Keeping Tabs on Washington's Team

What to Watch: Redskins vs. Buccaneers

Two 1-2 teams face off as they try to get back in the playoff conversation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Getty Images
    LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23: Robert Griffen III #10 of the Washington Redskins runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField on September 23, 2012 in Landover, Maryland. The Bengals defeated the Redskins 38-31. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

    Game time: Sunday, Sept. 30, 4:25 p.m. ET, Raymond James Stadium
    TV: Fox
    Weather: 88 F, mostly sunny
    Records: Redskins (1-2) at Buccaneers (1-2)

    When the Redskins have the ball. Despite all the hits quarterback Robert Griffin III has taken, and the absence of big-play receiver Pierre Garcon since the season opener, the Redskins' offense has been among the league's best. According to Football Outsiders, Washington's O ranks eighth overall, but it has less to do with RGIII's aerial theatrics as it does with the running game. That would be the NFL's No. 1 running game, by the way (the passing game is 14th). Alfred Morris is sixth in Football Outsiders' total value metric for running backs, behind names like Ray Rice, CJ Spiller and Reggie Bush.

    Griffin, meanwhile, tops the list of rushing QBs (incidentally, Andrew Luck is just behind him).

    With a Bucs defense that has been equally as efficient through three weeks, Sunday's matchup could be a case of the immovable object against the irresistible force. Tampa Bay's D ranks ninth overall but is third against the rush. So we could see strength vs. strength early in the game as the two sides feel each other out searching for weaknesses.

    Washington won't face defensive end Adam Clayborn, who is out for the season with a knee injury. His 7.5 sacks led the team last season.

    When the Redskins do pass it, expect offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan to continue to dial up the short routes. Along with the running game, they help set up the long passes downfield, something RGIII has had early success with. Garcon still isn't sure when he'll return but the Bucs' secondary is has been good at shutting down opponents' No. 1 receivers. Look for Griffin's second and third options to have better luck getting open.

    When the Buccaneers have the ball. The coaching staff may have changed but the results look strikingly similar. The Bucs offense, in a word, can best be described as inept. They're 29th, according to Football Outsiders (19th in rushing, 28th in passing), which mirrors the Redskins' defense (25th overall, 12th against the rush, 27th against the pass).

    After allowing the Bengals' Andy Dalton to throw for 328 yards last week -- and giving up a league-worst 10 TDs through three games -- coach Mike Shanahan has come to the same conclusion as the rest of us.

    "We've got to play much better as a secondary," he said. "Our secondary has got to be much better than we played (last) Sunday."

    Well, it might be impossible for that not to happen this week. The Bucs are averaging 149 yards through the air and a league-low 258.3 total yards. And quarterback Josh Freeman, who came into the season in the best shape of his life, is still looking to regain the form that made him one of the NFL's up-and-coming young QBs just a few years ago. He's completing just 51 percent of his throws and managed just 110 passing yards against the Cowboys last week.

    "Each play, there's a reason why it doesn't work," he said. "Maybe one time it was a guy who's covered up and, by the time you get back, somebody gets through or it's a pass where me and the receiver weren't able to hook up."

    First-year coach Greg Schiano is unconcerned. "I have a great trust level with him," he said according to Yahoo.com. "There's not a doubt in my mind he's going to do great this year and beyond."

    Meanwhile, Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall is more troubled by his unit's struggles.

    "Last year we would argue amongst each other to get 14 points, 10 points. Twenty-one points was a great day (for the offense),'' cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "So to see this offense go out there these last three weeks and put up the kind of points they've put up, and the defense just go out there and totally drop the ball, it's definitely frustrating."

    X Factor. Both teams rank near the bottom of Football Outsiders' special teams rankings but it's not because of inconsistencies on field goals. The trouble comes on the coverage and return units. We repeatedly talk about how the field-position battle is one of the most underrated aspects of football. If the 'Skins can win here, it increases their chances of winning the game.