- I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. A long weekend followed by a short work week is just what we need leading up to the...START OF THE NFL SEASON!! I do love college football—and you all know how much I love high school football—but there isn’t anything much better in the sports world than the first NFL weekend. Opening Day in baseball gets a lot of pub, and I get it. Spring is in the air, and one of the oldest pastimes in our nation launches inside baseball cathedrals all over the country...but during the week. I love a good excuse to skip work as much as the next guy, but baseball, hockey and basketball all get underway—for the most part—on weekdays, and teams are all staggered. The NFL does have its Thursday Night Kickoff, but Sunday is still Sunday. For most of you reading this column today, your friends and loved ones know exactly what you will be doing on Sunday, and you probably won’t be interrupted. Hell, all of my children except for one were born in the NFL offseason...though I can only suggest unofficially that it was on purpose. So...welcome back! We have an actual real football game to discuss!
- What is all this nonsense about the Redskins being 9.5-point underdogs in the first week of action? That is insane! Are we playing Clemson? Who the hell do the Philadelphia Eagles think they are? They couldn’t even beat out the Cowboys for the division last season. I am not saying we should be favored against the Eagles, but damn near double-digits out of the gates is a bit...disrespectful. Look, the absence of Trent Williams hurts a lot here because the Eagles have a very good defensive line. Fletcher Cox is going be favored in his matchups on the left side of our line. I get it. That said, very few offenses are running on all cylinders from the starting line in the league. Timing in the preseason is one thing, but it takes a regular season Sunday or two for some teams, and here’s hoping the Eagles are one of those teams. Not that anyone should use this for actual gambling purposes, but the Redskins are 7th in the league against the spread since 2015...though I don’t care about covering. I care about winning. One man, in particular, will have a lot to say about that.
- Derrius Guice enters the season as the absolute cornerstone of the Washington offense, and if he is healthy and ready to go, that is pretty great news for our chances of winning. As good as Adrian Peterson was last season—and he was damn good considering we signed him as late in the game as we did—he does not bring all the things Guice brings. I am careful not to detract from Peterson’s physical ability, because he still belongs in the league, and he can still punish a defender. I am quick to tout Guice’s violent running style, but that is not to suggest Adrian doesn’t bring that same kind of style. How about we just all agree that Adrian Peterson is not 22 years old? Both runners have suffered injuries that shelve guys, but both have overcome them. Derrius is going to get the carries, as Jay Gruden has now said the offense is going to go through him. He has quickness in the middle of the field, in traffic, and he can add a yard or two or three on most plays with his strength. He is going to catch balls out of the backfield and he is going to break some of the tackles that he isn’t causing defenders to miss. In short, he is the kind of offensive player that solid offensive seasons are built around. I know that Redskins fans tend to think more of our guys than...anyone else on the planet. Derrius Guice isn’t that kind of player. He is a legit offensive threat. In the 10-yard game that Jay Gruden is going to play most weeks (as opposed to the long-range game that Sean McVay plays), #29 is capable of moving the chains and scoring. Against Philadelphia, getting past that stout defensive line will be the key, and that will require breaking an arm tackle or two en route to the next level. This is one of Guice’s strengths. Like a fine wine, Guice is best paired with...
- ...A solid defense. The strongest side of the ball for the Redskins appears to be the defensive side, and that is still something that works in the league. Ball-control on offense and getting off the field on defense is a winning formula. Carson Wentz has hurt us the most after contact in the backfield (I can still see him shaking off a would-be sack from Jonathan Allen and then launching it downfield for a score). It is my belief that the Redskins will be able to stuff the run early in the game, and then apply pressure when Wentz drops back to pass. Don’t get me wrong, the Eagles are going to give the Redskins all they can handle in the passing game. I need not remind folks of how this has gone for us in the past, but...
- Landon Collins is a difference maker for the Redskins, and specifically in a divisional game. We have an upgrade at safety this year, and it will manifest itself a variety of ways all season long, but Landon has performed well against Philly. He has more tackles, interceptions and tackles for loss against the Eagles than any other team (tied with the Rams for INT’s). Teams change so much from year to year that it is a reach to suggest that is all that matters, but I think it matters a little. Landon Collins is comfortable playing against Philadelphia and he knows those receivers as well as anyone in the league. Going into a game where the other team is favored by two scores, I think it helps immensely to have a guy in the back of the defense that has looked at the boys in green that many times before. I guarantee it makes his teammates in front of him more confident—especially those players whose backs he has had since Alabama.
- It is going to be an uphill climb to shock the world and beat a team many are predicting will play in the NFC Championship, but for my money, this is exactly when I want to play that team. Nobody knows jack about this Washington Redskins squad. Now that Josh Doctson has been cut, and Jordan Reed is sidelined, Jay Gruden is going to be unpredictable as hell (because...you know...we only really threw to those two so many freaking times). I will lead into our show tonight by starting a “Reasons We Will Win” conversation that we can continue from the basement. I will begin with two words: Terry McLaurin. I think this guy is the real deal, and I think we have finally hit on a wide receiver that can produce. I am not calling him the next elite wideout in the NFL. I am not predicting 100 catches, 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns, but I am also not putting any kind of floor on his potential. He will be the first read on a lot of the plays in Jay Gruden’s offense, and they sent Josh Doctson packing to ensure that those routes go to McLaurin. When you hear him talk, he sounds like a veteran. When you see him in pads, he is both fast and strong. Two of our top three receivers last season weren’t even receivers (Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson), with Reed leading the way. I think Terry McLaurin changes that, and if we can have a “presence” outside, a lot of other things will be made easier. I eagerly await your contributions to this conversation this evening. Join us LIVE on The Audible, the official Redskins podcast of Hogs Haven, on our YouTube channel (1st Amendment Sports).
The start of a new season brings hope, excitement and an early opportunity to upend the apple cart that is the NFC East.