With a 0-2 start already on the books, the Washington Redskins will look to rebound against the Detroit Lions on Sept. 22 at FedEx Field. But with second-year quarterback Robert Griffin III and the Redskins defense—currently ranked last in the league in points allowed and yards allowed—both underperforming, last year’s playoff team has work to do to get back on track. That won’t happen until Washington is able to diagnose the problem—but where to start? Is it the mending knee of RGIII, or is it a defense that continues to fail? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk examine the state of the Redskins.

Riley: It’s clear that this year’s RGIII isn’t last year’s RGIII, but the biggest issue in Washington right now is their putrid defense. They’re giving up 35 points per game, which is ridiculous, and allowing more than 500 yards per game, which is even more ridiculous. Washington couldn’t stop water from running right now and opponents are basically waltzing all over the field. Yes, Washington’s first two opponents, the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles, possess some special players on offense, but no defense should be this bad. For all the talk about RGIII’s knee and his knee brace, none of that is as big of an issue right now in D.C. as this bottom-dwelling defense.

Green: As a beat writer and analyst of the Baltimore Ravens, I know all about defense but I also know about quarterback play as well. Baltimore has fielded consistent, tough and nasty defenses for most of the last decade, but the team didn’t make it back to the Super Bowl last season until Joe Flacco stepped up his quarterback play, and RGIII needs to do the same. We can talk about how bad Washington’s defense has been, but this team only goes as far as Griffin takes them. Last year’s Redskins’ defense was terrible too—they ranked 28th in the NFL—yet they still managed to make the playoffs because of how well RGIII and the offense played. This year has been the opposite, starting with Griffin at quarterback. The offense can’t sustain any drives, putting more pressure on the defense. Once Washington can actually score some points, maybe their defense will start making plays too.

Riley: I don’t care if Washington has Joe Montana starting with John Elway backing him up—if their defense continues to play like a JV unit, then no quarterback on earth will save this team. Watching these guys try to stop teams has been comical. They’re last in rush yards allowed, points allowed and total yards allowed. After giving up nearly 500 passing yards last week to Aaron Rodgers, it’s amazing they’re not last in pass yards allowed, too. You couldn’t have dreamed of a more horrific start than this defense has had. Even if RGIII was back to his old self, Washington would still be 0-2 with these guys running around.

Green: But don’t you think it’s deflating watching your offense consistently go three-and-out? It does something to a team’s mindset when they’re watching their offense look absolutely miserable. Yes, the defense should definitely step up when the offense is consistently blanking, but I’ve seen teams overcome bad defense with good offense. The Green Bay Packers went 15-1 in 2011 with the 32nd ranked defense in the league; they’re ranked 30th in the NFL so far this season and still managed to beat up Washington last week. In this day and age, when league rules are set up for offenses to exploit defenses, RGIII and company are seriously stinking it up. Griffin doesn’t appear to be playing with confidence, and may need more time to get his head straight. Hopefully he gets it together soon before the ‘Skins fall too far behind.

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Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk