Wow, we finally made it here Redskins fans. I’m not sure who had a harder journey to get to where they were going, Frodo Baggins or us (Redskins fans). It has been an absolute drama filled off-season but the time has finally come. Only the strong survive, pat yourself on the back. The time is now…football is back.
Week 1 of the regular season is here and the Washington Redskins are hosting the Miami Dolphins at FedEx field. This is the game that I believe will set the tone for the rest of the season and give us a good look as to where the Redskins are as a team and how competitive they will be this year.
Here are a few stories to keep your eye on as the game unfolds on Sunday:
The biggest plot twist this off-season was Coach Jay Gruden naming Cousins the starter. Prior to the season we all know that Robert Griffin III was named the starter and from the naked eye seemed to have a good hold on the starting gig going into the season. That all changed week 2 of the preseason as Griffin took a beating and ended his night with a concussion. Since then drama has come full swing (we won’t get into all of that), but here we are and Captain Kirk himself is the starting Quarterback. All eyes will be on Cousins and if he has improved from last year. We all know that he was a turnover machine and looked very flustered at times. Cousins did show improvement in the preseason with the ability to make quick reads, go through his progressions, and bounce back from a turnover. Regardless of what side of the fence you sit on, Cousins is the best fit for Gruden’s offense. It’s obvious that this is the guy that the HC wants behind center and is willing to possibly bet his job on.
The biggest thing that I will have my eye on is if Cousins will be able to put this team on his shoulders if he needs too. What I mean by that is what happens if the Dolphins are able to shut down the run and force Cousins to win this game for the team? Will Cousins be able to be clutch? One thing is for sure, this team right now is being driven by Cousins and he has the opportunity to hold onto this job and not let go.
I’m sure most Redskins fans and all those associated with the team are absolutely tired of talking about the Quarterback position and it would be a huge sigh of relief if Cousins has a strong outing—for now.
Desean Jackson & Ryan Kerrigan
Two of the biggest stars on the team missed the entire preseason and the big question is: will there be rust? I’m mostly nervous if Jackson will be able to get in sync with Cousins since they haven’t been able to get much work in together. As everyone knows, Jackson is about as fast as they come and getting the timing down on the deeper passes isn’t always an easy task for the Quarterback. Last season Cousins didn’t have much of a problem finding DJacc but it would have been nice to see the two of them get more comfortable with each other earlier in the season. Jackson is a star at WR and it would be in Cousins’ best interest to get the ball into his hands early and often.
Kerrigan missed all of the preseason due to protecting his knee, which he had surgery on in the off-season. He was held out just as a precaution, and the team did this just to protect their star player. There is no question that Kerrigan is a stud and will be breaking QB’s hearts all year, but hopefully he doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. Chances are he won’t and he’ll continue to build off of his momentum from last season.
The Running Game
The Redskins look to be a run first offense behind a newly renovated offensive line, courtesy of Bill Callahan. During the preseason rookie Matt Jones looked like Beast Mode Jr and will be a great addition to an already strong backfield. Alfred Morris is in a contract year and will no doubt play with a chip on his shoulder.
The RB’s will face a tough test having to run against Ndamukong Suh. He is a monster on the DL and will be causing havoc all day long for the offensive line. Also let’s not forget about Cameron Wake, who is also one of the best in the league at what he does. I fully expect the Dolphins to stack the box and put their attention on stopping the run.
Kory Lichtensteiger has really stumbled against bigger DL and faces about as tough of a task as you can with Suh. It will be very important the OL to contain these two guys and find a way to get momentum with the run. If they are able to do that then it will make the life of Cousins all that much easier, not to mention set the pace of the game.
Miami is weak at the Linebacker position so that is one area that the Redskins could target, but first the RB’s will need to get past that first level. It won’t be easy.
Containing Ryan Tannehill
The Dolphins seem to have their franchise QB in Ryan Tannehill. He has become someone that many NFL experts are expecting to have a Pro Bowl type of year. During the preseason Tannehill has been extremely accurate by completing 27 of his 34 attempts. He is known for his quick release and decision making. The Redskins Defensive Line will have their hands full with getting to him quickly, but it’s key that they hit him early and don’t allow him to get into a rhythm. If the Redskins are unable to get any type of pass rush going it could be a long day for the Redskins, and Tannehill could be putting smiles on faces of his Fantasy Football Owners.
