Hog Heaven was among the few that gave the Washington Redskins a shot against the New Orleans Saints today. We are on record at The Saints Nation Blog with a 27-24 forecasted win. That was before a three-judge appeals panel found that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell overstepped his authority by suspending four players for violations for provisions of the CBA salary cap.
Where was this three-judge panel when the NFL stole $36 million of salary cap for Daniel Snyder's refusal to collude with other owners on the salary cap? Huh? Huh? Oh yeah. Suspensions are coming back, people; count on it. This time, the league will say the players violated personal conduct rules – the proper basis for suspension, if a little shakier grounds under the CBA. That means that Saints DE Will Smith and LB Jonathan Vilma will be on the field. Smith is the danger that tips the scale.
We based our upset prediction on two factors:
- The Saints' needs to work through the kinks from Bountygate, and
- The Redskins have not revealed the RG3 offense before now.
No team has suffered the break in coaching chain of command inflicted on New Orleans. They are making this stuff up as the go along. Expect them to make a good first effort, but no so effortless as by game four.
Smith is a studly pass rusher I'm told. We don't get to see many Saints games, but it's what everyone says. He practiced with the Saints through preseason, so he is not coming into the game cold as Vilma would. A smart DC, and Steve Spagnuolo is very smart, would move Smith along the line both to confuse rookie QB Robert Griffin III and to attack journeyman RT Tyler Polumbus.
That alone is enough to tip the scales in favor of the Saints. New Orleans was favored by 7.5 points before Friday's ruling. Now the line has shifted slightly to an eight-point spread.
Introducing the real RG3
Robert Griffin III emerged from Baylor with the public perception of a running quarterback, something he has gone to great length to dispel. RG3 generated 85 percent of his offensive yards and 78 percent of his touchdown production through the pass in his last season with Baylor. He completed 72 percent of his pass attempts and he threw an amazing six interceptions on 402 pass attempts. RG3 is a passer par excellence.
Yet, everything we hear from the talking heads at the NFL Network and ESPN is the running game that Mike Shanahan is installing for Griffin 3rd. Griffin can certainly run, but the numbers say he is a passer first. I shall be disappointed in the Shanahans (not for the first time) if designed running plays are a big feature of Griffin's game today.
Running quarterbacks are a spectacular sight. Fantasy football loves running quarterbacks. In real life, it's the threat of running that freezes defenses. Griffin need only to establish the threat with one or two successful called plays. His reputation should be sufficient to force defenses to contain thereafter.
Griffin says he is not the next Michael Vick, who DeAngelo Hall called a football player more than a passer. The Griffin - Shanahan combo won't give us the next Vick, or Elway or Steve Young. It will give us the next version of Jake Plummer.
I found a description of how Shanahan worked with Plummer on the HTTR24-7 Blog. Here's the key excerpt here, but the full post is worth a read.
"Denver’s offense transformed to better suit Plummer’s skill set. Mike understood Plummer’s strengths and weaknesses. Plummer was an incredible thrower on the run, and excelled at the deep throws. But, in the pocket his footwork and mechanics could break down, which led to accuracy issues and bad decision-making under pressure.
"So Mike took the basics of his offense and expanded them. They threw far more on the run; bootlegs, waggles and quarterback keeps were always in Mike’s offense, but this made up the bulk of Mike Shanahan’s offense. They worked a lot out of shotgun, and used almost no 7 step drops. They were also leaned on their run game far more." (Emphasis mine.)
Pregame Week One, ESPN ranks RG3 No. 10 quarterback ahead of ahead of the rookie class of 2012 and ahead of Sam Bradford, Andy Dalton and Mark Sanchez. Drew Brees, today's opponent, is No. 1 on the list.
New players make their biggest impact the season after they join their new team. It's a principle. It's predictable. It applies to Griffin 3rd. Washington has a bright future with Griffin on board and should be a legitimate division contender ... in 2013 and beyond.
Looking at you DeAngelo Hall
If the 'Skins do better than five wins this season, and they should do better, it will be because of players on the roster before Griffin's arrival. That applies especially to the defensive front seven. The Redskins are as competitive as any NFL club in that respect.
But against, Brees, the secondary is an especially inviting target. I like that Shanahan is going with young DeJon Gomes to start. It's strategic thinking. Gomes may not be has heady as Reed Doughty yet, but he has more athletic upside. The reps, especially against the Saints offense, will speed him up the learning curve and will pay off sooner for the team. I love this thinking.
What I do not want to see is DeAngelo Hall on an island. I do not trust Hall in man coverage with no safety help; haven't since game one against the Cowboys last season.
Hall's reputation as a gambler marks him as a target for a quarterback like Brees. He is a risk to Washington. Jim Haslett's (reported) plan to use Hall as a slot defender puts him in position to excel and minimizes the risk.
Games progress in unpredictable ways and Hall will not always be in the slot. For those other time, I hope Raheem Morris has coached Hall on the three priorities of defensive backs.
- Make stops
- Defend the pass
- Force turnovers
Drew Brees is the best quarterback in the game. The Redskins won't beat him with scheme. It takes execution to force him into a rare errant throw. If that happens, the Redskins must put hands on the ball to keep it. Turnovers are a lost opportunity for the Saints to score. Turnovers are what bring us back to DeAngelo Hall.
Saints 30, Redskins 27