Redskins @ Saints
Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints
Sunday: September 9th
Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins are taking their talents to South Beach… I mean the Big Easy, as they face off with Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints on the NFL’s opening weekend.
Kickoff is set for 1 o’clock on Fox where Kenny Albert, Daryl Johnson and unfortunately Tony Siragusa will be on the call. How that guy remains on the sideline year after year I will never know.
New Orleans is coming off of a 13-3 season in which they featured the league’s best offense behind Drew Brees’ record setting campaign. A heart breaking last second 36-32 loss in the divisional-round to San Francisco left Who Dat nation hungry for the start of the 2012 season.
Bounty-Gate rocked the franchise to the core as Dictator Goodell suspended head coach Sean Payton and middle linebacker Jonathan Vilma for the entire season. Assistant head coach Joe Vitt received a 6-game ban and defensive end Will Smith is forced to sit out the first four weeks of the season. Despite all of this they still have Brees and his arsenal of options and should once again be one of the better teams in the NFC this year.
Washington made waves when they dealt multiple first round picks to ultimately acquire Robert Griffin, giving the organization the cornerstone piece they hope they can build sustainable success around. After dropping 10 of their last 12 games to end the 2011 season, a lot will have to go right for the Redskins to have their first winning season since 2007.
With the winds of change blowing through the DMV with the Nationals and Orioles sitting atop of their respective divisions, I’m hoping that magic leaks over to the burgundy and gold and we find the team playing meaningful games in December.
WHEN THE REDSKINS HAVE THE BALL
Establishing the running game is the key to Shanahan’s system and a healthy running game will be essential on Sunday. Washington needs to keep Brees on the sideline and eat up as much of the clock as they possibly can with some combination of Roy Helu, Evan Royster and Alfred Morris.
The Saints defense ranked 24th overall last season, 30th against the pass. While no additions were made in the secondary, the front seven saw the addition of Curtis Lofton, David Hawthorne and Broderick Bunkley. Lofton, who was brought in from division rival Atlanta to take over for Vilma, has been battling a sprained ankle since the middle of August and is listed as probable. If he’s not at his best the run game should flourish.
New Orleans’ best corner Jabari Greer is also questionable for the game with a groin injury. The Saints remaining corners are decent at best which makes me think that Kyle Shanahan may dial up a heavy passing attack to try to exploit the weakest unit of the Saints entire team. If the Saints get on the board early I don’t think it’s crazy to think that Griffin could attempt over 40 passes.
WHEN THE SAINTS HAVE THE BALL
The key for Washington is pressure — and a lot of it — and the front seven is fully capable of footing the bill. Last season the team racked up 41 sacks, good enough for 10th in the NFL. Another year in the system plus the return of Jarvis Jenkins should see the sack total rise in 2012.
The Saints are going to score points; they averaged over 34 points a game last season and have all of their weapons back less Robert Meachem. Darren Sproles and Jimmy Graham are matchup nightmares for every team they face and the Skins are no exception. The linebackers and safeties will have to be great in coverage on Sunday if the team wants to keep these two in check.
With the loss of Brandon Meriweather and Tanard Jackson a somewhat shaky secondary is now flat out suspect. New addition Cedric Griffin needs to play much better than he did in the preseason or he may find himself moving out of the way for Richard Crawford which some fans, including myself, would gladly welcome.
Redskins Offensive Line vs. Saints Defensive Line
There has been endless discussion on sports talk radio about the makeup of the line and their potential ability to protect Griffin. This week they won’t face any dominant linemen, but Sedrick Ellis and Broderick Bunkley are both solid in the middle and could present some problems for Kory Lictensteiger and Will Montgomery.
Robert Griffin III vs. Himself
No one really knows what to expect from Griff but in his first outing he should focus on playing within the framework of the offense and making the smart plays as he continues to learn the offense. I want to see him throw for 400 yards and run for 100 but ultimately think the team would like to see him manage the offense and cycle through his progressions effectively.
Brandon Meriweather: Out – Knee
Brian Orakpo: Probable – Chest
Chris Wilson: Probable – Abdomen
Chris Baker: Probable – Ankle
Adrian Arrington: Questionable – Knee
Curtis Lofton: Probable – Ankle
David Hawthorne: Probable – Knee
Jabari Greer: Questionable – Groin
Marques Colston: Questionable – Foot
The Skins hold a 15-8 advantage in the history of this matchup and haven’t lost a game in New Orleans since 1992. I have heard everyone talk about how the Saints have a chip on their shoulder because of bounty-gate but I think Washington will ultimately come out on top in a high scoring affair.
Washington – 30
New Orleans – 27