This is the first of a 16-part series where Hog Heaven looks at each game on the Washington Redskins 2013 schedule. We are 25 days away from the opening of training camp. What else are we to do in this NFL deadzone?
Monday, Sep 9 – Eagles at Redskins
Quarterback Match-up: Only the guesswork about the New York Jets week one quarterback holds more mystery than who starts for Philly and Washington. Robert Griffin III lobbies hard for his week one return as Redskins starter. Hog Heaven does not expect, nor do we want to see Griffin in any preseason game. Coach Mike Shanahan barely let RGIII play last preseason when he was perfectly healthy. Whoever gets the practice reps the week before this game will tell you all you need to know.
Chip Kelly is keeping everyone guessing about his opening night starter. Even diehard Eagles fans know that Michael Vick is no Donovan McNabb, but Vick on paper is Kelly’s only real choice, provided Kelly can get Vick to protect the ball, study the game plan and deliver on the field like he never has before.
Alas, Nick Foles’ efficiency stats were near identical to Vick’s 2012 passing performance. In theory, either Foles or Vick can run the read option successfully as long as LeSean McCoy is on the field, but a running quarterback makes the most of read option.
Kirk Cousins beat out Foles for starting quarterback at Michigan State. Foles moved on to Arizona where he had a distinguished career for the Wildcats, and was drafted ahead of Cousins. Cousins vs. Foles is not the line-up ESPN hopes to see for the opening Monday Night Football game.
Pat Shurmur vs. Jim Haslett: The Eagles surrounded rookie head coach Kelly with veteran NFL coordinators, unlike the Jim Zorn experience 2008. Yeah, I had to go there.
Shurmur grew up in the Eagles organization before his no-win stint in Cleveland. Shurmur falls from the Andy Reid coaching tree. Kelly will bring new twists to the Eagles offense, but much of Andy Reid’s concepts remain in the Eagles playbook, I suspect.
Read option is all the rage now. Jim Haslett’s job is to figure out who the Eagles will read for their option. OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan, but mostly Orakpo, are the prime suspects. Pro defenders are faster and smarter than their college counterparts. That’s why option offenses have not worked so well in the NFL. Quick reaction is not a strategy, though.
Appreciation for Haslett came late when fans finally understood how handicapped he was by the secondary. He has more to work with at linebacker. It helps that the Redskins can practice Haslett’s concepts against Pat White.
Kyle Shanahan vs. Billy Davis: Kyle Shanahan seemed awfully smart in that seven-game winning streak when the Redskins clinched its first division title since 1999. The league never figured Griffin out other than to cripple him – with clean, but hard-hitting play, of course. That’s just football. But now, every team on the schedule has video of the Redskins’ offense. Young Shanahan will seem just as smart if his quarterback is just as mobile. It’s RGIII, not the scheme, that makes everything work.
Davis followed Shurmur from Cleveland to Philadelphia. Davis’ linebacker corps was the best part of the Browns over the last two seasons. The Browns’ defense was worthy of the AFC North. And Davis has seen the Redskins before, although it was with Cousins under center.
Davis had a great year as DC with the 2009 10-6 Arizona Cardinals, followed by a lousy 2010 when the Cards finished 5-11. Hey, Kevin Kolb and John Skelton were not his fault. (The fact that Davis is working in the NFL but Russ Grimm is not speaks volumes.)
Davis needs every trick he learned about coaching under tough circumstances now. The Eagles are a defensive basket case. His defensive assistants are Kelly insiders from Oregon. The Eagles are moving to the 3-4 defense after developing the skills for the wide-9, 4-3 set. Their secondary is being reengineered. It’s no coincidence that Davis was linebacker coach with the Browns. The Eagles linebackers are a known weakness. Philly's defense will not be pretty, at least not by game one.
Shanahan is holding all the Aces in this deck.
Storyline: Football is back. There shall be no extra seats at FedEx for Eagles scalpers. (Can I use that word?) No work gets done in Washington before Tuesday Noon. All is right with the world.
Way too early prediction: There are two trap games on the Redskins’ schedule. Both trap teams have an Andy Reid connection. The Redskins marched into New Orleans and upset the Saints because no one knew what to expect from the Redskins then. No one, not even the Eagles, know what to expect from the birds in week one. The more likely scenario is that the ‘Skins simply outscore the Iggles who will still be figuring everything out.
Tomorrow: Redskins at Packers
“Way too early prediction” means we reserve the right to change our minds after we see these teams in preseason games. Look for Hog Heaven’s stake-in-the-ground prediction the week before game one.
This story idea was inspired by the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart who is running a similar series for the 2013 B1G football season.
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