This is the 13th of a 16-part series where Hog Heaven looks at each game on the Washington Redskins 2013 schedule. We are one day away from Washington’s first preseason game.
Sunday, Dec 8 – Chiefs at Redskins
Quarterback Match-up: What are we to make of Alex Smith?
Smith found his niche in Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers offense. Remember all the handwringing when Harbaugh stuck with Colin Kaepernick after Smith recovered from injury? No one, absolutely no one, in San Francisco clamors for Smith over Kaepernick.
Smith was poorly matched to scheme and coaches early in his career. He was a safe starter early in the Harbaugh era.
Safety is what Andy Reid needs for his pass-happy West Coast Offense. His quarterbacks tend to deliver seven yards-per-attempt in good years and bad. (We are disregarding the 2012 debacle.) Smith should do as well for Kansas City. Reid needs Smith to reliably and safely deliver the ball to the Chiefs’ real playmakers.
We turn to fantasy football to project Smith’s real performance in Kansas City. CBSsports.com projects Smith to complete 64 percent of his passes to average 251 passing yards per game for 23 touchdowns against 13 interceptions. That would have been Matt Schaub’s performance last season.
Robert Griffin III is growing in the NFL. He should deliver over 4,000 yards total offense this year and we expect to mix to be more passing yards than last year. RGIII will be the playmaker who wins the game for Washington. The Chiefs playmakers will be someone other than Smith.
Doug Pederson (Andy Reid) vs. Jim Haslett: Pederson has his quarterback’s back. He called Alex Smith the best QB in the league. Surely, Jim Harbaugh is kicking himself now.
Pederson speaks from relief, not from an offensive coordinator’s perspective. Over the past three seasons, he worked with: Donovan McNabb in his decline, the wildly inconsistent Michael Vick and the very green Nick Foles.
Pederson and Jim Haslett should focus more attention on who touches the ball after Smith delivers it. WR Dwayne Bowe and RB Jamaal Charles lead a corps of Chiefs skill players who are both equal to the Redskins and better than the Eagles.
There will be 12 games of video for Haslett to scout before these teams meet. If he wants to prepare in August, he need only look at Eagles games. Visualize Charles as Shady McCoy and Bowe as Jeremy Maclin. There is no mystery about the Chiefs, but there questions.
Can Charles catch the ball out of the backfield?
Can Pederson get these guys to score?
For all the talk about quarterbacks, the Eagles have been a Brian Westbrook-LeSean McCoy team through most of the Andy Reid era. That’s a warning. Haslett and the linebackers better buckle their chin straps.
Kyle Shanahan vs. Bob Sutton: Chiefs linebacker Javan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend then he kissed her and apologized to his mother before fleeing to the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot to commit suicide in spite of HC Romeo Crennel’s best attempts to stop him.
That traumatic experience is the complete explanation for Kansas City’s poor defensive showing last year. The Chiefs should revert to an upper-half unit this season. Sutton is an experienced coordinator after 12 years with the Jets. Replacing Crennel removes an unpleasant reminder.
Sutton has tools. LBs Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson deserve your respect. CB Brandon Flowers is good if a tad small for a corner. Nose Guard Dontari Poe might be ready to step up his game after giving up BBQ to lose 15 pounds. Safety Eric Berry could be a terror at the second level defense or as a pass rusher. The defense will be competitive.
Hog Heaven wonders if Kansas City’s defense is ready for the read-option threat. The Chiefs were not a great pass rushing team last year. We cannot tell if that was a matter of talent or tragedy. But if they cannot bring it against the Redskins, there is no reason for Kyle Shanahan to run read option at all.
The reason to run read option and multiple tight end sets to spread Kansas City’s linebackers, and then exploit it. If young Shanahan opts not to option, then those tight ends may be more important for a Redskins win.
Shanahan should test FA signee Sean Smith. Smith has the size defensive coordinators love, especially for support on option plays. Smith, however, did not distinguish himself in Miami.
Storyline: The Chiefs were under-coached last year. They, not the Eagles, are the biggest trap team the Redskins face. You have been warned.
Under similar circumstances in 2007, Joe Gibbs nursed the Redskins to a playoff appearance. Clinton Portis and Santana Moss helped mightily by dedicating the playoff run to Sean Taylor’s memory. No such leadership emerged on the Chiefs, though one cannot compare Belcher’s death to Taylors. Both Gibbs and Crennel left the team at the end of the season for much the same reason, though Crennel was nudged.
If proponents for a Redskins name change win the national argument, the Chiefs will be their next target.
Way too early prediction: Hog Heaven would have greater fear of the Chiefs if this game was played earlier in the season. Redskins fans will take a provincial view and overlook the two-win Chiefs. The coaching staff will see them coming.
Real playoff teams should beat teams they are expected to beat. The Redskins should beat the Chiefs.
Next: Redskins at Falcons
“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 Tom Dienhart who is running a similar series for the B1G football season.
To see the other games in this series, follow the link to 2013 Game by Game.
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