Tomorrow at 1 pm the Washington Redskins season officially begins. They will take on the Saints in New Orleans. This will be the 24th time these two teams have met, with the Redskins leading the series with 15 wins and 8 losses. It will also be RGIII’s big debut and there’s no better place for it than in his “real hometown” in Louisiana.
Both teams have undergone significant changes in the offseason. The Saints have dealt with the chaos surrounding the bounty scandal and will now have to face the 2012 season without head coach Sean Payton. The Redskins have seen what has almost been a complete overhaul of their team over the last several years. They have lost long-time fan favorite Chris Cooley, acquired a brand new QB, and lowered the average age of the team to 26.45 years. The Saints are a solid, talented and established team. The Redskins are stepping into their first season with a new QB and many other rookies (and second year players). But this is not an excuse or a preliminary proclamation of failure. Both teams have their work cut out for them and as we’ve seen in the past, anything can happen.
RGIII and the offense will need to stay on top of the game for the Redskins to have success. Establishing any sort of rhythm on offense will require substantial protection from the Offensive Line. Despite success in the preseason, many of the projected starters are coming into their first year with the team and are still somewhat learning the ropes. A strong performance from the OL could provide that extra quarter of a second needed for RGIII to execute plays.
Last year the Saints pass defense was one of the worst in the league. RGIII has had consistent chemistry with many of the Wide Receivers, most notably Pierre Garcon. This could open opportunities for long passes down-field against a team that allowed more 40+ yd completions than any other team in 2011. However Steve Spagnuolo’s newly designed defense has apparently seen a drastic improvement in pass-rushing and will be looking to get in the face of the rookie QB in his professional debut. This makes the job of Trent Williams and the rest of the OL that much more important.
Although Shanahan has not yet stated who will start at RB, it will be the first opportunity for the young players to showcase the Redskins newly revamped running game.
There’s a reason Drew Brees is the highest paid player in NFL history. He is fantastic. The Redskins secondary, talented as they are, will need to step up if they want to stand a chance against the league’s leading passing offense.
The Redskins secondary has seen its share of changes as of late. DeAngelo Hall is adjusting to his new position, and will see plenty of action as he is tasked with covering receivers on the outside and in the slot. He may also have to step in as a Safety due to the disappointing loss ofBrandon Meriweather to an injury and Tanard Jackson to a suspension.
What hasn’t changed this year are the Redskins front-seven. Every player returns this year, looking to make an even bigger impact on defense. While Brees has demonstrated a remarkable ability to get the ball out of his hands while facing pressure, that doesn’t make him immune to mistakes.
Last season, for example, the Saints lost to Tampa Bay in week 6. This could have been for any number of reasons, but my guess is that it had something to do with the 4 turnovers the Saints allowed, 3 of which were interceptions thrown by Brees. Now, the TampaBaydefense did not rank among the best in the NFL by any means. Neither did the Rams, (though they did finish 7th in passing defense) who also beat the Saints after Brees threw 2 interceptions. In the division playoffs the Saints had 5 turnovers (2 interceptions). The Redskins defense, who ranked 12th in interceptions last year, needs to apply pressure and capitalize on one of the few weaknesses of an otherwise strong offense.
Some of the Saints players, including Smith, have been reinstated after an appeals panel overturned their suspensions. Despite not seeing playing time with their team during their suspension, interim head coach Aaron Kromer says it will be a game-time decision whether or not to play Smith.