As much excitement as Robert Griffin III generated in his rookie season, nothing could have prepared anyone for the offensive success the Washington Redskins enjoyed with their electric quarterback under center.
That was then and this is now, as the Redskins prepare for their season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles, a division rival that boasts a new coaching staff and a new offense and defense.
Could the 'Skins have asked for a better matchup for their offense to open the season than the rebuilding and newly designed Eagle defense?
The big story for the Redskins, not just their offense, has been the health of Griffin's knee following surgery just eight months ago to repair a torn ACL and MCL. What was lost in the media-created rift between Griffin and head coach Mike Shanahan were the strides made by the rest of the Redskins offense.
How quickly we forget that Morris, a rookie last season, finished second in the NFL with 1,613 rushing yards, behind only Adrian Peterson.
Add in the return of stud tight end in Fred Davis, the growth of a dangerous receiving corps and an entire year of experience in an explosive offense and the Redskins look poised to run roughshod over the Eagles defense to start the season.
Without a ton of cap room—or any cap room for that matter—the Redskins offense wasn't able to make a splash in free agency or in the draft, where the front office focused on addressing the defensive side of the ball.
Key Additions: Jordan Reed, TE; Chris Thompson, RB
Key Subtractions: None
With a new head coach comes a new coaching staff, and the Philadelphia Eagles handed the reins of their once vaunted defense to Billy Davis. The switch to a 3-4 defense ensued.
Don't know who Billy Davis is? Don't worry, you're not alone. He spent the last two seasons as linebackers coach with the Cleveland Browns.
With just four seasons of experience as a defensive coordinator, Davis isn't exactly the strong candidate you'd expect the Eagles to hire. With the San Francisco 49ers, Davis coached the seventh-best defense in 2005 before the unit plummeted to 29th in 2006. With Arizona, Davis "coordinated" the 20th-ranked defense in 2009 before it fell to 29th in 2010.
Don't expect the second coming of Jim Johnson with Davis at the helm of the defense, especially with major personnel changes made to the secondary.
Last season, the Eagles defense finished 15th in the NFL in total defense, allowing 126.3 rushing yards and 216.9 passing yards per game.
Cary Williams, CB; Bradley Fletcher, CB; Patrick Chung, S; Connor Barwin, OLB; Isaac Sopoaga, DT; Emmanuel Acho, LB
Nnamdi Asomugha, CB; Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, CB; Cullen Jenkins, DT; Mike Patterson, DT
Fred Davis was placed on injured reserve before the Redskins faced the Eagles in 2012, so he comes into the opener as a bit of an X-factor. In limited action this preseason, Davis had six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown.
Davis will start, and see a lot of playing time against the questionable Eagles secondary.
Expect Logan Paulsen and Jordan Reed to get a little bit of time, whether in two tight end sets or spelling Davis on rare occasions. Paulsen will see more snaps because of his blocking, but Reed could make an appearance in passing situations.
Niles Paul may see some time on the field on offense, but he isn't likely to be targeted in the passing game.
The Eagles defense is weak over the top but still has some athletic players in its linebacking corps to prevent Davis and Co. from putting up crazy numbers.
Davis: 5 catches, 70 yards, 1 TD
Paulsen: 2 catches, 25 yards
Reed: 1 catch, 7 yards
Pierre Garcon was limited in his first appearance against the Eagles last season, but him showed up in the second meeting to the tune of seven catches for 89 yards. He's the Redskins top target at receiver and is able to stretch the field, go across the middle and pick up big yards after the catch.
Leonard Hankerson figures to be the second receiver, with Santana Moss playing slot. Josh Morgan will be the third receiver, and Aldrick Robinson should get solid playing time as part of the rotation.
Garcon: 4 catches 90 yards, 1 TD
Hankerson: 3 catches, 60 yards
Moss: 5 catches, 65 yards, 1 TD
Morgan: 2 catches, 25 yards
Robinson: 1 catch, 15 yards
Morris is back and better than he was during his impressive rookie campaign, having added more agility and improved his receiving skills. Running behind the same offensive line that helped pave the way for his 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns helps, as Morris has come to trust this to open holes and seal defenders for him.
Just as exciting as Morris' dedication to improving upon his dazzling 2012 is the return of Roy Helu, who displayed a nice burst during the preseason while reaffirming his versatility as a runner and receiver.
Morris failed to eclipse the century mark in either game against the Eagles last season, but that may change if Philadelphia's new-look defense stumbles early on.
Morris: 22 carries, 110 yards, 2 catches, 10 yards, 1 TD
Helu: 10 carries, 40 yards, 3 catches, 20 yards
In case you hadn't heard, RGIII had knee surgery earlier this year and has made an excellent recovery in just eight months. Instead of finishing off his rehab over the first few weeks of the season, Griffin is set to start the season opener against the Eagles.
In two meetings last season, Griffin threw for 398 yards and six touchdowns. He also scampered for 88 yards against the Eagles, though he managed just four yards in their second meeting, which came after Griffin had suffered a knee injury just two weeks before against the Baltimore Ravens.
So what can we expect from Griffin in Week 1?
A pass-heavy attack to exploit a revamped Eagle secondary that is also learning new defensive scheme. Griffin will do a bit of running, but he'll be taking to the air more often than not.
Expect a few long bombs, but the better part of the passing attack will be short and intermediate routes to move the chains and open things up for those shots downfield.
Griffin: 28/33, 285 yards, 6 carries, 30 yards, 3 TDs
The Redskins ran an average of 61 offensive plays per game last season, so if a leap to 71 seems a bit outlandish for a season opener, consider all the factors.
New personnel taking on new roles in a new scheme means that the Eagles defense is likely to be vulnerable to some miscommunications and breakdowns, particularly on the back end.
An offensive explosion by Washington in this season's opener could actually speak volumes about what the Redskins defense was able to accomplish. I expect Washington's D to create a few turnovers against the Eagles' new Chip Kelly-designed offense and have Michael Vick running for his life.
Turnovers and three-and-outs will provide the RGIII and the Redskins offense additional possessions and shorter fields with which to work.
A rebuilding defense should be ripe for the picking, and Griffin's first week of live action will show he is not only fully recovered, but a greatly underrated passer.
Passing: 28/33, 387 yards, 3 TDs
Rushing: 38 carries, 180 yards, 1 TD
Total: 567 yards, 4 TDs