Hope prospers for Redskins in Week 1
Hope springs eternal. Or at least we are told.
Nothing has epitomized a Redskins offseason like the word hope. Redskins fans have yearned for something to realistically get excited about heading into Week 1.
This defense is looking to be the best it has been in a generation. The offensive line is looking healthy and Jordan Reed seems to have his toe situation figured out. If everything falls into place, the Redskins will be pushing for a playoff spot in December. Yes, you read that right, the Redskins should be playing consequential football in December. Hope has a place in the fans of the Washington Redskins.
The push for the playoffs start Sunday against the revamped Arizona Cardinals. Here are what the Redskins will need to do to come away with a win.
Keys to the Game
Contain David Johnson
The Washington Redskins defense started to see improvement against the run last year. That was until all the injuries started piling up along the front seven. Their new look youth movement up front will get tested in Week 1 with a match-up against David Johnson. Johnson returns from missing all the 2017 season with a broken wrist and will be looking to get back to his 2016 form.
With Sam Bradford, aka porcelain china doll, starting for the Cardinals, they will rely heavily on Johnson to keep him healthy and upright. Johnson could easily see between 30 to 35 touches a game and that starts against the Redskins.
The game could ultimately come down to the Redskins secondary’s ability to handle one-on-one coverage when they stack the box.
Win the Turnover Battle
This is a pretty simple and straight forward.
Alex Smith rarely turns the ball over. Keep him upright and clean, and it will stay that way.
Sam Bradford has only one full season where he has thrown less than 13 interceptions and that was in 2016. Get pressure on him and the ball will be there for the taking for Josh Norman and company.
You will the turnover battle, you control field position and dictate the pace of the game.
Tight End Woes Over?
Last year the Washington Redskins were on of the worst teams in the NFL defending against the Tight End. They allowed 970-yards receiving (4th worst) and 79 receptions (8th worst) on 127 targets.
Ricky Seals-Jones is not Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce, but the second year Tight End has the potential to do damage against the Redskins. With the Redskins secondary having to focus on Larry Fitzgerald and limiting his output, that could leave the seam and middle of the field open for Seals-Jones to have a career day. It will be incumbent upon the Linebacker’s and Safety’s to improve upon last years dismal play against Tight Ends.
Larry Fitzgerald Versus…?
The ageless wonder Larry Fitzgerald is coming off his third straight 100 catch, 1,000-yard season. He is still quietly one of the most dominant receivers in the NFL. A regression may, or may not, come this year in his 15th season. But, this is Week 1. His reliability could have him seeing 10+ targets so Sam Bradford can get more comfortable with the offense.
With it clear that Fitzgerald will see the ball multiple times, who is it that will cover him? Will Josh Norman shadow him all day, even if Larry is put in the slot? Will they double team him when Norman is not covering him, and force Bradford to look elsewhere to unproven receivers? Will the Redskins sit in a zone to take away crossing routes? Do they just let Fitzgerald get his 10 receptions and concentrate on shutting everyone else down?
How they defend Fitzgerald will be something to watch throughout the day.
AP All Day?
Adrian Peterson is returning to Arizona for the first time since playing there last year. It is easy to say that he has a chip on his shoulder to prove he still has something left in the tank. Gruden joking said in a press conference that he wants Peterson to run the ball 40 times. That would be fun to watch, but not so fast my friends. Outside of any goal to go situations, I expect Peterson to receive in the range of 15 to 20 touches.
As much as we want to see Peterson carry the ball 30 times for 150+ yards, the 2018 season will still have 15 games left. I still expect Peterson to flirt with 100 total yards, but do not expect him to be a workhorse.
Redskins at Cardinals has all the makings for the Redskins to start the season 1-0 heading into their home opener. I would like to think that the slow starts were because Kirk Cousins is a slow starter. But, like I said in my game-by-game prediction earlier this year, it all comes down to Jay Gruden.
Gruden is 0-4 in season openers since becoming the Redskins Head Coach. There have been games, on paper, that the Redskins should have easily won. But, for some reason, they have never seemed prepared and came out flat.
The offense and defense will be improved, but something with game management will go haywire in the end. Whether it is timeouts being used improperly, calling passing plays that wind up short of the sticks on third down, a poorly run 2-minute offense, or the defense giving up touchdowns in the final 2-minutes of the half. Something always seems to go wrong.
I want to be wrong, but it will be a close, disappointing loss to open the 2018 season.
Start Time 1:00PM
Line ARI -1.0
Prediction WAS 20 ARI 24
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