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49ers vs. Washington: Hogs Haven talks RG3 drama, defensive expectations, how to win

Our friends at Hogs Haven took a few minutes to talk about Washington in advance of Sunday's 49ers game. We asked about the QB drama, what to make of their offense and defense, and what Washington has to do to win on Sunday. You can view my answers to their questions at Hogs Haven.

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Niners Nation: I'm sure this is exhausting, but can you explain the RG3-Gruden stuff in a nutshell?

Hogs Haven: Which version do you want? The Dan Snyder loves RGIII and is dictating that he plays even though he's struggling, which frustrates the new head coach version?  Or the new coach is trying to install his offense and determine what team he has now and what players he has for the future version?  There's a long tradition in Washington of imploding when the losses start to pile up.  Gruden is trying to fit Griffin into his quick, timing offense and it's taking longer than most people expected.  The ankle injury in Week 2 was another delay in his progression, and it also brings up questions about him long-term.  Washington needs to make a decision early next year on Griffin's 5th year option, and his future in general with the team.

What happened this week was the frustration on both sides bubbling out at the worst time, in front of a camera.  These are the kind of things that need to be kept in-house, or you have everyone in the world analyzing every word.  Griffin's frustrated with the losses and his bad play, but mentioning teammates will always be taken as a deflection of blame.  Gruden is frustrated with almost everything that Griffin, and the team, did last Sunday.  From the stands you could see a lot of open receivers and rushed plays from RG3, reviewing the All-22 you can see the same things, and from Gruden's extremely detailed critique you can hear the breakdowns from the coaching side.  Winning cures a lot of this, so we should be good by August 2015...

NN: It seems like DeSean Jackson and Alfred Morris are the two most significant weapons on offense. What can we expect to see from the Washington offense on Sunday?

HH: That's a good question.  We're still trying to get a consistent offensive identity.  Gruden obviously loves to pass the ball, and the team loaded up weapons for Robert Griffin III this year.  Kirk Cousins was able to rack up a ton of yards, but the turnovers killed him and the team.  Colt McCoy was also able to put up yardage and win games.  The one thing that seems to be a staple of the offense is the deep pass to DeSean Jackson.  Last week, Jackson had limited yards, but that doesn't mean he wasn't open multiple times with the potential for big gains and potential scores.  Gruden will continue to call plays that get Jackson open, it's up to the QB to see it and take advantage.

The running game has been a source of frustration for a lot of fans this year.  Alfred Morris has not had a 100 yard rushing game since last season, but he's come close a few times.  He is averaging half a yard less per carry this year.  There are a lot of factors in play for the running game not being as effective.  The offensive line has 1 new player, and a player who changed position from last year.  The running game is better with Griffin in the game, with Morris's 3 highest rushing totals coming in the 3 full games RG3 played.  Morris will get his carries this week, but if the team gets behind, Gruden will pass, pass, pass.

NN: It looks like the Washington run defense is better than the pass defense. What should the 49ers expect from the Washington defense on Sunday?

HH: The Washington secondary has been a mess for a long time.  DeAngelo Hall went on IR in Week 3 and now we're relying on a 2nd year CB, and a rookie as the starters.  At safety we have Ryan Clark who was brought in for his leadership, but he's clearly in his last year in the NFL.  Brandon Meriweather is a missile that needs to be pointed in the right direction. When he's forced to think, bad things usually happen.  If you watched last week's game against the Bucs, you saw rookie Mike Evans absolutely torch the pass defense.  Communication problems have been plaguing the team all year, and you have people in the wrong spots, the wrong coverages, or covering when they're supposed to be blitzing. Washington hasn't been able to get enough pressure with their D-Line, so Haslett has had to bring LBs and DBs which exposes the suspect secondary even more when they don't get to the QB.  Bashaud Breeland has been better than expected, but he's still a rookie.

The run defense has been slightly better, but they're still an average run D, allowing over 100 yards per game.  They've definitely limited some teams on the ground this season, but losing Brian Orakpo, and replacing him with rookie Trent Murphy affects every aspect of the defense.  San Francisco should definitely press the run, and try to wear down an aging defensive line.

NN: You have four starters that sat out practice on Wednesday. What are the odds of playing for each of DE Chris Baker, OG Shawn Lauvao, TE Jordan Reed, and OT Trent Williams?

HH: I'll go from least likely to play to most likely to play.  Trent Williams always seems to be able to tough it out and play through injuries, but even he is skeptical about this week.  He has an ankle and MCL sprain, and has been visibly limping at practice.  He was able to play through a dislocated kneecap for most of the season, but I think he sits this week.

Jordan Reed missed 4 games earlier this year after getting a bad hamstring strain in his left leg in Week 1.  Now he has a hamstring strain in his right leg.  He is doubtful to play, and he's been slow to recover from other injuries and didn't practice the last two days (Fooch's update: Since this was answered, Reed has been ruled out).

Shawn Lauvao needs to pass through the concussion protocols, and he returned to practice yesterday(limited).  I'll assume he is playing and we should know by tomorrow.

Chris Baker has an SC joint sprain, but I expect him to play on Sunday (Fooch's update: Since this was answered, Baker has been ruled out).

NN: What does Washington need to do, or have happen to win this game?

HH: Earthquake on the 49ers sidelines?  What they need is a steep improvement from Robert Griffin III at quarterback, and to not consistently lose the turnover battle.  I was at the game last Sunday and it was not pretty.  Griffin was not seeing open receivers, skittish in the pocket, and missing opportunities left and right.  This was in stark contrast to the previous week where he was able to move the offense better facing a good defense.  If he plays like that again, it is going to get ugly fast against the 49ers defense.  I've been saying it all year, but Washington needs to rely on the running game early and often.  They have a lot of receiving options, but with Griffin's struggles and the offensive line question marks, they need to rely on Alfred Morris.

The turnover differential has been horrible this season, and they're currently tied for the 2nd worst in the league.  They were at -9 last week, and Gruden's goal was to get to 0 by the end of the season.  Well that didn't happen and it's hard to win when you consistently turn the ball over, and don't force turnovers.  The defense needs to force a few turnovers and the offense needs to protect the ball, otherwise it will be a very long day in San Fran.