Andy Reid was still the coach in Philly, and Nick Foles was thought by many to be the rightful starter at quarterback. Well, with Michael Vick reasserting himself and Chip Kelly taking over the team, the Eagles are a brand-new squad that poses brand-new threats.
Kelly’s reputation as an offensive mind is largely based off his system that somewhat mirrors Washington’s offense. The teams differ slightly in their defensive schemes, which will make it fun to see which of the similar offenses does better.
In the first Monday night game of the regular season, Redskins fans will finally get to see their beloved quarterback, Robert Griffin III. Clouds of uncertainty had settled over RG3 as he rehabbed from his ACL injury, but they have now seemed to dissipate as we head into Week 1.
For the Eagles, they’re heading into this game a little short-handed on offense. They lost wide receivers Jeremy Maclin and Arrelious Benn for the year, leaving them with little behind DeSean Jackson.
Despite their wide-receiver woes, they have managed to fix their No. 1 problem from last year: their offensive line. They finally got back Jason Peters and Jason Kelce after they missed a large part of the 2012 season and also picked up top lineman prospect Lane Johnson in the draft.
Both teams have made improvements since they last met, which gives this game the potential to be an exciting matchup.
Bold prediction No. 1: RG3 will come out slinging
The Redskins' coaches and doctors have all done a great job of making sure RG3 is healthy before playing again. They even held him out of the preseason in the process.
One of the biggest contributing factors to the young quarterback getting injured in the first place was that he wasn’t being smart on the run. He wouldn’t slide and endangered himself on many occasions.
Now, a year later, look for him to play a bit differently. Fans should expect a lot more passes than runs.
You either put your health on the line and almost have your career ended, or you change your style of play and shift to a pass-first state of mind. I surmise that Griffin III will do the latter, which will open the door for a big game through the air against Philly.
RG3’s career passing numbers against the Eagles are impressive: 400 yards, six touchdowns and a 130.4 passer rating. Especially with his top receiver, Pierre Garcon, back, RG3 should be able to do even better this time around.
Bold prediction No. 2: Vick will struggle but not because of Vick
Michael Vick is known as one of the best mobile passers in NFL history. He’s broken records, scored touchdowns and won a bunch of games, but his time in the league is starting to wind down. While he's still an effective player, he’s not as sharp as he was when he first joined the team in 2009.
That being said, he now has the best offensive line he’s had in a while and is also fully healthy—two things that should set him up for a good game. Despite that, he will struggle in this game for sure but not by any fault of his own.
Take a look at Philly's receiving corps:
|1st String||Second String||Third String|
|DeSean Jackson||Jason Avant||Russell Shepard|
|Riley Cooper||Damaris Johnson||Greg Salas|
The only reliable receiver that Vick will have besides DeSean Jackson will be running back LeSean McCoy. In looking at the depth chart, there is a mixed bag of no-names and mediocre receivers behind Jackson. Riley Cooper is set to start across from him, but he’s never had more than 23 catches in a season and isn’t a starting-caliber receiver anyway.
Vick and Jackson will connect a few times, but it’ll be tough to spread the ball around. No. 7 will be kept upright by his improved offensive line, but how much good will that do if there’s no one else to catch the ball?
Bold prediction No. 3: Alfred Morris will not break 100 yards
Alfred Morris (24 years old) is one of the league’s brightest young stars, but he failed to break 100 yards in either of his games against Philly last season, a trend that will continue on Monday night.
The Eagles defense (base 3-4) will be better than many expect because the team has added several pieces that will contribute right away.
Morris is a very good player, but the Eagles’ front seven are intimidating. They’ve added Connor Barwin at outside linebacker and Isaac Sopoaga at nose tackle. They also moved star defensive ends Brandon Graham and Trent Cole to outside linebacker. Throw in DeMeco Ryans and Mychal Kendricks at the middle linebacker spots, and it’s evident that Philadelphia has a stiff front half to its defense.
Yards on the ground will come at a premium in this game.
Bold prediction No. 4: The Eagles’ O-line will hold up against the Redskins’ pass rush
Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan make up arguably the best pair of pass-rushers in the NFL. Both of them are fierce off the edge, normally wreaking havoc in the offensive backfield, but things will be a little different in this game.
When healthy, the Eagles have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL; I don’t know if I’d call it top 10, but it's certainly good. With Peters and Kelce back from injury and the rookie Johnson manning the right tackle position, Philadelphia should be fine against Washington’s pass rush.
Another reason why their offensive line will do well and look better is because of the pace of Kelly’s offense. If it’s anything like what we saw in college, it will be based around timing and quick releases, which won’t give the pass rush much time to reach the quarterback.
Bold prediction No. 5: The Redskins will win by the skin of their teeth
Many people expect this to be an easy game for the Redskins, but given the improvements that Philadelphia has made, it will be a tougher outing than anticipated. I don’t believe that the Eagles will be the pushover team that some may expect them to be, but I also don’t see them as a playoff team.
The first game under Kelly’s tutelage will be a loss but not by much. This should be a great way to kick off Monday Night Football this season.
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