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How safe will RG3 play it?

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How safe will RG3 play it?

What: Vikings (4-1) vs. Redskins (2-3)
Where: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
When: Sunday, 4:25 p.m.
TV: Fox WTTG-5
Redskins Kickoff and Postgame Live: Comcast SportsNet 3 and 7

The big question this week is whether Robert Griffin III will be cleared by doctors to play after leaving last week’s game with the first concussion of his NFL career.

But the bigger question is this: Did the rookie quarterback – and face of the Redskins – learn a valuable lesson about avoiding similarly perilous situations in the future?

What’s going to happen the next time Griffin is flushed from the pocket and he has a hulking linebacker bearing down on him?

Will he slide or slink out of bounds?

Will he toss the ball into the stands? 

Or will he again put ego before team, attempt to add another highlight to his vast collection and leave himself vulnerable to a season-or career-altering blow?

What’s ironic about the hit, it came on an afternoon in which Griffin was not a significant part of the ground attack. In fact, Griffin’s rushing attempts have plummeted each the past three weeks, from a season-high 13 against the Bengals to eight vs. the Buccaneers to just one against the Falcons.

Since returning to practice on Wednesday, Griffin has said all of the right things. If he’s given the go-ahead by an independent neurologist to suit up against the Vikings, we’ll find out if he meant it.

“If you have to live to play another down,” he said, “you live to play another down.”

Redskins’ fans had better hope Griffin’s 180-degree turnabout from the bravado he expressed earlier this season wasn’t just lip service. The entire offense is predicated on Griffin lining up behind the center and, as last week’s loss emphasized, rookie backup Kirk Cousins is not ready to be a starter in the NFL. (Cousins threw a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions – double Griffin’s total – in only 13 snaps.)

“It’s about being smart,” Griffin said of punishing hit he absorbed. “It’s a learning experience for me.”

Griffin has adjusted to the speed and complexity of professional defenses faster than most anticipated. And, as a direct result, he’s ascended from Heisman Trophy winner to NFL star quicker than expected as well. But how long will it take for him to embrace the self-preservation tactics all successful dual-threat quarterbacks eventually learn?

Right now, it’s arguably the most important question facing the franchise. 

Here are three other areas the team at www.csnwashington will be monitoring:

1) Running back Adrian Peterson is the biggest star on Minnesota’s roster. Wide receiver Percy Harvin, however, might be the Viking’s most dangerous -- and the league’s most versatile -- weapon.

Harvin can line up in the slot, split wide, in the backfield and as a kick returner. He’s racked up 407 receiving yards, of which a league-leading 329 have come after the catch, according to STATS Inc.

The Redskins defense, meantime, ranks second to last in passing yards against (329 per game) and last in passing touchdowns allowed (13).

In last week’s 30-7 victory over the Titans, Harvin lined up as a running back and took an inside handoff from Christian Ponder and powered his way into the end zone from four yards out. Two quarters later, Harvin lined up in the slot, eluded two would-be tacklers and turned a routine bubble screen into a dazzling 10-yard touchdown.

“They find different ways to utilize his talent,” safety Madieu Williams said. “You always have to be aware of where No. 12 is.”

2) The Redskins will turn to their third kicker in two seasons against the Vikings after releasing the struggling Billy Cundiff on Tuesday and signing the talented but untested Kai Forbath.

Forbath was named college football’s top kicker in 2009 and the 25-year-old possesses a strong leg. But he’s never kicked a field goal in a regular season NFL game and did not kickoff during his four years at UCLA. 

Adding to the challenge Forbath faces: he’s had only five days to develop a rhythm with long snapper Justin Snow and holder Sav Rocca.

“We need him to make field goals for us,” special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander said. “We’re not a good enough team to miss opportunities to put points on the board.”

Cundiff missed five of his 12 attempts.

3) Is this the week the Redskins snap their losing streak at home? It’s reached an epic eight consecutive games and is the longest such drought in the NFL, dating back to Sept. 18, 2011.

Six of those defeats, however, have come by seven points or fewer, including last December’s 33-26 loss to the Vikings.

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Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

Redskins Playbook: 2017 schedule reveals some good news for Kirk Cousins

The Redskins offense performed at a high level in 2016, moving the ball well though the unit struggled in the red zone. Much of the success comes from Kirk Cousins' ability to quickly advance through his progressions and release the football before he takes too many hits.

Expect more of that in 2017, especially early in the season.

The Redskins don't face their first Top 5 sack defense until Week 9 when they travel to Seattle. From there, Cousins will face another Top 5 sack team when the Vikings visit FedEx Field in Week 10. 

After that, Washington's schedule doesn't feature a Top 5 sack defense until nearly Christmas. Unfortunately for Cousins, those two teams will come back to back in December when the Redskins host the Cardinals and the Broncos.

Sacks should not drive too much worry for Redskins fans. The Washington offensive line only allowed 23 sacks last season, two less than the Cowboys vaunted offensive line gave up on Dak Prescott. Cousins quick release and mastery of Jay Gruden's offense helps too. 

The Redskins have plenty to worry about in 2017, though facing fierce sack opponents shouldn't be too high on the list. 

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Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Need to Know: The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, June 25, 32 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp in Richmond on July 27.

Timeline

The Redskins last played a game 175 days ago; they will open the 2017 season against the Eagles at FedEx Field in 77 days.

Days until:

—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/17) 22
—Preseason opener @ Ravens (8/10) 46
—Roster cut to 53 (9/2) 69

The top five running backs the Redskins will face in 2017

Here are the five running backs on the Redskins’ schedule who gained the most yards in 2017. We looked at the top QBs last week.

Ezekiel Elliott, Cowboys, 1,631 yards in 2016—The NFL’s leading rusher didn’t pop for a big day against the Redskins as a rookie last year. He still did plenty of damage in two games with a combined 180 yards and three touchdowns. We’ll find out in Week 8 just how much the Redskins’ rushing defense has improved.

David Johnson, Cardinals, 1,239 yards—Yeah, him again. He chewed up the Redskins in Arizona last year, picking up 84 yards rushing and another 91 yards receiving. I think I might pick Johnson over Elliott in a draft simply due to Johnson’s versatility.

LeGarrette Blount, Eagles, 1,161 yards—Blount picked up those yards with the Patriots last year and rushed for 18 touchdowns for good measure. He averaged 3.9 yards per carry, 27th among qualifying running backs. It should be noted that the Eagles probably have a better offensive line than the Patriots do. It’s safe to say Blount is one dimensional; none of the top 50 in rushing yards had fewer than his seven receptions.

Mark Ingram, Saints, 1,043 yards—While Ingram had a good year, the Saints apparently weren’t overly impressed. They signed Adrian Peterson as a free agent and they drafted RB Alvin Kamara in the third round. We’ll have to see who is healthy and on the field in Week 11

Melvin Gordon, Chargers, 997 yards—The 2015 first-round pick missed the last three games and most of another one with an injury. When healthy, he was very effective. His stats projected over 16 games come to over 1,300 yards.

Best of the rest: Carlos Hyde of the 49ers just missed the top five with 988 rushing yards last year Besides Kamara, the only running backs drafted in the first three rounds the Redskins will face are Dalvin Cook (Vikings) and Kareem Hunt (Chiefs). It will be interesting to see if new Rams coach Sean McVay can revive Todd Gurley, who followed a 1,100-yard rookie season with a 4.8 per carry average by gaining 885 yards with a paltry 3.2 average in 2016. Marshawn Lynch comes to town with the Raiders after spending a year in retirement; with the Seahawks, he picked up 111, 72, and 132 on the ground against the Redskins. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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