The Dolphins have a core of young WR’s led by Greg Jennings and Kenny Stills. None of which are household names, but will still be a tough test for Chris Culliver and Deangelo Hall. It’s important that the Redskins secondary shows improvement from last season or it could be another long season.
Tannehill is not a QB that should be taken lightly, and for the Redskins to have a shot they need to make a mission not to allow #17 to get into a rhythm. If they are able to kill his confidence early they have a chance.
Set the tone
I’m not saying that this game alone will tell us how the entire season is going to go, but this team needs something positive to go their way. If Cousins is able to have a strong game and the team is able to walk away with a victory, a lot of the background noise will start to quiet down. Not to mention it will give this team some confidence going forward that they can play strong against a team like the Dolphins, who many people are picking as a dark horse team this year. If the Redskins walk away with a loss, unfortunately the drama could continue, especially depending on how they lost. If Cousins struggles than the “RGIII” chants will be heard from FedEx, people will be calling for Gruden to be fired, and panic could ensue.
I know, I know…it’s only the first game BUT let’s be real. We all know that the fan base of this team is at their boiling point and need a light in the darkness. It couldn’t be more important that this team finds a way to pull off the win, for all of our sake.
Crazy things happen in the NFL, every single year
Does anyone remember when the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012 won only 2 games? The next season they went 11-5! That is only one example of the thousands that I could use. The NFL is amazing because things change year to year, and there is always that one team that comes out of nowhere and shocks the world. We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves but stay optimistic and even if you have to do it from the private of your own home, ask yourself “why not us?”
2012 was a year that the every Redskins fan holds a place for in their hearts, but there is more to be had. Getting to the playoffs was great in itself, but Scot McCloughan is a builder of champions. Buy the ticket and take the ride.
This season I also wanted to give the 3 best “Pros” and “Cons” that the team has going for them (and against them) versus their opponents every week. Here they are:
#1. Wide Receivers against a shaky Miami Secondary. Outside of Brent Grimes, the Skins don’t have a whole lot to fear. Pierre Garcon and Desean Jackson could have big days if Kirk Cousins is able to get into a rhythm.
#2. Defensive line against a suspect Miami Offensive Line. The offensive line will have their hands full with a Redskins strong defensive line and will also have to account for the outside pass rush, especially trying to contain Ryan Kerrigan. The Dolphins are weak at Guard and also Right Tackle. The Redskins will look to attack.
#3. Running Backs against a weak Miami Linebacker Corps. The Dolphins will be relying on Jelani Jenkins and Koa Misi. Two names that 90% of the NFL may not be familiar with. It’s important that the Redskins attack them early in the run. Like I said earlier, it will be difficult to get past the first level of the defense but if the Redskins find a way to do that, Alfred Morris could have a nice day on the ground.
#1. Ryan Tannehill vs the Redskins secondary. Tannehill has become a very underrated player and I expect him to attack the Redskins secondary a lot. I expect him to throw some deep passes and test the secondary early. The biggest weakness last season was the Skins secondary, and hasn’t exactly shown anything in preseason to make us feel any better. The secondary will need to be on their “A” game or it could be a long day.
#2. Miami Pass Rush vs Redskins offensive line. As we discussed earlier, Suh and Wake will cause havoc all day and will be looking to force Cousins to make mistakes. It will be crucial that the Redskins offensive line is able to keep Cousins upright and give him time to read the field. I fully expect the Dolphins to blitz often.
#3. Momentum. The Dolphins are going into this season expecting big things, and many experts seem to be on their side. Confidence/momentum can go a long way. The Redskins team has been the center of a lot of negativity and will have to shake that all off in this game and silence the critics.
Miami Dolphins at Washington Redskins is this Sunday (Sep 13) at 1:00 PM EST and can be seen on CBS.
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