Football is back. Real, meaningful football. The OTAs were interesting due to the intrigue that Chip Kelly and his new ways brought to them. Preseason football was even interesting as we got to see the new offense and defense. Watching the Eagles run the read-option and the 3-4 was both fun ... and frustrating. New systems kept things fresh, but also brought some growing pains.
The Eagles now play games that count. Style points might be fun or interesting, but the focus will be on results. It is time to live and die with the beloved Eagles on every Sunday, or Monday in this case.
Playing against the Washington Redskins in the opener is a tough task. Coach Mike Shanahan is one of the best in the business on opening weekends. Shanahan has won all three openers as head coach of the Redskins. Two of the wins came against division rivals (Giants, Cowboys).
One of the huge storylines will be the play of Robert Griffin III, Washington's dynamic young quarterback. How healthy is he? How will he play? What adjustments will he and the coaches make to the offense in order to protect him?
Coordinator Bill Davis and the Eagles defense have an idea of what to expect, but don't really know for sure. Shanahan tweaks his offense every year. Griffin III is a huge X-factor. I'm sure he's mostly healthy, but what made him special was his tremendous rushing ability. Take away his electric speed or elusiveness and Griffin III is still a good quarterback, but he's not an explosive weapon.
The good news is that the Eagles played Washington twice last year so the offense won't be new to the holdover players. They saw Griffin III in both games and know how special he can be. Davis was in Cleveland last season and also faced the Redskins. Cornerbacks
The hard part is actually stopping them. With so many new players and a new scheme, the more realistic goal may be slowing down the Redskins and making a big play or two.
I'm excited to see what
I think everyone is curious about the outside linebackers. It would be great to see
Washington is going to run the football. They were third in the league in attempts last year, but first overall in yards. They run it a lot and they run it well. The Eagles must be gap sound and tackle well. The defense was erratic in those areas this summer. One thing must be noted. Some of the long plays the defense allowed came when backups were on the field. The actual starting defense took some heat, but played better than people realized.
The Eagles will need to score points to win this game. I don't see an ugly defensive battle as a likely outcome.
Chip Kelly's offense will make its regular season debut. We're all curious to see how this is going to look. Kelly offered some hints in the spring and summer, but coaches still keep things fairly vanilla, so as not to give away secrets in meaningless games.
Kelly is known as a coach who believes in the running game. The Redskins, however, struggled to stop the pass last year. In addition, they have some young guys in the secondary so I wonder if Kelly will attack through the air early on.
The most important aspect of the offense may very well be the play of the line. Left tackle
I am excited to see
Will Jackson return punts? He has scored on Washington as a punt returner. Kelly and coordinator Dave Fipp focused on other returners in the preseason, but that was largely done to get a look at some young guys and the kind of progress they had made. Expect to see Jackson mixed in as the punt returner in regular season games, whether that happens in the opener or down the line.
It sounds crazy, but I'm genuinely excited to have a good special teams unit once again. The Eagles boasted one of the best special teams units under John Harbaugh. Things were very inconsistent since he left for the Ravens head coaching gig.
Fipp has the special teams once again making a difference. The coverage units are sound. There were several long returns this summer.
I don't have a good feel for what to expect since there have been so many changes. This is a game the Eagles can win in impressive fashion if they play well. It could also be a long night if there are defensive breakdowns and turnovers on offense. The last two Eagles coaches lost their debut. Ray Rhodes lost an ugly game to Tampa Bay. Andy Reid lost a heartbreaker to the Cardinals. Kelly is new to the NFL, but is a veteran head coach. He could have the team brilliantly prepared and ready to kick some butt.
Win, lose or draw, I'm going to enjoy this Eagles team and the many changes. This is a new era and one that I think will be a lot of fun.