Redskins, 'a lot different' RG3 struggling at 0-3
Robert Griffin III ran a little bit more, but he committed two turnovers and is ''a lot different'' this year, according to a teammate. There were significant playing-time shake-ups at five positions covering offense, defense and special teams, including the benching of a rookie who was the ascending star of training camp.
None of it stopped the Washington Redskins from dropping to 0-3.
None of it kept the defense from staying on pace to set records for ineptitude.
None of it kept Griffin from being on pace to throw the ball more than any quarterback ever has.
It's time to break out that stat that says no 0-3 team has made the playoffs since 1998. More sensibly, it's time to figure out what the defending NFC East champs can do to win a game before the season spirals away.
''It's hard to be confident when you're not winning,'' defensive tackle Barry Cofield said Monday. ''I think that feeling of getting that first win will take a load off a lot of guys' shoulders. Get a lot of pressure, a lot of scrutiny off our backs.''
Bobbled balls swung the momentum twice in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Detroit Lions. Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that both plays were officiated correctly: Griffin's fumble when he opted to dive instead of slide at the end of a run, and Aldrick Robinson's inability to keep the ball under control as he hit the turf in the end zone with an apparent touchdown catch.
The differences between diving and sliding were discussed at length when game officials visited with Shanahan and Griffin during training camp in July. Nevertheless, Griffin said after the game that he thought he was down when he lost the ball Sunday. Shanahan knew better, but the coach called the league office on Monday just in case.
''I actually did talk to them to make sure I had the correct interpretation of the rule,'' Shanahan said. ''And it was correct.''
The obvious fix would be for Griffin to slide, but that appears to be the one of the few athletic maneuvers the world-class hurdler can't yet master.
''Not that he's a great slider, but he's getting better,'' Shanahan said. ''He didn't slide very much in college.''
Griffin ran the ball a season-high six times Sunday but also threw 50 passes. He's averaging 46.3 pass attempts per game, more than Matthew Stafford's NFL record of 45.4 set last year, largely because the Redskins have spent most of their time playing catch-up,
Whether throwing or running, Griffin has yet to regain the form that earned him NFL offensive rookie of the year honors last season. He said he's fully healthy after his rehab from major knee surgery, but receiver Pierre Garcon is among those who say otherwise.
''He's not fully healthy, obviously,'' Garcon said. ''He running a little bit more, but last year's RG3 was a lot different than this year's RG because of his knee. It's not surprising - we've been talking about it the whole offseason. ... I don't think he's 100 percent, but he's definitely giving 100 percent effort to get 100 percent.''
Griffin aside, the coaching staff tried seemingly everything against the Lions. Rookie safety Bacarri Rambo didn't play a snap on defense after starting the first two games. The Redskins instead went with three cornerbacks and one safety, with a focus on stopping the run. They did OK against the run, but they gave up 378 yards passing and remain last in total defense in the NFL, allowing a record-pace 488 yards per game.
Also, 38-year-old iron man linebacker London Fletcher was given plays off in favor of Nick Barnett, a ploy designed to keep Fletcher from wearing down, according to Shanahan. Leonard Hankerson was bumped ahead of Joshua Morgan at receiver. Morgan was given at shot at returning kickoffs in place of Chris Thompson. Jordan Reed continues his emergence as the top tight end ahead of Fred Davis, who missed the game with a last-minute ankle injury.
Nevertheless, the miscues piled up again.
''Too many mistakes, poor tackling, blown assignments on defense,'' linebacker Bryan Kehl said. ''Turnovers on offense have killed us. We can't seem to get out of our own way sometimes on special teams.''
That's a long list to address before next weekend's game, on the road against the Oakland Raiders.
''We still can do everything that we set out to do,'' Kehl said. ''We're only two games back in our division. Fortunately for us, the rest of the teams in our division are struggling, too.''
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