 17-0 lead and dumped Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles five times before giving way in the second half of last week's opener, and they face a QB this week, in Washington's Robert Griffin III, who's got some bad history when it comes to defenses constructed by Gus Bradley.
Griffin was held to less than 100 yards passing in the Redskins' 10-point playoff loss to Seattle, whose defense was then run by Bradley, at the end of his 2012 rookie season. And at least one of those Seahawks players who's now in Jacksonville - defensive end Red Bryant - sees a more inviting target in the version of RG III that's on display two seasons later.
"It does seem like (Griffin) is trying to be more of a pocket passer, like he is trying to stay in the pocket more and he is actually letting the play develop a little bit more," Bryant said. "So we've just got to do a great job of having the back end and front end working together and try to make it as difficult as possible."
Still, the impetus also lies with the Jaguars to assail their own ghosts. The ones that saw the big halftime lead against the Eagles devolve into a 34-17 loss.
"It feels like, 'What happened? We're a ways away,'" Bradley said. "But we're really close. We have to take care of these things. We can no longer find these things acceptable. They take responsibility and they understand as well."
Jacksonville's defense was gashed for a 68-yard TD reception by Philadelphia's Jeremy Maclin and another long-distance scoring play - this one a 49-yard run - by Eagles newcomer Darren Sproles.
On the positive side, undrafted free agent Allen Hurns broke out with four catches for 110 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and he figures to maintain his new high-profile status as fellow receivers Cecil Shorts III and Marqise Lee are limited or unable to go with hamstring problems.
Both Shorts and Lee had limited participation in Wednesday's practice, while safety Johnathan Cyprien, who's dealing with the after-effects of a concussion, was held out of the session entirely.
Washington is experiencing some early dings of its own - tight end Jordan Reed was held out with a left hamstring problem and Barry Cofield is shelved with an ankle sprain - but the Redskins are more concerned with making sure Griffin finds comfort with the reins of new coach Jay Gruden.
The team lost its final eight games last season and saw the skid reach nine in Week 1, when it scored just six points in a loss to the Houston Texans.
Washington won the NFC East and was fourth in the NFL with an average output of 27.3 points in Griffin's first season, but plummeted to 3-13 and scored nearly seven fewer points each week (20.9) in 2013. It failed to reach 17 five times in the final eight losses, which led to the offseason departure of former coach Mike Shanahan.
Griffin and Co. generated 372 total yards against Houston, but reached the end zone just once and are trying to sidestep the prospect of scoring in single- digits for the third straight game. That hasn't happened since the last two games of a 4-12 season in 1993 and the opener of a 3-13 run in 1994.
The quarterback completed 29 of 37 passes and ran three times for two yards against the Texans, while backfield mates Alfred Morris and Roy Helu tag- teamed for 137 yards on 18 carries. Griffin was sacked three times and Gruden, in his NFL coaching debut, called for twice as many passes (40) as runs (20).
"If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have run the ball more than I did," he said.
Newcomer DeSean Jackson had eight catches for 62 yards and teammate Pierre Garcon reached 10 receptions and 77 yards, but Griffin faced enough pressure from Houston's front seven - courtesy of J.J. Watt and rookie Jadeveon Clowney - to keep him from a consistent focus on long-range plays.
"We have got to find ways to open those guys up more down the field," Griffin said. "I don't think that's any secret. You want to be able to be efficient and hit the underneath stuff, but you also have to get those home run shots in every now and then. We'll work on getting that."
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Dialing Long Distance
With Griffin on the record with a desire to look down the field for big plays with Jackson and Garcon, the target is surely on the backs of Jacksonville cornerbacks Alan Ball and Dwayne Gratz.
Only one pass was completed in Gratz's direction last week, while Ball recorded a first-half interception against the Eagles. To keep them on a level playing field, however, a consistent up-front rush is mandatory.
Coming from Both Sides
The Redskins are in possession of one of the NFL's more dynamic pass-rushing tandems in dual outside linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, which places some additional emphasis on the Week 2 prowess of offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Cameron Bradfield.
Jacksonville will need to stay out of obvious passing situations in order to keep quarterback Chad Henne healthy and vertical.
Progress is being made in Jacksonville, and it'll probably be sooner than later before the ebullient Bradley is able to make his team a favorite each week.
But in terms of matchups and weapons on the offensive side, they're on the short end with the Redskins. Look for Gruden to dial up enough big- yardage plays - as the Eagles did - to make a difference at the game's end.
Sports Network predicted outcome: Redskins 31, Jaguars 21
09/11 13:04:05 ET