While he laughed at the notion of starting backup Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan realizes that Robert Griffin III needs to play better.
His struggling defense might catch a break if the Detroit Lions' Reggie Bush is unable to play.
With Griffin planning to run more than he has been, the Redskins hope to avoid the franchise's worst start in 12 years Sunday when they try to extend a 21-game home winning streak against the Lions.
Griffin hasn't looked the same since tearing his ACL in the playoffs, and his slow starts have contributed to the team falling behind by a combined 64-7 in two losses. Last season's Offensive Rookie of the Year has completed 11 of 24 passes for 160 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in the first half, compared to 45 of 65 for 489 yards with five scores and one pick while playing catch-up in the second.
However, a bigger concern has been Griffin not factoring in the ground game like he did last season when he was the Offensive Rookie of the Year. Griffin says that will change this week.
"It's not that I want to run more, I just feel like that's what we need," he said. "If that's what it takes to win games, then I'm willing to do that."
After rushing for 815 yards and seven TDs last season, Griffin has been limited to 25 yards on nine carries as he tries to get more comfortable on that injured knee. He's yet to run the ball out of the zone-read - the play that made him so difficult to defend a year ago.
According to Shanahan, the Redskins (0-2) haven't been able to get into their normal offense because they've had to dig their way out of huge early deficits.
"We've got a lot of confidence in Robert," said Shanahan, who insists he has no plans to sit Griffin. "Anytime you start out a little bit slow and we're down as many points as we've been down and we get to a two-minute attack a little bit earlier than we would like to, you probably put people in the toughest situation you can."
The Redskins had a 3-6 start last season before rallying for seven straight wins to claim the NFC East title, though now they'll likely have to significantly improve defensively to avoid their first 0-3 start since dropping their first five in 2001.
Washington has allowed an NFL-worst 511.5 yards per game and the second-most points (71) after losing 38-20 at Green Bay last Sunday. Aaron Rodgers picked apart its secondary for a franchise record-tying 480 yards and four touchdowns while James Starks ran for 132, marking the first time in league history a team had a 450-yard passer and 125-yard rusher in the same game.
That doesn't bode well for the Redskins heading into a matchup with a Detroit offense that ranks among the NFL's top eight in yards (395.5 per game) and points (27.5).
"It is as close to a must-win situation as possible," Washington linebacker London Fletcher said. "We need to get that winning feeling back and get some confidence."
Fletcher and the Redskins, however, might not have to worry about the key weapon in the Lions' backfield.
Bush, who had 191 total yards in a Week 1 win over Minnesota, had two rushing attempts and a fumble in the second half of last Sunday's 25-21 loss at Arizona after taking a helmet to his left knee midway through the second quarter.
Without Bush playing much of the second half, the Lions offense went scoreless. If Detroit (1-1) doesn't have him in the lineup, it will likely start Joique Bell against the Redskins.
Coach Jim Schwartz said MRI results on Bush's banged-up left knee were encouraging on Monday, but didn't say whether he would play at Washington.
"He's going to be sore, but he doesn't have anything that's long term," Schwartz said.
Schwartz may have to rely even more on Matthew Stafford, who has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 635 yards. He's thrown four touchdown passes - two to Calvin Johnson last week - and one interception.
"I'm just trying to play smart," said Stafford, who has a 102.0 passer rating after finishing among the NFC's worst last season at 79.8. "I've had another year of experience."
Johnson had nine catches for 101 yards and a career-high three scores in his last meeting with Washington, a 37-25 home win Oct. 31, 2010. While Johnson and Nate Burleson have a combined 23 catches for 276 yards, Bush and Bell have 17 receptions for 253.
The Lions hope to avoid their 22nd straight defeat - including playoffs - at Washington, which would match the league-record road losing streak they currently own against Green Bay. They haven't won a road game in this series since Oct. 13, 1935, when the Redskins played in Boston.
The Washington Redskins have added tight end Fred Davis to their injury report for Sunday's game against the Detroit Lions.
Washington added tight end Fred Davis to the injury report Saturday, listing him as questionable with an ankle injury. Davis has three catches for 25 yards in the first two games.
The Associated Press News Service
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