2012 - Week 1 @ New Orleans Saints
Blognosticator - Lanky Livingston
There are certain mornings that as soon as you first wake up, you just know it’s going to be a good day. The scent of freshly-brewed coffee permeates the house, you slept like a rock for 8 hours and are totally rested, and you have a solid game plan for the day, and know exactly what you need to do and how to get it done. You look outside and the weather is absolutely gorgeous, inviting you to be productive and get outside. You just know.
It’s a new day in Washington, and it is the most BEAUTIFUL morning! The Redskins have woken up on the right side of the bed this season, but its not the coffee that has us excited. It’s the most nutritious part of any football breakfast, the Quarterback. Robert Griffin III. RGIII. Griff. Bob. Whatever you want to call him, he is the future of the Redskins organization; both figuratively in that he will be a big part in determining the fate of the franchise for a long time, and literally in that the Redskins spent a lot of future first-round picks to acquire him. The Redskins have had pocket passers. The Redskins have had mobile QBs. The Redskins have had accurate QBs. RGIII is all of the above, rolled into a Hollywood-esque personality – he has absolutely taken over the hearts and hopes of Redskins nation; we could not ask for a better leader for our team.
His preseason came with mixed reviews; Bob looked good against the Bills, terrible against the Bears, and then good again against the Colts. He attempted less than half the number of passes than his rookie counterparts in Miami and Indianapolis, Ryan Tannehill and Andrew Luck, and 20 fewer than Russell Wilson and Brandon Weeden, rookies slated to start in Seattle and Cleveland. Griffin looked crisp and accurate on his short-to-midrange passes, but did not connect on any deep balls. Bob showed flashes of his escapability and speed, but was also running for his life due to poor offensive line play. In a lot of ways, we enter the season with a big question mark behind center – which is nothing new to Redskins’ fans. But this season there is something different – we just know.
Now it’s time to play the games that count, a new season has started, a brand new day is here. This brand new day starts out with a hearty challenge – the New Orleans Saints in the Louisiana Superdome. Some players have said the Superdome is the loudest stadium in the league; it certainly ain’t quiet. The Redskins have also had some pretty decent success against the Saints in previous seasons (at home and in the dome), with far less talent (especially at the QB position).
Redskins Defense vs. the Saints Offense – the Saints offense can be described in one word: Prolific. Drew Brees has a multitude of weapons at his disposal, and he uses every one of them. He’s one of the best QBs in the league at spreading the ball around; not only does it keep the D on their toes, but it makes it impossible to take out their “top threat.” Not only does he put the ball exactly where it needs to be (Brees is more accurate than an Olympic archer), he gets the ball out FAST. This will be the major test for the Redskins’ D – can we get to Drew before he lets the ball go? The Redskins front-7 is one of the better units in the NFC; but even a front-7 filled with Hall of Famers would have trouble getting to Brees every snap, as quick as his release is. This leads us to the Redskins’ most glaring weakness: the secondary. Thanks to Mara and his colluding cronies, the NFL took $18M of cap space from the Skins and severely limited what they could do to address the secondary this past offseason. This forced Bruce Allen to go offseason dumpster-diving; what he came up with are a couple of has-beens, a thug, and a drug addict. The drug addict has already been suspended. The thug injured his knee. The has-beens have performed adequately (Madieu Williams) to poorly (Cedric Griffin). Combined with perennial goat DeAngelo Hall, life-long CB2 Josh Wilson and a handful of youngin’s (including the promising Richard Crawford), this is the unit that will be tasked in stopping Drew Brees. Yikes. Haslett will have to be very creative with his blitzes in order to get pressure on Brees and very creative in his coverages when they don’t.
Redskins Offense vs. the Saints Defense – The Saints, as everyone knows, will be without 2 main weapons on defense, pass-rusher Will Smith and middle linebacker Jon Vilma. This is a huge-blow to an already somewhat questionable defense; 30th ranked pass and 12th ranked vs. the rush. The Saints gave up 41 first-half points in weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason (best indicator of where the D is at), including 24 to the Houston Texans, who just happen to run a similar offense to the Redskins. The Skins added some offensive weapons of their own, including giving $42M to Pierre Garçon, the man who did well with Curtis Painter throwing him the ball. Garçon fits the big, West Coast receiver mold to a ‘T-O’ (sorry, had to do it), and I expect big things from him this year. The Redskins 3-headed monster at RB of Royster, Helu and the rookie Morris will continue the Shanahan tradition of frustrating fantasy owners week-to-week.
X-Factor – bountygate. The Saints will be without their head coach Sean Payton or their interim head coach Joe Vitt (seriously, I have to question the intelligence of an organization that replaces their suspended head coach with another suspended coach. WTF?), and the aforementioned defensive players (Vilma and Smith). I’ve heard opinions on what the effects of this will be that run the gamut – the Saints will come out fired up all the way to the Saints will be lost without their leader. This is certainly the X-factor, in that nobody really knows how they will respond.
Prediction: like stepping out of bed onto cold tiles, Griffin will start out a bit shaky, perhaps even beginning with an early turnover. But then he’ll find his slippers right here where he left them, and will heat up quickly. The Redskins run game will click early giving him more confidence, and he will connect on a few deep balls off of play-action. The Saints offense will be in midseason form, and Tight End Jimmy Graham (perhaps the best in the NFL), will have a field day – I hope you aren’t playing him in fantasy this week (and if you’re lucky enough to have him, I hope I’m not playing you this week). London Fletcher, as good as he is, is just not athletic enough to cover him (not many LBs are). The Saints offense is designed to create mismatches, which is easy against a rag-tag secondary like Washington’s. The question will be if the combination of no Payton and the Redskins front 7 are enough to slow down Brees and the Saints just enough to keep Bob and the offense in the game. In the end, I think the Redskins win in a shootout. The Saints already somewhat porous defense is learning a new system, and Griffin has shown what he can do against subpar defenses. Griffin will explode onto the scene with 300-yards passing (Pierre Garçon gets his first 100-yard game as a Skin) and 2 TDs with one rushing TD. Roy Helu will lead the team in yards, but Alfred Morris will get two rushing TDs in goal line situations. The X-Factor of no Payton will hamper the offense just enough to allow the Redskins to stay in it, and allow the D to come up with a couple of huge stops. A late field goal from Billy Cundiff puts this one away, 38-35.
Savor this morning, Redskins fans, because its gonna be a beautiful day!