We’ve known for a while that Robert Griffin III will make his highly-anticipated return against the Eagles on Monday night. And what an emotional scene it will be when he leads the Redskins into FedEx Field before 80,000 chanting fans. But after the pregame fireworks pop off and the smoke clears, some important questions will linger. Among them:
1. How much rust RG3 have to shake off? It’s been 246 days since he’s taken a snap in an NFL game. Sure, the Redskins practice at a high tempo and Griffin has been practicing without limitations for three weeks. But practice speed is not game speed. Running back Alfred Morris anticipates Griffin will need a quarter, perhaps two, to get comfortable. Offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, meantime, can help expedite the process with his play calls. In RG3’s debut against New Orleans last season, Griffin completed six consecutive short passes on the opening drive, carried the ball once and handed it off three times. The result? Griffin got into rhythm and the Redskins took a quick 3-0 lead.
2. How is RG3 going to react to the first big hit? No one really knows. Griffin didn’t play in the preseason and, in practice, he wears a yellow no-contact jersey. So he hasn’t been tackled to the ground in eight months. The Eagles’ front seven, meantime, will want to get physical with RG3 whenever possible. Griffin cracked that “it will feel good” to get hit. He also said, “I’d rather not have that happen, but like I said, it’s football. It’s going to happen." And when it does, a hush will fall over the stadium – until he picks himself up off the turf.
3. How much will RG3 run? A year ago, he led all quarterbacks with 815 rushing yards and averaged eight carries a game. The Shanahans have insisted that there are no plans to overhaul their run-based offense and that they’ll call plays based on what the defense gives them. But it stands to reason that they’ll want to reduce the wear and tear their prized quarterback is subjected to. Right? Well, we’ll know which direction the team is leaning by game’s end. We’ll also find out whether Griffin has improved his self-preservation skills based on whether he chooses to slide and get out of bounds rather than fighting for an additional yard or two as he did a year ago. “I just want to make sure I got out there and play tough, play hard, play fearless and, at the same time, play smart,” Griffin said.
It will be all RG3 all the time under the lights Monday. But the team at CSNWashington.com will be monitoring other areas, as well. Although no one outside of the Eagles’ locker room knows exactly what to expect from Chip Kelly’s offense, it’s universally expected that it will be of the no huddle, hurry up variety.
The Redskins have been preparing for a fast-paced attack since the start of training camp, with left handed, mobile quarterback Pat White mimicking Michael Vick in practice. One of the keys, linebacker London Fletcher said, is pre-snap reads and adjustments. And that will be one of Fletcher’s most important tasks against the Eagles.
“Obviously, the communication will have to be a lot faster,” he said. “Me, as the ‘Mike’ linebacker, as far as communication, I definitely bear more of the burden than anybody else. So I definitely have to be on top of my game from that standpoint.”
Shanahan hasn’t named Chris Thompson the No. 1 punt returner just yet. He told CSN Washington on Friday that he wanted to watch the rookie closely in practice over the weekend and gauge his comfort level before making a final decision. The team also brought in a left-footed punter to simulate the Eagles’ Donnie Jones, who is also left footed.
Thompson averaged 24.2 yards per on five returns in the preseason, including a 69-yarder he took back for a touchdown in Tampa. But he hasn’t returned a punt in a game that counts since high school, and on one punt against the Buccaneers he was forced to make a last-second adjustment before diving forward to secure the ball. If Thompson doesn’t look ready or struggles early against the Eagles, Shanahan has a contingency plan. Veteran wide receivers Santana Moss and Josh Morgan have also been fielding punts in practice.
The Redskins could really benefit from the services of Brandon Meriweather. But he’s listed as questionable for the game after being limited all week in practice due to a “tight” groin muscle. It’s possible that his status won’t be known until close to kickoff. If Meriweather can’t play, that would likely put veteran reserve Reed Doughty at strong safety across from rookie Bacarri Rambo, who will be making his NFL debut at free safety. Meriweather is the only injury of concern for Washington.
From the game notes: If Coach Mike Shanahan wins, he’ll tie Tom Landry for the most season opening victories since the 1970 merger. Shanahan is 15-4 all time in Week 1. …Fletcher will become only the second linebacker in league history to make 200 consecutive regular season starts, joining Derrick Brooks (208). …With a win, the Redskins will extend their streak over the Eagles to three in row for the first time since the mid 1980’s.
- Tarik El-Bashir, CSN Washington
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