Last week was about “lasts” in the Redskins preseason finale against the Baltimore Ravens.
This week, it’s all about firsts.
It’s the Skins’ first game of the 2019 NFL season. It’s the first time Case Keenum will be the starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins. It’s the first time Derrius Guice will be on the field in a regular season game. It’s the first time the Redskins will go into opening day without their pro bowl left tackle Trent Williams anchoring the offensive line since 2009 due to his continued holdout. The Skins open up this season on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles come into this week’s game anxious to reassume their Super Bowl form from two seasons ago after upgrading in virtually every facet of the game. They also begin this season with a healthy Carson Wentz at quarterback and an offensive line that is poised to be one of the most dominant in the NFL this season.
The Washington Redskins are 1-4 in opening day games under head coach Jay Gruden and have dropped four straight games to the Philadelphia Eagles. I guess I could have started off this article with something positive, but there is no escaping reality. The Redskins have not done well under Gruden in season openers, bottom line. The Redskins have also dealt with so much drama off the field throughout training camp and preseason, some may question where their focus will be on Sunday. It feels like half the season has already been played with the emotional toll the last little over a month has taken on some. First, the “Trent Williams Saga”, and now the “Adrian Peterson demoted/may be released” drama. I can’t recall the last time the Redskins organization was able to just focus on winning football games...but I digress…
The Washington Redskins’ offensive unit will be starting six new players; four new players that were not on the roster last year, one player that played minimal snaps as a rookie, and another player that was injured last preseason for the entire year, and has never played a regular season down. Each will be expected to contribute immediately in order for the Redskins to have a legitimate shot this week, or any weeks to follow. Quarterback Case Keenum will have his hands full Sunday against an aggressive Eagles defensive front seven and their solid defensive backfield. Derrius Guice will see a lot of touches most likely, while Chris Thompson will be the third down back as usual. The elephant in the room is “what’s going to happen to Adrian Peterson” now that Guice has been named the day 1 starter. No one but Jay Gruden knows at this point, and if conventional wisdom prevails, most likely he doesn’t know what he is going to do with Peterson either. The running back position going into the season looked to be the most stable, and deep position on the offense, and maybe even on the team. With the recent rumblings regarding Peterson’s future, it’s hard to embrace this tandem as a force as previously projected.
The wide receivers are the biggest wild card on this team right now. If starting rookie wide receiver Terry McLaurin and second year slot Trey Quinn play up to the hype, the Redskins may be able to have a formidable passing game keeping in mind health and a half respectable offensive line. Speaking of the offensive line, Sunday will be the ultimate “team effort” up front, especially with them having to find a way to contain pro bowl defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. Tight end Jordan Reed has been in concussion protocol for the last couple of weeks, and still has not been cleared for contact by the team doctors as of yet. If Reed is unavailable, the veteran Vernon Davis will get the start, and will most likely be involved heavily in the passing game as Reed will be/would have been.
The defensive unit needs to make this opening game, a game in which they put the rest of the league on notice that opposing teams cannot score on them. They return their defensive interior from last year, both starting corners, and added Landon Collins at the strong safety position. The two starting middle linebackers are Jon Bostic and Shaun Dion-Hamilton. Neither of which started for this team last season. Outside linebacker may be the most stable position on the defense as Ryan Kerrigan and veteran Ryan Anderson will be starting, while first round pick Montez Sweat comes off the bench to give them a much needed bonafide pass rush. Free safety Montae Nicholson gets a second chance to prove he belongs as the Redskins’ starter after being much maligned the vast majority of last season.
The Eagles head coach Doug Pederson likes to run something similar to the west coast offense in that they throw a lot of quick passes and screens to set up bigger plays. The Redskin defense in turn will need to understand how to read and react to where the football is, and TACKLE keeping everything in front of them. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has the ability to stretch the field, and will be looking to hit Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, and returning Eagle legend DeSean Jackson on given deep patterns. The defensive backs have to be physical at the line of scrimmage in order to throw their timing off. The Eagles also quietly picked up versatile running back Jordan Howard this offseason in free agency, and he will need to be accounted for on every down of every possession. You cannot let him get into space. The overall key defensively is simple: don’t let the Eagles score more than the Redskins.
The Redskins open their season on the road in one of the most hostile environments in the NFL. It’s going to take a concerted effort in order to give them an opportunity to legitimately compete on Sunday. Things we should be witnessing this week from the Redskins units are great energy on defense and discipline accompanying efficiency on offense. The Redskin offensive starters played limited downs during the preseason, so we really don’t know who or what they are. They need to establish an identity. This game will be a measuring stick for how far they are from being contenders within the NFC East, or it could let them know they are who many think they are: a borderline 6-10 team.
Redskins football has returned ladies and gentlemen. I just haven’t figured out if that’s a good thing or a bad thing for my health. I’m going to just sit back, watch and let the chips fall where they may. All that said, the Redskins win this Sunday in an upset 23 to 17. As you were...