Winning your first game of the season against a team like the Oakland Raiders so late in the season is hardly a reason for optimism. However, the Washington Redskins have reason to have a positive mindset.
The 2013 NFL season began with Washington losing their first three games. Sloppy play and defensive incompetence were the main contributors to the Redskins’ slow start. An 0-3 start usually spells doom for any NFL team, and that was the fate Washington faced before taking on Oakland.
However, the NFC East could be nicknamed the “NFC Least,” as there’s no dominant team within the division. The Dallas Cowboys are the only team within the division with a non-losing record at 2-2. They haven’t displayed enough consistency to take command of the division because they can’t seem to finish games they should win. The New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles have had trouble with turnovers and preventing big plays on special teams. Those factors have contributed to their combined 1-7 record, with Philadelphia earning their lone victory against Washington in Week 1.
Week 5 happens to be the Redskins’ bye week. This will be the opportunity for them to work on their many deficiencies. Quarterback Robert Griffin III needs to get back in sync with his receivers. His passes have been off target at times, and he’s already thrown four interceptions after throwing five all of last year. The bye week gives Griffin the opportunity to regain the accuracy he displayed last season.
Improvement doesn’t start with just Griffin. Washington’s defense must build on the positive momentum generated against the Raiders Week 4. The defense must exhibit solid tackling technique, and the secondary in particular must provide efficient pass coverage. Redskins’ cornerback David Amerson returned an interception for a touchdown against Oakland. However, it came against reserve Raiders’ quarterback Matt Flynn, who has played sparingly over the past year. Defending against a quarterback of Flynn’s caliber doesn’t provide an accurate assessment of a team’s defensive capabilities.
In addition, the bye week gives running back Alfred Morris the chance to recover from the rib injury he sustained against the Raiders. The Redskins will also welcome back defensive end Jarvis Jenkins and linebacker Rob Jackson. Jenkins and Jackson each served four-game suspensions for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy. While neither of them are elite defensive playmakers, they’re both solid contributors who add depth to a defense that’s experienced much adversity over the past two years.
Granted, a 1-3 record is not what Washington hoped to have heading into the bye. They could also fall flat against all of their NFC East rivals, losing all five remaining games to them this season. For now, the Redskins should be upbeat, though, considering that they could be playing for a share of first place in their division. Their next game will be Week 6 against the arch-rival Cowboys on the road, always a tough opponent. This is the type of game the Redskins need to win to salvage their season. The NFC East’s current dismal state brings optimism to a Redskins’ team desperately needing just that. And that’s all that Redskins fans can hope for right now.