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Five Storylines: Redskins vs. Lions

The Redskins will look to win their first game of the season Sunday afternoon when they return home to host the Lions at FedEx Field. Five storylines are worth following.

BY ZAC BOYER

The Lions will visit FedEx Field, a place where they have never won, on Sunday afternoon. Here are five storylines worth watching:

1. Will Robert Griffin III run the ball?

Robert Griffin III said after the Redskins’ loss to the Packers last weekend that he may have to take a more vocal leadership role to end his teammates’ complacency, but it looks like he may be planning something else. The quarterback suggested earlier in the week that keeping the ball and running it would give the offense the jolt it needs. Griffin hasn’t kept the ball on any of the zone-read plays the Redskins ran over the first two games, and both he and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said that aspect of the offense has been a part of the game plan but hasn’t been used because of the deep early deficits. It’s possible it could happen against the Lions.

2. Can the once-vaunted run defense get back on track?

The Redskins ranked fifth in the league against the run last year when they allowed an average of 95.8 yards a game and only gave up more than 100 yards to a running back three times during the regular season. That has changed vastly this year, as LeSean McCoy gained 184 yards in the opener, James Starks ran for 132 yards a week ago and combined, opponents are picking up an average of 201 rushing yards a game. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said stopping the run is the first priority Sunday against the Lions, and that task may be easier than expected with Reggie Bush questionable because of a bruised left knee.

3. What will Calvin Johnson do?

Cornerback DeAngelo Hall theorized earlier in the week that Calvin Johnson would be more than excited to face the Redskins’ beleaguered secondary. Perhaps the NFL’s best receiver, Johnson is a deep threat who also has the height and size to reel in almost any ball that comes his way. Defenses have contained Johnson over the first two weeks of the season by dropping their safeties deep, and it’s possible the Redskins will try to answer the Johnson problem by having Hall, who shut down Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant in the regular-season finale in December, shadow the receiver all game.

4. Is Brandon Meriweather healthy enough to play?

The perpetual storyline took another turn last week when Brandon Meriweather, making his return from a torn ACL in his right knee and a strained groin, sustained a concussion while delivering a hit to Starks in the second quarter. He has passed all subsequent concussion tests and will be evaluated again before the game, though a full practice on Friday makes it appear likely the strong safety will play. Whether he can finish a game for the first time in 21 months will be another story.

5. How will the Redskins divide kicking responsibilities?

Kai Forbath was supposed to test out his strained right groin at some point this weekend – perhaps as early as Friday, though he was held out of his fifth consecutive practice. That leaves the possibility that Forbath could handle field goal and point-after attempts while John Potter, signed last weekend, would kick off. Forbath said the torque on the muscle is completely different during kickoffs, when a player runs up to the ball and typically kicks it as hard as possible. Placekicking duties would be significantly easier for him to handle.

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