Week 1 games are difficult to predict. Without looking it up, I’m sure that I picked the Saints to win comfortably a year ago today as the Redskins went to New Orleans for RG3’s debut. I don’t think I saw them beating the Giants behind Rex Grossman in 2011. Perhaps I called the win over Dallas to open the Mike Shanahan era but even if you give me that one out of three isn’t a great track record.
I have to say that it’s tough to be confident about predicting tonight’s game. For a change, the Redskins are the known quantity, assuming that Dr. Andrews’ repair of RG3’s knee is sound. It’s the opponent, the Eagles, that is the mystery. They have a new coach (Chip Kelly), a new offense (some sort of up tempo spread) and a new defense (a 3-4, even though Kelly won’t call it that).
The Eagles do have many of the same players running Kelly’s new offense—running back LeSean McCoy, receiver DeSean Jackson, and quarterback Michael Vick. While there may be very limited game film of the NFL version of Kelly’s offense there is plenty of tape on these players, especially Vick. He has played in 121 NFL games so there is ample data available to study his tendencies.
And if the best guesses on Kelly’s offense are correct, it calls for Vick to do things that he has not done well during the course of his career. It calls for quick decisions and that isn’t Vick’s strong point. Soon after he was hired Kelly said that he wants his quarterback to release his passes within 1.6 seconds after the snap. He hasn’t talked much about that lately as it took Vick about 3.6 seconds to get his passes off during the preseason.
Kelly’s offense is designed to get off more plays. His logic is that more plays equals more yards. Yes, but with Vick more plays could also equal more turnovers. In the past two years he has started 23 games and he has 24 interceptions and 21 fumbles. More snaps could be the proverbial double-edged sword for Philly.
Will the fast-paced attack work in the NFL? Kelly likes to point to a 2010 game when Oregon had 21 minutes of possession time to 39 for UCLA. The Ducks won 60-13. But that was a bad 4-8 UCLA team. There are no such talent disparities in the NFL.
On the other side of the ball, it looks like the Eagles are having a rough go at transitioning to the 3-4 defense. This is pain the Redskins know well, having one through it in 2010 and at least into 2012. They will take many of the 4-3 players who were members of the 2012 Philly defense, a unit that ranked 29th in points allowed and 23rd against the run, and have them adapt to the new scheme.
It seems to be a safe bet that the Redskins will put up some points. Despite the fact that he was hobbled by a knee injury in their second meeting, Griffin was deadly efficient against the Eagles last year. He completed 77 percent of his passes, averaged 10.2 yards per attempt, and threw six touchdowns to one interception.
But the key could be Alfred Morris. There was no sign during the preseason that the Eagles will be any better against the run. Morris didn’t run wild against them last year (167 yards combined in the two games) but if he gets rolling that will help keep the Eagles’ offense off the field and help the Redskins put up some points?
How many will they score? They averaged 27 a game last year. Let’s give them another TD and go with 35 with two TD’s being the result of takeaways.
And they’ll need to score a lot to keep from sweating this one out. Even though a lot of the time the Eagles’ offense will be a lot of movement and sound and fury that doesn’t accomplish much. They’ll break a long play, maybe more than one. McCoy could have a pretty big day. But many drives will die because Vick, the guy pulling the trigger, will make a mistake to kill it. A few succeed, perhaps one or two because of a big play. It won’t be enough.
Redskins 35, Eagles 21