Five questions facing the Redskins in Week 1

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,John Keim

Questions facing the Redskins

1 Who will start at running back? » This won't be known perhaps until Saturday, and it could be a matter of how the Redskins want to attack the Saints. If they're going to use a lot of inside zone, it makes sense to start either Evan Royster or Alfred Morris. Their strength is running inside. But regardless of who starts it would be wise to get Roy Helu 10-15 touches. He's the only back that possesses home run speed.

2 How much will Robert Griffin III run? » The Redskins didn't show it in the preseason as Griffin's only runs came when the play broke down. That will change once the season starts, but how? And how often? Griffin excelled at zone reads in college, and the Redskins watched Cam Newton hurt them with options last season. Put two and two together. It'll help settle Griffin if he's able to make some plays with his legs -- if he's struggling with his passing, that is. We'll also find out how much they plan to use him in shotgun -- or even run a no-huddle attack at times.

3 Will the line protect Griffin? » Maybe a better question is this: Will Griffin help protect the line? Quarterbacks who make good, quick decisions make a line look good. Quarterbacks who hold the ball a long time get into trouble. Where will Griffin fall? But the line (and backs) must do its job in protection. He can't turn around from a play fake and have someone in his face. The Saints have big issues on defense that can be exploited if he has time. And the real key isn't the pass protection as much as it is the run blocking. Keep Griffin out of third and long with positive early gains. It'll make a huge difference.

4 How will Griffin handle the atmosphere? » His first start comes in a loud dome against one of the most creative defensive coordinators in Steve Spagnuolo. How Griffin fares as a passer is uncertain, but he's a poised rookie with a competitive streak. Those sorts of players enjoy atmospheres like this. Still, avoiding false starts and getting in and out of the huddle quickly will be important.

5 Can they stop Drew Brees? » The Redskins haven't played the Saints since Jim Haslett became the defensive coordinator so it's tough to know how they will fare. The trouble is, the Redskins have allowed too many big plays each of the past two seasons -- they're the only team to be ranked in the top five for most 20-yard plays allowed in 2010 and '11. Meanwhile, the Saints thrive on such plays. They were tied for third in the NFL with 69 such pass plays a year ago (and tied for eighth in pass plays for 40 yards or more). It's not just on the secondary. The Redskins must apply pressure with four or five rushers. Otherwise Brees will pick them apart. And he's dangerous on the move, too.

- John Keim

jkeim@washingtonexaminer.com

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