Typically, when preparing to open the season against division rival Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins take to their piles of film, read up on heaps of notes and familiarize themselves with the Eagles' tendencies and habits.
But Andy Reid's 13-year tenure is over. With new head coach Chip Kelly now running the show in Philly, the Redskins are citing film from last season when Kelly led the Oregon Ducks by way of a creative fast-paced offense on his way to a 12-1 season and Fiesta Bowl victory.
Although we're unsure of exactly what the Eagles' new offense will look like, we have an idea. Between Kelly's past gig in Eugene and a few preseason games, it helps to highlight the compelling matchups for the Redskins come September 9.
Redskins' Fast Nickel vs. Eagles Offensive Line
Over the course of the preseason, defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has displayed his creativity when it comes to the Redskins' pass-rushing sets, particularly their fast nickel package.
Haslett's goal is to get as many of his best pass-rushers on the field at one time. Against the Buffalo Bills in Week 3 of the preseason, we saw linebackers Darryl Tapp and Ryan Kerrigan on the interior defensive line, rookie Brandon Jenkins and Brian Orakpo on the outside, and London Fletcher and Perry Riley as the inside backers.
Haslett has also demonstrated the freedom and versatility of the new look by inserting defensive end Stephen Bowen alongside Tapp as a down lineman.
Matching up against the Eagles offense with said nickel set could make for an interesting bout. Chip Kelly is a proponent of the quarterback getting the ball out quickly. Haslett getting the most disrupting and mismatching pass-rushers on the field against such an offense could turn out to be a key factor in the outcome of the game.
That being said, remember that this is a package set. It's a nickel defense with faster pass-rushers inserted to generate a more difficult assignment for the opposing offensive line. Expect to only see creative bases like this in specific situations.
Redskins Defense vs. Eagles' 4-Tight End Set
Sheil Kapadia of PhillyMag.com makes note of the Eagles using a new four-tight end set in more than one of their preseason games this season.
Although this picture (courtesy of Kapadia) includes Clay Harbor, who has since been released, assume Emil Igwenagu as the Eagles' fourth tight end. Perhaps even a large-frame receiver like Riley Cooper (6'3", 222 lbs) could factor in.
The focus for the Eagles offense in this set is to create a mismatch on the outside and look to play a numbers game in the box, electing to run if the opportunity presents itself.
"We are going to go three tight ends in a game," Kelly said. "Now, if they go three linebackers, we spread them out and if they go DBs, we smash you. So, pick your poison.”
Obviously Kelly didn't mention four tight ends, but he likes to think of himself as sneaky.
The first option on the play is for Michael Vick (Nick Foles pictured) to make a pre-snap read and determine if the numbers in the box make sense. If he sees a five-on-five blocker-to-defender ratio, Vick hands the ball off to his running back and picks up yards on the ground.
Meanwhile, on the outside, each pair of tight ends sets up a screen, taking advantage of one larger tight end blocking a typically smaller cornerback and giving the potential pass-catching tight end room to move after the catch. This, then, is the quarterback's second option.
How do you guard it? Well, that'll be up to Haslett. But you'd have to figure a lot falls on the safeties and the kind of help they can provide, whether it be containing the outside pass or coming down to fill a running lane.
To read more about the Eagles' new offensive set and how they parlay it with their upbeat tempo, read Kapadia's full breakdown.
Redskins Safeties vs. Eagles WR DeSean Jackson
Regardless of what people want to say about Michael Vick, the Eagles or their new head coach, division rivals should never be taken lightly. If the phrase "any given Sunday" applies to the game of football, it should be raised to the 10th power when it comes to division matchups.
And amongst the Eagles' talent, the one guy that seems most threatening is wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
It may seem crazy to think of Jackson as more of a threat than running back LeSean McCoy, but Jackson's speed—especially against the Redskins secondary—could prove lethal.
After witnessing so many torchings last season, the Redskins invested in their secondary and added cornerback David Amerson, and safeties Phillip Thomas and Bacarri Rambo.
With Thomas out for the season, Rambo is set to start alongside veteran strong safety Brandon Meriweather.
Jackson's speed can beat you two ways—over the top and after the catch.
Meriweather—who is starting after tearing his ACL last season—can hopefully return to form and intimidate the underneath stuff. In the short time we were able to see him on the field last season, Meriweather played with good energy and instinct, both of which can help the Redskins get more creative in their cover schemes and help to limit Jackson after the short-yardage catch.
Rambo, on the other hand, will be called on to play a strong center field in an effort to contain Jackson, who is more than capable of taking the top off a defense with his vertical speed.
Throughout the preseason, Rambo has worked on his tackling since getting juked out of his shoes by Titans running back Chris Johnson in Week 1. And he'll still need those skills against a quick back in McCoy.
The more intriguing matchup, however, will be how effective he is at keeping Jackson in front of him and out of the end zone.
This wasn't meant to bore you with defense-only highlights for the Redskins, but I do think that's what generates the most excitement in this game.
While the Redskins offense has changed a bit since last season, the defense seems to have undergone the more drastic development.
And when going against an Eagles offense that no one has faced yet in the regular season, there are simply too many unknowns between Philadelphia's offense and Washington's defense to not hype it that way.