Reading through the season previews for the Redskins and I am struck by something. They are all over the place. There are writers like SI’s Peter King saying he wouldn’t be surprised if the Redskins win a playoff game, and then there are others like ESPN magazine predicting the Redskins to be worse than last season. The latter is as hard to envision as the former. The Redskins made monumental upgrades in the offense. Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan add a depth to the receiving unit that wasn’t there in 2011, and while RGIII is a rookie he has so much more talent the Rex Grossman or John Beck that he would have to try to be worse than those two.
The big question with the Redskins is if the better level of talent will translate to on-field success. The Redskins in 2011 lost five games by seven points or less. With the improvements made to the receiving core and at the quaterback position they should be able to turn one or two of those close losses into wins. Make no mistake the Redskins are still a flawed team, and no unit has more issues than the secondary. Brandon Meriweather was supposed to step in and take the place of LaRon Landry, but he will start the season hurt. Reed Doughty is a gamer and a solid back-up, but has struggled in a starting role. Especially with the lack of talent the Redskins have across the secondary.
The Redskins defensive strength is their pass rush. Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo were great at getting to the quaterback in 2011 and right out of the gate they will be given a big test with the Saints Drew Brees. If Brees can pick up the rush then he should have no issue picking apart the Redskins secondary. The key for the Redskins is to disguise the blitz and be able to force Brees into making bad passes. A good pass rush can strengthen a bad secondary and the Redskins pass rush should only be better in 2012 with the return of Jarvis Jenkins.
As good as the Redskins front seven were at getting to the quarterback they were bad at stopping the run. If Darren Sproles is able to get loose and break big gains it will take some of the pressure off of Brees and help to keep the Redskins defense off balance. The big issue for the Saints is going to be their lack of a coach. The Saints were hit hard with suspensions from Bounty Gate, and while Drew Brees is good enough to coach the offense from the field their won’t be an experienced coach there for the defense.
Last season this wouldn’t have been much of an issue for the Saints as they would have been trying to stop Rex Grossman and the best way to stop Grossman is to wait around for him to do Grossman things. The biggest improvement RGIII could make for the Redskins is ball management. If the Redskins can hold onto the ball and make the Saints defense work to stop them then they will have advantages that they didn’t last season. Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan, Fred Davis, and Santana Moss are all experienced targets that RGIII will have to through to and Roy Helu was a good receiver out of the backfield in 2011.
The running game of the Redskins is a work in progress. Evan Royster and Roy Helu are back and will be joined by Alfred Morris as the 2012 Washington Redskins running back comity. The Redskins are hoping that between the cycle of the three of them they can get the production of a number one back or that one of them can stand out and become that 25 rushes a game back. Having a running game would be a good first step for the Redskins offense to take some of the pressure off of RGIII.
When it comes right down to it the Saints are a more talented and more experienced team than the Redskins and this is their game to lose. The question though is how much of a distraction will the lose of their coaching staff be and how important is a good coach when dealing with talented players. The Saints are a case study in how much coaching matters this season, and while they should win this game the Redskins could pull off the upset. One way or another it will be an interesting game to watch for many reasons.