After months of hype, endless preseason nonsense, and one trade that could change the franchise forever, Redskins football is finally here.
This Sunday the Washington Redskins travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints. If you ask the Vegas sharps, the Saints are expected to win by more than a touchdown. But to hell with Vegas. This is the first week of football, and Redskins fans are allowed to be excited.
We have RG3!
After what seems like a lifetime without a real franchise quarterback, this year the Skins open with one of the most dynamic playmaking quarterbacks to emerge from college football in some time. Lazy talking heads will dismiss Robert Griffin III as a running QB, but that’s oversimplifying a distinguished player.
Yes, Griffin has sprinter speed and knows when to use it. But this is not Michael Vick lining up for the Skins. Griffin’s first instinct is to pass, and his arm is deadly accurate. Throughout most of the preseason he showed poise in the pocket and the ability to hit under and intermediate routes. The deep routes will come.
With Griffin at quarterback and upgraded wide receivers like Pierre Garçon and Josh Morgan, the Redskins offense can hit an explosive gear unseen since Mark Rypien was unloading bombs to the Posse. But one big difference exists between the 2012 Redskin offense and the Skins teams of yore: the offensive line.
Many want to pronounce the Redskin offensive line an abomination before the starting unit even plays a snap. I am not in that crowd.
This line may not replicate the Hall of Fame work produced by the famous Hogs in the ’80s, but this line can be serviceable and, with a few breaks, even pretty good. Trent Williams had an impressive preseason and appears ready to harness all the talent he showed to make him an early-round pick just a few years ago. If Williams maximizes his potential, he can lift an average line to a good one.
On the other side of the field this week, the Redskins will see one of the best offenses in the league. Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Darren Sproles, and company will be ready for action, and the team is capable of scoring 30 points in a half. We can only one day hope the Skins offense contains the same firepower.
How will the Skins defense fare against the talented Saints attack?
It’s hard to say, but let’s not be naive here. The Skins secondary has looked vulnerable most of the preseason, and with an injury to safety Brandon Meriweather, the Saints’ passing game must be a real concern for the Skins coaching staff. Brees can carve up the best defensive backfields; he could do much worse to the Skins bunch.
The Skins’ defense has two factors going in their favor: Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. The duo will lead an aggressive pass rush. Orakpo suffered a preseason injury, but odds are he will play in the opener. Scuttlebutt also says the Skins will open up more blitzing and stunting between inside linebackers and the defensive front. The more pressure on Brees, the less time he has to make the Redskin secondary look foolish.
Turmoil has also been rampant within the New Orleans clubhouse. An investigation during the offseason into violations of NFL anti-bounty rules revealed that Saints players and coaches actively participated in bounty programs. Head coach Sean Payton was suspended for the year by the NFL, and other suspensions were handed out to players, most notably linebacker Jonathan Vilma.
Undeniably, the suspensions are a blow to the Saints. Some will argue that the “us against the world” mentality created by the NFL investigation may bolster the team, but that is fools’ gold. The team is missing its head coach and one of its best defensive players. Facts are facts.
Despite the suspensions, the emergence of RG3, and even with an attacking Redskins defense, it is still hard to see this Redskins team walking into the Superdome and emerging with a win.
This Saints team is just a few years removed from winning a Super Bowl. This Redskins team hasn’t even approached the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, in what feels like an eternity.
Prior to the suspensions, the Saints were an example of a franchise doing things right. Prior to the RG3 excitement, the Redskins were an example of a franchise doing just about everything wrong. Most prognosticators expect very little of the Skins this year, and with good reason. Redskin fans tend to be overly optimistic this time of year, and a cold glass of reality would probably be the best advice.
But screw that. It’s the first week. We got RG3! Redskins win, 24-20.
Find JP Finlay on Twitter @jpfinlay.