It's that time of week again where we get to learn more about the team that the Vikings are facing straight from the experts of our neighbors at their corresponding SB Nation blog. This week I got a chance to talk to Parks Smith from Hogs Haven, who always do top-notch work covering the Washington Redskins. Let's get straight to the questions because there's a lot of great information to learn about RGIII and company.
Daily Norseman: The biggest story leading up to the game between the Vikings and Redskins is the health of Robert Griffin III. As I ask this question, all signs are pointing to RGIII lining up under center on Sunday. But you guys are the Redskins experts--what's the latest on his status? Even if he is cleared to play, do you think it's a good idea to have him play a week after suffering a concussion? What steps are the Redskins taking to make sure that this health scare isn't a frequent occurrence?
Hogs Haven: Like you said, everything points to RG3 suiting up on Sunday. I think if he's cleared to play by the team doctors and all the NFL policies that no one should have any qualms about him playing this week. Of course plenty will be scared about re-injury and maybe even a chance he plays scared, but that's all a part of the game and can't really be avoided. I know there was a moment at practice this week where Griffin imitated a slide and the whole team cheered. Hopefully he's learned what a valuable commodity he is and when to protect his body. From a playcalling standpoint it doesn't seem like Kyle Shanahan is going to make any concessions to protect RG3 by watering down the playbook or limiting his designed runs.
DN: Mike Shanahan has a reputation for torturing fantasy owners by randomly handing out carries to his running backs from week to week. But this year he has gone with one back in a big way: Albert Morris. Morris is fourth in the league in rushing and fifth in the league in carries. What is it about Morris that has made Shanahan give him nearly all of the carries this season? Does he fit the Shanahan system better than everyone else? Is it the lack of depth thanks to the season-ending injury to Roy Helu? Or is Morris simply one of the best young backs in the league?
HH: I think Alfred Morris is just a down to earth guy that worked his butt off in preseason to get where he is now. He also got a bit of a boost with injuries to Tim Hightower, Roy Helu, and Evan Royster. Beyond the injuries though, I personally thought Morris would always work into the starting role based on his tenure at Florida Atlantic. Morris is perfect for the Mike Shanahan zone blocking system. He's not the fastest back, but when he sees his cut-back lane he hits and he's off. Shanahan running backs need to have good vision and need to be able to go north and south and not east and west, Morris does both of those things extremely well. Even with a healthy Roy Helu, I think Morris would be getting the bulk of the carries with Helu as a change of pace back.
DN: Washington has been absolutely decimated by injuries this year on defense. There have been unlucky breaks like Brian Orakpo tearing his pectoral muscle and getting placed on injured reserve. Then there have been completely bizarre moments like the pregame collision that has sidelined Brandon Meriweather. Who in your mind has stepped up for the defense with so many key players out? Who needs to play better if the Redskins hope to be competitive in the NFC East?
HH: To hit the bad first, the whole secondary needs to play better as a whole. Simply put, everyone outside of Josh Wilson including former Viking Madieu Williams has been pretty terrible this year. [Editor's note: Madieu has been terrible?! You don't say.] They looked a little better last week but still have a long ways to go. In terms of stepping up, we saw some improved performance from Ryan Kerrigan and Barry Cofield last week. With a bad secondary it's important for the Redskins to get into Christian Ponder's face. London Fletcher is still playing at an extremely high level and his sidekick Perry Riley is coming along nicely also. Injuries are going to happen so the whole unit has to improve to be a winning football team.
DN: What is it with you guys and kickers? Have you just been unlucky with your latest string, or is FedExField just a tough place to kick a field goal? Of course we ask because the Redskins just cut Billy Cundiff and replaced him with Kai Forbath. I'm guessing that you were OK with this move after Cundiff's awful start, right? Give us a little background on Forbath and how worried you are about the kicking situation in general in Washington.
HH: I think the city would've exploded if Cundiff wasn't let go. I don't think it's a FedEx Field thing because our opposing kickers seem to be fine and all but one of Cundiff's misses were on the road. Simply put, Cundiff didn't produce and Graham Gano before him wasn't much better. Kai Forbath was a very solid prospect two years ago coming out of UCLA where he was a Lou Groza Award winner. Injuries set him back in the NFL a little but he seems to be fine now. I'm glad he won the job over some old fart this week like Olindo Mare. Right now I'm not too worried about Forbath and the kicking situation, I mean it can't get any worse.
DN: Give us one player on offense and one player on defense that Vikings fans might not know much about but you feel could have a big impact on the game. Finally, let us know what the outcome of Sunday's game at FedExField will be.
HH: Besides Alfred Morris, who we already talked about, I'd look at Leonard Hankerson on offense. I think he could have his 2012 coming out party against the Vikings this week. His career with the Redskins has been riddled with injuries and inconsistency, but Hank seems to be getting a little better week by week. He could be an important part of Robert Griffin III's attack this week. On defense, I'd keep an eye on Jarvis Jenkins who has been starting in place of the injured Adam Carriker. Obviously a key to the game has to be stopping AD, and Jenkins can eat up some space in run defense. I think you could hear his named called quite a bit on Sunday.
I think the Redskins get back to .500 in this one beating the Vikings 27-20. I think the defense will continue to improve and the offense should still look pretty solid. As long as the Redskins don't have to deal with Toby Gerhart and Joe Webb, those guys are our kryptonite.
Thanks again to Parks for some great insight, as well some excellent humor. "I think the city would have exploded if Cundiff wasn't cut" was outstanding. Be sure to check out all things Washington related leading up to the game at Hogs Haven.