Redskins vs. Eagles Week 1 Preview: Can Chip Kelly Overcome RG3′s Return?
Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (above) makes his 2013 debut, having missed the entire preseason while recovering from a torn right ACL suffered last season. Although RG3 has taken part in preseason practices and drills with his teammates, rust is a definite concern, considering he hasn’t seen any significant action since Washington’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks last season.
There’s no need for RG3 to do everything himself. Running back Alfred Morris looks to sustain the momentum of his stellar rookie season, when he rushed for 1,613 yards. Furthermore, Washington has featured wide receiver Pierre Garcon at full health. Garcon sustained a right foot injury that hampered his debut season in the nation’s capital last season. His return provides Griffin III with his most reliable down field target.
If that isn’t enough, tight end Fred Davis and running back Roy Helu Jr. also return from injuries that sidelined them both for most of last season. Davis is a reliable receiver that provides efficiency over the middle. Helu Jr. will probably serve as Washington’s third down back. He fits that role perfectly, considering that he recorded 49 receptions out of the backfield that season. In addition, Helu Jr. was Washington’s leading rusher in 2011, supporting the claim that he is an adequate backup for Morris.
The Eagles compiled a disastrous 4-12 record in 2012. That led to the exit of head coach Andy Reid, who in 14 years led Philadelphia to seven NFC East titles and one Super Bowl berth. He was replaced by former University of Oregon head coach Chip Kelly, who brings his exciting spread offense from the college ranks to the NFL in an effort to rejuvenate the once proud Eagles franchise.
Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick (above) will be back under center for the Eagles after fending off a challenge to his starting position from second year quarterback Nick Foles. Despite being a little turnover and injury prone, Vick still has a strong arm and superior running skills to provide big plays on offense.
Big play wide receiver DeSean Jackson supplements Vick’s big play ability. In the Eagles’ 2010 contest with the Redskins, Vick and Jackson connected on an 88 yard touchdown reception on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Jackson averaged 22.5 yards per catch in 2010, which supports the claim that he’s a threat to go the distance every time he has the ball.
Unfortunately, Vick will not have leading receiver Jeremy Maclin to throw to. Maclin suffered a season ending torn right ACL before the beginning of preseason (Redskins’ fans and Griffin III can definitely sympathize). His role will be filled by veteran receiver Riley Cooper, who might have a target on his back due to a viral video of him using a racial slur. Nevertheless, Cooper will have to step up and provide efficiency at wide receiver in Maclin’s absence.
Washington’s defense welcomes the return of right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo and strong safety Brandon Meriweather from injury. Both provide big play ability that are sorely needed on a unit that struggled at times last season. Washington is slated start rookie Bacarri Rambo at free safety, which could cause additional trepidation to the defense. The Redskins hope that Orakpo’s pass rushing ability will take pressure off of their embattled secondary against the Eagles.
Philadelphia defensive end Trent Cole had a down season in 2012, recording only three sacks after earning 11 in 2011. He will be focused on getting to Griffin III and disrupting Washington’s passing game. Inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans was the Eagles’ leading tackler in 2012 with 113. He will no doubt be focused on containing Morris and RG3, who anchored Washington’s top ranked running game in 2012.
Prediction: Griffin III will be eager to shake the rust off and show the world he’s recovered from his injury. Meanwhile, Kelly will be eager to show the NFL that his spread offense can become successful at the professional level. This will be a high scoring affair where the Redskins’ running game will make the difference.
Final score: Redskins 35, Eagles 27.