Robert Griffin III Will Shine in Redskins' 2013 NFL Season Opener vs. Eagles
Operation Patience was a personal battle for Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose sensational speed and rocket arm thrust the franchise last year to its first division title since 1999.
The young man who seems almost too fast for the football field had to, with the encouragement of his coaching staff, rein himself in this offseason as he recovered from major knee surgery.
Griffin's viral tweet back on Aug. 29 all but confirmed that he would be on the field in Week 1 at FedExField:
Operation Patience....Complete. Cleared. To God Be The Glory http://t.co/GxYMw8Cs57— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) August 30, 2013
Much had been made of the purported spat between Griffin and head coach Mike Shanahan as to when Griffin could return to the gridiron. The two men consistently dismissed such rumors, and every die-hard Washington fan in the nation's capital and beyond could at least exhale, if not rejoice.
This matchup is well suited to Griffin and the league's reigning No. 1 rushing offense for several reasons, one of which is that Philadelphia has made tons of personnel changes following the hiring of new head coach Chip Kelly.
Three of four starters in the secondary, save for safety Nate Allen, are new, and there's no guarantee they will all mesh early on. A new defensive backfield and a quarterback of Griffin's dual-threat lethality could be a recipe for big plays.
An absence of preseason reps may hurt Griffin's ability to get settled into the hotly competitive environment of an NFL season opener, especially one coming against a division rival. However, as long as he can still pose a threat to run, big-play opportunities will present themselves.
Fellow second-year player Alfred Morris is a reliable running back who should only continue to improve, and Griffin's top receiving target, Pierre Garcon, is fully back after nursing a nagging foot injury last season:
Pierre Garcon was limited last season by a foot injury. Monday, he summed it up: "Foot's good. One hundred percent." http://t.co/kN29Vwz1b0— Zac Boyer (@ZacBoyer) September 3, 2013
Garcon's speed gives Griffin a big-time deep threat, and the return of tight end Fred Davis gives the 23-year-old quarterback yet another weapon at his disposal.
Davis was lost to a season-ending Achilles injury after only seven games, but NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah believes the former second-round pick is in for a big season in his contract year:
Redskins TE Fred Davis is poised to have a very big year. He looked great during my camp visit…. His TD celebration does need some work— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) August 19, 2013
Also working in Griffin's favor of a big Week 1 outing is the fact that new Eagles head coach Chip Kelly runs a notoriously fast-paced offense.
Which dual-threat quarterback will put up better numbers on Monday night?
It's conceivable that this game could become a shootout. But if Washington's defense stymies Philadelphia's attack, the Eagles defense could tire quickly. Regardless, the result will be more total plays run than usual for Griffin and Co., which should inflate his numbers.
Also, the Eagles were tied for 25th in sacks last season with only 30.
Unless Trent Cole bounces back from his poor three-sack campaign or newly acquired linebacker Connor Barwin (three sacks in 2012) provides better pressure off the edge, Griffin is bound to have plenty of time to make the proper throws.
As Jeff McLane of Philly.com reported on Wednesday, Kelly stated that Barwin is the only linebacker the Eagles have who can adequately drop into coverage. Using him in such a manner—and he'll likely have to mark Davis on a regular basis—diminishes Barwin's pass-rushing opportunites. The Eagles might counter with more defensive backs, but that could get them gashed by the Redskins' ground attack.
The onus for providing quarterback pressure will fall on last year's No. 12 overall pick Fletcher Cox, who must push the pocket but still have the motor and awareness to help stifle Washington's elite running game.
Because of the Eagles' perceived issues on defense, the health of Garcon and Davis and the raucous home crowd, all signs are pointing to Griffin making a big comeback statement.
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