Redskins Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett and Head Coach Mike Shanahan spent the summer preparing for Week One against the Eagles.
As the days turn to hours before the first Monday Night Football game of the 2013 NFL season, the Washington Redskins at home against the Philadelphia Eagles, two questions persist: "How will Redskins' quarterback Robert Griffin III look and perform?" and, "What will the new Eagles offense look like under head coach Chip Kelly?"
If your third question is, "What new-look Eagles offense?" you're not alone. The rest of the league and fans anxiously wait to see if a no-huddle offense works and can be sustained by an NFL team.
What we do know is the Eagles vs. Redskins game Monday night will be an exciting affair at a high speed of play. A combination of RG3's return for the Redskins and an expected uptempo offense from the Eagles promises to be full of action.
Following a 4-12 outing last season, the Eagles fired 14-year head coach Andy Reid. They turned to University of Oregon's head coach Chip Kelly and his knowledge of a no-huddle, two-minute-drill-style of offense.
The Eagles hired Kelly less than three weeks after Reid's departure.
The high-octane and up-tempo offensive style found in the college level, and more specifically, at Oregon under Kelly, led to success. The Ducks won all but one game in 2012.
The team finished last year ranked fifth in the NCAA in total net yards with an astounding 537.4 yards per game and second in the nation in total points scored, averaging just under 50 points per game (49.6).
However, there is no way those numbers will ever translate into the NFL.
Can a no-huddle, two minute drill-style of offensive play work successfully in the NFL?
Somebody in the Eagles front office must believe they can.
Kelly and the Eagles believe this relentless offensive push could be the missing link to an offense which was in the middle of other NFL teams in offense output last season, averaging 354 total net yards on offense (15th). The Eagles were near the bottom (29th) in the league in points per game with 17.5.
During the preseason, Kelly and the Eagles decided not to run any offense with the new style, hoping to keep a lock on the secret new look until the opener against the Redskins. For the most part, it didn't appear during the preseason.
It will be intriguing to see what Kelly and the Eagles will come out with.
Coach Kelly has repeatedly told reporters there are plenty of Oregon highlights and game tape for opposing teams, coaches and defensive players to study. Others have expressed their doubt regarding the practicality and effectiveness of the uptempo style of play in the professional ranks.
This past May, former Eagles QB Ron Jaworski said during an interview with Harry Mayes and Nick Kayal on 97.5 The Fanatic, via Phillymag.com, he doubts Kelly's magic formula on offense will work in the NFL.
I think it’s going to be very difficult, (to work in the NFL.) The NFL is a different league with fast players that have all week to prepare for you. At the collegiate level, you have 20 hours to prepare for that Oregon offense... But in the NFL, these guys work 17 hours a day. A day, not a week – 17 hours a day getting ready, so there’s no secrets.
Earlier this week, according to Phil Sheridan of ESPN.com, RG3 told reporters in a conference call with the Philadelphia media the Eagles will not be the same team he dominated last season.
It's a whole different team. Lot of new faces, new coach. They're trying to bring in a lot of change to that organization to start winning football games. We're not taking them lightly at all. It's hard to study. You can't go off four preseason games. We understand that. It's not going to catch us off guard if they do something we haven't seen on tape.
I agree with Jaws regarding the preparation time NFL teams have for their next opponent, regardless of their style of offense. Regarding RG3's assessment of the new look, I think he won't be surprised by anything in the NFL at this point. But the QB also hints at a chance of being caught off-guard.
That could occur with the relatively young Redskins defense. They have to adjust to fatigue, the regular switching of players in and out of the game, and direction from players pointing out formations and designed run plays.
With this new offensive attack, Eagles QB Michael Vick has a familiarity with the nuances of the game action. In the past, he's had limited success running an offense that somewhat resembles Kelly's read-option, new-look style.
Halfway through this year's preseason, Vick told CSN Philadelphia reporter Reuben Frank that Coach Kelly has implemented an offense that has given him a renewed burst of confidence.
“I’m having fun playing football,” Vick said. “I fell in love with the game again, and I’m very thankful for that... I thank Coach Kelly for what he’s done for me, and that’s given me that confidence that I felt that I was losing at some point in my career.”
What the Eagles hope to accomplish under the new system is an offense that best resembles what I call "organized chaos." The flurry of plays, switches and short prep time needed by opponents hopefully creates an atmosphere of confusion on the defense.
The new-look offense relies upon the uncertainty of the developing play to freeze a defender or two for a moment during the start of the play. That moment of hesitation and indecision would then allow Vick to dissect, decide and ultimately execute the play.
Safeties will have to think on their feet, just for a second, sometimes assuming the role as an extra linebacker in some cases as the play develops.
It is during that second or two of uncertainty that either Vick or a running back can run, throw a quick screen pass or throw a play-action pass.
With the Redskins sporting a new-look offense themselves in the defensive secondary with a pair of rookies in David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo, along with Brandon Meriweather returning from injury, the Redskins defense may at times get confused with the combination of the no-huddle and the pace of play.
The Eagles' ability to pull this off is something NFL analyst Jon Gruden says brings excitement to the league, telling ESPN's Dan Klausner:
When you watch RG3 and the Washington Redskins, you're going to see some similarities to what (he) did at Baylor, and when you watch Michael Vick play with Chip Kelly, you're going to see a lot of things we saw at Oregon in the last four or five years...some of these quarterbacks can really make it happen, and it'll be fun to watch.
For the Redskins to handle, contain and overcome the frenetic play and unpredictability by the Eagles offense, the defense will rely heavily on the field commands of linebacker London Fletcher, the NFL's active leader in consecutive games played with 241 as he enters his 16th year in the NFL.
In addition, Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett will have his team prepared for every possible look, scenario, situation and audible originating from Vick and the offense.
What the Redskins defense cannot do in this game is allow the secondary to bite on certain plays and give up the big play downfield, something the secondary has fallen prey to in the past and on occasion during the four games of the 2013 preseason.
The defense needs to identify run versus pass quickly. Having the fast and agile Vick at quarterback allows the Eagles to utilize his skills as a running QB, as well as his veteran decision-making abilities.
A key to the Redskins' success on defense Monday night will be the play of outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo once the Eagles decide to run the ball. Hopefully the Redskins' front three can force whoever is carrying the ball to the outside of the field and into the arms of either of these strong and intense outside linebackers.
The excitement building before this game starts with the much-anticipated return of RG3 following offseason reconstructive knee surgery. It continues with a first look at whether Coach Kelly and the Eagles offense can pull off an offensive fast break for the duration of their first game.
For Redskins fans, excitement has no reason to end as the team looks to solidify their spot as NFC East Champions. To start with a win against the Eagles, winning the first of six division games, would be a great start on the Redskins drive to the NFL playoffs.
One game at a time.
Statistical information provided by ESPN.com.