Preview: Redskins tough on O, rough on D

Washington has a strong offense with a dangerous running attack, but their issues have been on defense, allowing 32 points and 400 yards a game. Does that portend a high-scoring Thursday night game with the Vikings? We review the Redskins, position-by-position.

In many ways, tonight's opponent for the Vikings – the Washington Redskins – has shared some of the same struggles as the Vikings. They got off to a 0-3 start, haven't won back-to-back games all season and, coming off an unexpected playoff run that had them finishing 10-6 last year, they're on the outside looking in as far as the 2013 playoff picture is concerned.

Like the Vikings, they have an enigmatic face of the franchise on offense (Robert Griffin III) and have a dominant running game that is averaging five yards a carry, but have allowed 31 or more points in five of their eight games. You don't win many games when allowing that many points, much less doing it on a consistent basis.

Griffin is the centerpiece of the Washington offense and he is all-too familiar to the Vikings defense. In his only meeting with the Vikings last season, he completed 17 of 22 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown and rushed 13 times for 138 yards and two TDs, the last being a 76-yard backbreaker that put the game away for Washington. After not being as dynamic in the early stages of the season as he was returning from ACL surgery, Griffin has started to look like the RG3 of 2012, which is a dangerous prospect.

What makes Griffin so dangerous is that the Redskins have multiple rushing options that have helped them average five yards a carry this season. Alfred Morris set a franchise record for rushing yards last season and leads the Redskins with 686 yards this season. He's a hard-nosed, between-the-tackles runner but isn't alone in the backfield. Roy Helu is a solid second option who is used as a change-of-pace and third-down back who is at his best on the perimeter. Last week, Darrel Young got in the act, rushing for three touchdowns against San Diego. With three available running backs on top of Griffin, the Redskins are capable of running 30 times a game or more.

The receiving corps is led by Pierre Garcon, a big-play receiver who has caught 54 passes for 684 yards and two touchdowns. Leonard Hankerson is the No. 2 receiver. He has deep speed and leads Washington in touchdowns with three, but has a history of drops that makes him a liability at times. Veteran Santana Moss has a reduced role in the new-look Washington offense but remains a dangerous slot receiver. The biggest addition to the team came via the draft when Washington selected tight end Jordan Reed in the second round. Reed has ascended over the last month and has moved into second place on the team in receptions with 38. He is a threat to stretch the deep seam and it is expected that, given the Vikings' struggles against playmaking tight ends, Griffin will take a couple of deep shots to him.

Washington has enjoyed continuity along the offensive line with all five starters playing every game of the season – Trent Williams, Kory Lichtensteiger, Will Montgomery, Clark Chester and Tyler Polumbus. If Washington is going to make a run at the postseason, the offensive line will be critical to that happening.

The biggest problem for the Redskins has been a defense that has been routinely gashed by opponents. Washington is allowing 32 points and 400 yards a game. The team lost arguably its best defensive linemen in Adam Carriker, but still has some impressive individual stars on their defense. OLB Ryan Kerrigan leads the team with 6.5 sacks and Brian Orakpo is viewed as one of the top outside linebackers in the league. The team is led in the middle by ageless veteran London Fletcher and has a pair of shutdown cover corners in DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson. Hall leads the team with three interceptions.

The biggest issue on the defense is at safety. Six different players have started at the two safety positions and there has been a revolving door at the positions that has caused a lack of continuity from one game to the next. If the Vikings are going to take advantage of the Redskins through the air, it's likely going to be by attacking the safeties.

The Redskins have the disadvantage of having to come on the road on a short week to play the Vikings, which historically has been a big disadvantage for the road team playing a Thursday night game. But, as Tampa Bay showed the Vikings last year, it's not impossible for a road team to take charge on a Thursday night. With the Redskins trying to get themselves back in the playoff discussion, a loss to the Vikings would be devastating. For the Vikings, getting a win in front of their home fans for the first time this season is the goal. The focus will be on Griffin and Peterson, but there will be several others that likely will be the difference between winning and losing. Given the defensive breakdowns both teams have experienced, a high-scoring game is likely, even though Thursday games tend to be low-scoring.

If the Redskins can keep from making critical mistakes, the Vikings will have to be on their A-game to pull out a win.

John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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