FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The fallout in Washington following the benching of quarterback Robert Griffin III could leave the Redskins distracted as they visit the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
The soap opera has even left one of the Falcons confused.
"Like I don’t even understand what they’re doing, really,’’ receiver Roddy White said of the Redskins’ situation. "I don’t know what kind of relationship the owner and the head coach have or what they got going on.
"A lot of quarterbacks, they go through that sophomore slump. That’s a tough situation. Cam [Newton] kind of went through that his second year in the league.’’
The Falcons will face Kirk Cousins as the Redskins apparently have opted to shut Griffin down for the remainder of the season.
"For them to shut him down with three games left, I just think he could have played the last three games,’’ White said of Griffin. "But, you know, that’s their franchise quarterback. So you have to do whatever to protect him.
"I think he’s a real good player. I think he’s going to be a special player in this league, once he gets back to 100 percent.’’
How the Redskins respond will be worth watching. Here’s what else to watch for Sunday:
Secondary concern? With starting free safety Thomas DeCoud out with a concussion, the Falcons will start three rookies in the secondary alongside veteran safety William Moore: cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford along with safety Zeke Motta, DeCoud’s replacement. Although the Redskins rely heavily on the run game, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Cousins test the young defensive backs on occasion. "Me personally, those guys are experienced and they’re not like the average rookies,’’ Moore said of his young teammates. "They’ve gotten a lot of game experience. Zeke’s been in on special teams. I’m absolutely not even worried about it as far as them going to perform at a high level because that’s what they do.’’
Covering ground: Speaking of those rookie defensive backs, Motta is the only one set to make his first career start. The seventh-round pick from Notre Dame showed last week how tough a tackler he could be. The concern Sunday, however, might be how he reacts in coverage situations. "I obviously know my strengths and weaknesses,’’ Motta said. "Those are the things that I try to work on each week: being in the right position. … I’m looking forward to the test. And I’m sure that it’s going to be coming at me.’’
On the run: The Falcons defense, as a whole, did a much better job tackling in Green Bay last Sunday then it had in previous weeks. The trend has to continue against the Redskins and running back Alfred Morris, who boast the league’s second-best rushing offense at 143.8 rushing yards per game. Morris, who turned 25 on Thursday, stands sixth in the NFL in rushing with 1,027 rushing yards. The Falcons have surrendered 100-yard rushing games to four different running backs since Week 7.
Winding down: Look for quarterback Matt Ryan to target tight end Tony Gonzalez more with Gonzalez’s countdown to retirement now at three games. Gonzalez has been bothered by a nagging toe injury, but he’s feeling a lot better than he was a few weeks ago. Gonzalez has 208 consecutive games with a reception. If he can manage 262 receiving yards over the last three games, he would surpass Isaac Bruce for fourth place on the all-time list behind Jerry Rice, Terell Owens, and Randy Moss. Gonzalez currently has 14,946 career receiving yards.