January 21, 2021

Three Things To Watch: Washington Redskins at New Orleans Saints, Week 1

Each week on Friday, as a preview of the upcoming Redskins game, District Sports Page will publish “Three Things to Watch” for that week’s game.  This week, the Skins travel to New Orleans to face the Saints, coming off the suspension of their head coach… and a 13-3 regular season.

THE NUMBERS:

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

13-3, 1st NFC South (2011)

WASHINGTON REDSKINS

5-11, 4th NFC East (2011)

Avg. Yds (Rk-2011)

Category

Avg. Yds (Rk-2011)

334.2 (1st)

Pass Off.

235.8 (14th)

132.9 (6th)

Rush Off.

100.9 (25th)

259.8 (30th)

Pass Def.

221.1 (12th)

108.6 (12th)

Rush Def.

117.8 (18th)


TIME TO THROW
: Whether the Skins have a chance to be competitive in this game comes down to their defensive front seven and how much pressure they can get on Saints QB Drew Brees. If they can generate a pass rush and make Brees hurry or rely on primary reads, the Skins might have a puncher’s chance against a vulnerable New Orleans defense on the other side of the ball. But if Brees has time to find the open man and work through his progressions on the undermanned and already beat-up Redskins secondary, it’ll be a long day in the Big Easy for the D.C. faithful.

Complicating matters, the Redskins secondary is missing the suspended Tanard Jackson and injured Brandon Merriweather. “[W]e’re not concerned,” defensive coordinator Jim Haslett said earlier in the week. “We’ve got good players in the back end and the guys that are playing are going to play for Brandon. They’ll fill in and do a good job. They played last year and did a nice job for us and are a little more experienced even this year. The guys we’ve got I know will do a nice job. We have a good plan against them and we will just go out there and execute.”

RUN, ROBERT, RUN: In the preseason, we saw very little of the Skins game plan, or the reasons everyone is so high on new signal-caller Robert Griffin III. The vanilla offensive schemes in preseason showed little more than safe slants and curls, screens and dump-offs, and almost nothing of Griffin’s terrific elusiveness and performance while moving in the pocket or running downfield. Occasionally, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan allowed Griffin to open it up and throw downfield, and we expect that to be part of the game plan in New Orleans as well. Griffin should be able to be a quality pocket passer in his NFL career, but not at the expense of his greatest weapon — his speed and agility.

“You want him to go out there and play loose and play fun and be him,” Kyle Shanahan said at practice this week. “You don’t want him out there thinking. If you’re thinking, you can’t be yourself. I’m confident Robert can keep it pretty simple, go out there and make some plays.”

Robert Griffin III in a lighter moment before the Skins final preseason game. (photo by Brian Murphy)

MATCHING INTENSITY: The Superdome is one of the toughest places in the NFL to play, and the off-season suspensions to head coach Sean Payton, assistant coach Joe Vitt, general manager Mickey Loomis and players Jonathan Vilma and Will Smith might have just made it even more difficult. This Saints have always been an emotional team, but now they’ll be playing like they have a chip on their shoulders, and their boisterous crowd will feel likewise. “You work on crowd noise out at practice,” Kyle Shanahan said, discussing the noise in domed stadiums. “It’s part of it. It’s almost like that every other week in the NFL. Especially Week 1, going to New Orleans and knowing what they’ve been through, you know they’re going to be amped up. You know it’s going to be as loud as can be. It’s just something you have to deal with.”

The Skins have to be able to match that intensity in Week 1 of they could be buried before they even get out of the locker room. Griffin will be nervous in his first regular season start and there are precious few veterans on the offensive side to help him calm his nerves.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

“To have the success they had, you’ve got to have it all. You have to have a great scheme. You got to have excellent personnel and great quarterback play. Their quarterback is as good as it gets in the game and makes very few mistakes. He has pinpoint accuracy and knows the strength and weakness of defenses. He does a great job of putting them in the right place at the right time.” Skins head coach Mike Shanahan on the Saints offense.

INJURY REPORT:

Redskins
S Brandon Merriweather (knee) — did not practice
DT Chris Baker (ankle) — limited in practice

Saints
WR Adrian Arrington (knee) — did not practice
T Marcel Jones (knee) — did not practice
WR Marques Colston (foot) — limited in practice
CB Jabari Greer (groin) — limited in practice

__________________________

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Nats and the Caps, and previously wrote Nats News Network and Caps News Network. Dave’s first sports hero was Bobby Dandridge. Follow Dave’s Redskins coverage on Twitter @RedskinsDSP.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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