Football finally matters again! On Sunday, the Redskins kick off their campaign in New Orleans against the Saints. It will be a tough task for a Redskins team that has won just 11 games under Mike Shanahan. But they do have a chance with the punishments given to the Saints over bounty-gate. Lets have a look at my keys to the game.
1. Our pass rush needs to be consistent and effective. A lot has been made out of how bad our secondary could be; but the fact of the matter is that it wont matter who's back there if Drew Brees is given time to pick it apart. He's an elite quarterback, one of the top three in the league and if you are giving him 5 seconds in the pocket every play, he'll have no trouble finding holes in coverage. Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will need to be at their best throughout the game and force Brees to check down earlier than he would like. It's time to see if Orakpo can finally take the jump from a good pass rusher to a great one, and if Kerrigan can avoid the sophomore slump.
2. The Redskins defense has to keep the play in front of them. The Saints are one of the best teams in the league gaining yards after the catch. Jim Haslett has already said he knows the Saints will gain yards, its the nature of their powerful offense, but the 'Skins have to limit the damage. If they keep the play in front of them, and focus on wrapping up, rather than going for a LaRon Landry-esc big hit, then they'll stand themselves in good stead.
3. I think this is a big game of Perry Riley. He's more athletically suited to be chasing down Darren Sproles all day than London Fletcher. If we are having success with the first point, then Brees will be checking it down to Sproles quite frequently. Sproles lead the league in all purpose yards last year, so Riley will need to be aware and ready to wrap up Sproles for as little damage as possible.
4. Offensively, we CANNOT afford to turn the ball over. The Saints offense is destructive enough as it is. We don't need to be giving them the ball to help them. If we turnover the ball, the defense has to go back out on the field with little time to recover from the previous series; making it easier for the Saints to negate our pass rush and pick apart the secondary. On top of that, turnovers usually result in either a missed scoring opportunity, or good field position for the opposition... sometimes both. We can't afford either, so the offense HAS to protect the football.
5. Finally, no negative plays on offense. That should be the goal for all games, and it's unrealistic, I know. But in Robert Griffin III's first NFL game, against a high-powered Saints offense that will put up points, the last thing he needs is to be in multiple 3rd & long situations. As good as Griffin could be, the offense has to help him out in his debut. We can't put the team on just his shoulders and expect him to come out and carry us to victory. I'm sure in the future we might need him to, but not as a rookie, not in his first game.
I asked you guys for your keys to the game on twitter. Here's what you said.
@ukredskin1 One of my main keys on defense is the Redskins being sound tackling wise. Saints are great in YAC, Skins need to be disciplined.— J.J. (@CarbonPrimo) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 1. Pressure on Breese and 2. Ball control, via the run game...— KMBmore_HailSkins (@KMBmoreSkins) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 pressure brees, def turnovers and int's, limit int's and turnovers on off. Simple but not easily done— Eric Weinraub (@cold_in_WI) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 Pass rush and the ability to run.— michael w. forrest (@pdaddymike01) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 No penalties as well. The Dome will be extremely loud.— x_IQ_x (@x_IQ_x) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 Control time of possession.— Matt(@Ultada) September 7, 2012
@ukredskin1 It's all about QB pressure and the run game. If Helu/Royster can run 150 yards, RGIII has 0-1 picks and defense has 3 sacks...— Jeff Hendrick (@Volsman22) September 7, 2012
So let me know your keys to the game. Do you agree or disagree with any of mine? Let me know in the comments below.