To say that the New Orleans Saints have had a rough off-season is to be very kind. Today’s news that the appeals panel had lifted the Bounty-gate suspensions for defensive end Will Smith and linebacker Jonathan Vilma marks the first truly positive news the team has had regarding its 2012 season since quarterback Drew Brees signed his $100 million contract in July. However, the team remains without its head coach, interim head coach, and general manager.
That said, no part of New Orleans’ status quo bodes well for the Washington Redskins coming to the Superdome with Robert Griffin III as its rookie quarterback. Can the Redskins pull off a victory this weekend? As much as it pains me to say, I doubt it. The deficiencies in the Redskins secondary and offensive lines are well known and play directly into the strengths of this Saints team. But there is a chance for a Redskins victory if they succeed in two interrelated components of the game.
First, the Redskins must establish an effective running game and not put Griffin III in unmanageable third down situations. Last season, both the St Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the 13-3 Saints largely due to both teams being able to run successfully between the tackles and win the time of possession battle. Granted, neither of those games took place in the snake pit known as the Superdome, which is notorious for its crowd noise and chaos.
The Redskins played their best football at the end of last season when they effectively ran the ball. The last thing they want to do is rely on a rookie quarterback (however talented) to throw the ball in a dome environment. If they are able to run effectively, the second important component is inherently addressed.
The Redskins must minimize Brees’ time on the field. He threw for nearly 5,500 yards last season, and an already problematic secondary was further weakened in late August by the indefinite suspension of safety Tanard Jackson for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy for a third time. It goes without saying that Griffin III is the star of this Redskins team; however, the team’s strongest unit is its defensive front seven.
If they can penetrate into the backfield breaking down the pocket and not allow Brees the time to go through all of his progressions, they will be doing a great service to the offense by keeping the game within striking distance. This first game also represents an ideal time for Brandon Banks to showcase his playmaking ability on kick and punt returns and provide the offense with quality field position.
Even if the Redskins do not win on Sunday, there are victories to be had that will serve them well in later games, particularly when playing the offenses they will face in the NFC East. It will be a rough game against a worthy opponent, but this young Redskins team will have its opportunities.
As always, HAIL TO THE REDSKINS!!!