Here are five questions facing the Washington Redskins entering Week 9.
Who will start at quarterback? Do you ride the so-called hot hand or do you automatically return to Robert Griffin III if he's ready? Redskins coach Jay Gruden has stated he will do so and if that's the case, then he'll have to follow through. Otherwise, you risk being taken at your word as a coach. Now, the coaches can always claim Griffin needs another week and that clearly wouldn't be a bad thing, allowing him to get more practice reps to re-acclimate himself. Minnesota has a good defense (eighth in total yards; 12th in points per game) and it's on the road -- a difficult combination. Colt McCoy played well Monday -- shaky early and much better in the second half. But while he was the big story, it was the defense that led the win.
Can they make it three straight? They did not look like a team ready to go on a roll after beating Tennessee. But sometimes slumps are broken with ugly wins, and Monday's victory proved they could take it another step. Now they just need to sustain that level of energy in subsequent games, which is difficult. Taking care of the ball is crucial: Washington has a minus-45 point differential in points off turnovers -- second worst in the NFL. Any sustained stretch of success stems from doing well in this area (I discussed this in my video earlier Wednesday, with some rather telling numbers over the past few seasons).
Will they now blitz everyone like they did Monday? That's a hard way to live defensively, especially with young corners. The Redskins entered the game having sent an extra rusher on 39.6 percent of dropbacks compared to 60 percent Monday night. It worked because of the matchup -- facing a young line that perhaps had not seen some of these rushes. They also liked the matchups with their receivers. Finally, it was not the plan to blitz as much -- they saw it worked and stuck with this strategy. But keep in mind: Vikings rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater has a 78.3 passer rating against the blitz -- the league average is 96.3. He's 28-of-48 with one touchdown, one interception and six sacks vs. extra pressure.
Can DeSean Jackson keep up this pace? The free-agent signee has been incredible the past four weeks, averaging 26.88 yards per catch. He also had a 36-yarder called back because of a penalty and has drawn three penalties downfield. Minnesota ranks third in the NFL, allowing only 10.52 yards per catch and the Vikings are 10th in number of pass plays for 20 yards or more (with 22). If this becomes a game where underneath throws are bigger, then perhaps Pierre Garcon will be involved to his liking and ease some of his frustration.
Will Alfred Morris' carries decrease? Gruden had planned to give Silas Redd a couple carries vs. Dallas, but there'd be no desire to do so if Morris and the ground game were producing. Gruden mentioned Redd losing the ball at the end of his run (he was down, but it clearly still shakes a coach). The Redskins are trying to marry their outside zone system with what Gruden wants to do. You combine that ... with Morris missing holes at times ... and the blocking being subpar at times ... and you have a struggling ground game. To run the outside zone, you must excel at blocking on the edges and the Redskins do not. Add it to the list of issues. Here's something to consider: Roy Helu has a combined 10 carries the past two games; he had a combined 20 in the first six.