Washington Redskins  

 

RGIII's Washington Redskins in danger of losing their season

We're just two weeks into the 2013 NFL season, and conventional wisdom says nothing should be subject to hyperbole. Well, "conventional wisdom" hasn't watched this year's version of the Washington Redskins.

During training camp, Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III talked about "Operation Patience" as he attempted to come back from reconstructive knee surgery. Now, with his team off to an 0-2 start, it's time for "Operation Panic." That is to say, it's getting late rather early in Washington -- and it's only going to get worse.

The trouble started in January, when coach Mike Shanahan failed to protect RGIII from himself in a playoff loss. Shanahan should have pulled Griffin when it became clear he'd injured his right knee, but the coach let him stay in. The quarterback subsequently underwent surgery to repair his ACL and LCL, and a "will he/won't he be ready" conversation dominated the offseason and preseason. While one might be tempted to say "the rest is history," "the rest" is actually still being written.

When RGIII talks, it's clear that he and coach Mike Shanahan are not on the same page. And it's crystal clear that the quarterback is not 100 percent.

Every member of the media elite who thought RGIII's health wouldn't be a big deal pointed to the speedy recovery from a similar injury by Minnesota Vikings running back -- and 2012 NFL MVP -- Adrian Peterson. But perhaps more attention should've been paid to the fact that Peterson is a freak of nature, comparable to no one.

Shanahan's plan for Griffin seems to have totally backfired. Simply put, if the quarterback wasn't healthy enough to play a down in the preseason, he shouldn't have been expected to be ready for Week 1. Anyone who says practice, preseason games and reps are overrated should just look at how the past six weeks have gone for Washington.

I'm not going to give you RGIII's stats, which have been inflated by good second-half performances in the Redskins' two losses. Fact is, those games were over at halftime. Fact is, Griffin isn't close to resembling the majestic player he was last year.

Or, as one general manager explained via text message on Sunday night, Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan "is protecting him and his knee. RGIII is now a pocket passer. It's clear he isn't the same guy. You don't have to account for the run. They aren't calling the same plays on offense."

RGIII is late with his throws, and he can't turn the corner and take off like he did in 2012, when he dazzled because of his arm, his savvy and his legs. An important component of his game has been compromised: RGIII can't run. And I think it is fair to ask aloud if this is affecting his head.

Think about the Philadelphia Eagles defense Washington faced in Week 1. It will never be confused with the Steel Curtain -- and yet, RGIII couldn't make plays in the first half last Monday night.

Think about the Green Bay Packers' defense, a unit that has struggled to contain the mobile likes of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Green Bay couldn't bottle up Kaepernick on the ground in the playoffs last season or stop him through the air in Week 1 -- and yet RGIII, who once threw and ran like Kaepernick, rushed for just 1 yard against Green Bay and failed to produce a single point before the third quarter on Sunday.

Chew on this nugget of futility: The Redskins have been outscored 50-7 in the first halves of their two games this year. The one score? A defensive touchdown against Philly on a quirky fumble return by DeAngelo Hall. That's right: RGIII and the offense have yet to score before halftime.

Marinate on that for a second.

Mike Shanahan is going to keep playing RGIII -- but he shouldn't, because RGIII isn't healthy.

If Shanahan's play calling has been compromised by his quarterback's similarly limited status, should he consider starting backup Kirk Cousins? Cousins might not be a better player than RGIII at 100 percent, but would he be a better fit now for the plays Shanahan has called in the first two weeks, and for the system he is currently running?

To his credit, RGIII took responsibility for the loss and the sluggish starts. What's worrisome is that he was right to do so.

Oh, and by the way -- Washington's defense is a mess. For a second straight week, the unit was unable to make a stop.

It's one thing for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to set records and tear you apart. It's quite another for James Starks -- a backup running back subbing for a concussed Eddie Lacy -- to embarrass you to the tune of 132 yards on 20 carries. Yes, Green Bay has a potent offense -- but Washington allowed Rodgers and Co. to roll up a ridiculous 580 total yards, with Rodgers throwing for an astounding 480.

Washington's defense has allowed 1,023 yards this season; since 1960, only the '67 Atlanta Falcons (1,025) gave up more yardage in their first two games. The Redskins can't tackle. They can't rush the passer. They can't cover. They commit foolish penalties.

Otherwise, they look good.

I've warned you about the NFC East before on NFL.com. It's clearly the worst division in the league, featuring four flawed teams -- two of which are 0-2.

Do you realize that, since the league expanded to include 12 playoff teams in 1990, just 11.6 percent of the teams that started a season with two straight losses have bounced back to make the postseason? In a related story, teams that started 0-2 in this time period managed to win their division just 5.3 percent of the time.

At the end of the day, there's only going to be one playoff entry from the bottom-feeding NFC East this year. The conference is too strong and the division is too weak.

I can pound nuggets of futility to prove my point -- or I can simply watch Washington on the field.

I understand that RGIII isn't healthy. Frankly, I don't think it would be fair to expect him to play like the star savior he was in 2012 -- science, medicine and logic tell me this.

Washington hosts the Detroit Lions in Week 3. That should be a win -- right? Still, patience is wearing thin. I don't see how the Redskins can recover from this dreadful start and charge into the playoffs.

Let "Operation Panic" commence.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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